From The Archives -- Thank You, Bernie

[ Posted Wednesday, April 8th, 2020 – 15:34 UTC ]

I wrote the following article in June of 2016, after it became crystal clear that Bernie Sanders was not going to win the Democratic presidential nomination. Now that Bernie has suspended his 2020 campaign, I thought it was worth publishing again.

In fact, if I were to sit down today and write a fresh article expressing the same thanks to Sanders, I wouldn't have to change much at all. Switch "Joe Biden" for "Hillary Clinton" and remove any Clinton-specific references, and it'd pretty much be ready to go.

In the intervening four years, much has happened, of course. Bernie now is the leader of a solid movement within the Democratic Party, and fresh new Progressive faces have indeed appeared on the scene. With Donald Trump in the White House, much of Bernie's agenda remains unfulfilled. But the biggest change of all is that Bernie Sanders has personally shifted the "Overton Window" in politics, and now his proposals are seriously discussed by people and politicians who previously scoffed at them (or worse). That is progress. Almost all of Bernie's ideas are not "radical" -- they poll incredibly well with the public, which is the very definition of "mainstream." They may have seemed radical to a Democratic Party emerging from two decades of centrist thinking and Wall Street appeasement, but they weren't radical to the voters. Now the politicians are beginning to catch up to all these mainstream ideas. That is more than progress, that is an enormous achievement.

So thank you once again, Bernie Sanders. You made all this possible, and by doing so you have already secured your place in history.


Originally published June 6, 2016

Senator Bernie Sanders, barring extraordinary unforeseen circumstances, is not going to be president. He has fallen short of his goal of winning the nomination of the Democratic Party. No tricky delegate math is going to save him now. His campaign is now over, whether he wants to admit it or not quite yet. But I for one am thankful he ran, and thankful for what he did manage to accomplish. Because though his campaign is done, his political revolution should continue.

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On Wisconsin

[ Posted Tuesday, April 7th, 2020 – 16:37 UTC ]

In the admittedly sophomoric fashion of headline creation, today we do not cheer: "On, Wisconsin!", but rather approach the state from the point of dealing with a tricky subject to address, in the style of: "On The Subject Of...". The reasons are pretty obvious (not to... ahem... badger the point), since the primary election they're holding today simply should not have been held right now, seeing as how we're all still in the depths of a medical crisis which demands as stringent social distancing as possible. But Republicans have successfully demanded that people risk death to cast a ballot, so (sadly) here we are.

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Time For Some Republican-Shaming

[ Posted Monday, April 6th, 2020 – 16:39 UTC ]

Suddenly, it's all out in the open. A fight which Republicans have been waging (and mostly winning) in the background for the past two or three decades is about to move to the center ring of American politics. Because of the stance Republicans have taken, they've now painted themselves into a corner -- and by doing so have given the Democrats an enormous political gift. It remains to be seen if the Democrats realize how politically potent an issue this could be, if properly handled. They could always blow the opportunity, of course. But if they start banging the drum now, they can either cause the Republicans to back down (out of shame) or pay a political price in November, up and down the ballot. Because the issue really is that potent. Here is the nutshell version: "Republicans don't want you to vote. Democrats want everyone to safely and securely have their vote counted."

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Friday Talking Points -- Down The Memory Hole

[ Posted Friday, April 3rd, 2020 – 18:15 UTC ]

From time to time, we occasionally use the word "Orwellian" in our writing, usually to describe some governmental action or individual who seems to have stepped straight out of George Orwell's classic dystopian novel Nineteen Eighty-Four. Today, this term seems more appropriate than perhaps any other time we've ever been moved to use it. You be the judge. Here is the original text from the novel, explaining the protagonist Winston Smith's use of "memory holes" at the Ministry of Truth:

Winston dialled 'back numbers' on the telescreen and called for the appropriate issues of The Times, which slid out of the pneumatic tube after only a few minutes' delay. The messages he had received referred to articles or news items which for one reason or another it was thought necessary to alter, or, as the official phrase had it, to rectify. For example, it appeared from The Times of the seventeenth of March that Big Brother, in his speech of the previous day, had predicted that the South Indian front would remain quiet but that a Eurasian offensive would shortly be launched in North Africa. As it happened, the Eurasian Higher Command had launched its offensive in South India and left North Africa alone. It was therefore necessary to rewrite a paragraph of Big Brother's speech, in such a way as to make him predict the thing that had actually happened. Or again, The Times of the nineteenth of December had published the official forecasts of the output of various classes of consumption goods in the fourth quarter of 1983, which was also the sixth quarter of the Ninth Three-Year Plan. Today's issue contained a statement of the actual output, from which it appeared that the forecasts were in every instance grossly wrong. Winston's job was to rectify the original figures by making them agree with the later ones. As for the third message, it referred to a very simple error which could be set right in a couple of minutes. As short a time ago as February, the Ministry of Plenty had issued a promise (a 'categorical pledge' were the official words) that there would be no reduction of the chocolate ration during 1984. Actually, as Winston was aware, the chocolate ration was to be reduced from thirty grammes to twenty at the end of the present week. All that was needed was to substitute for the original promise a warning that it would probably be necessary to reduce the ration at some time in April.

As soon as Winston had dealt with each of the messages, he clipped his speakwritten corrections to the appropriate copy of The Times and pushed them into the pneumatic tube. Then, with a movement which was as nearly as possible unconscious, he crumpled up the original message and any notes that he himself had made, and dropped them into the memory hole to be devoured by the flames.

What happened in the unseen labyrinth to which the pneumatic tubes led, he did not know in detail, but he did know in general terms. As soon as all the corrections which happened to be necessary in any particular number of The Times had been assembled and collated, that number would be reprinted, the original copy destroyed, and the corrected copy placed on the files in its stead. This process of continuous alteration was applied not only to newspapers, but to books, periodicals, pamphlets, posters, leaflets, films, sound-tracks, cartoons, photographs -- to every kind of literature or documentation which might conceivably hold any political or ideological significance. Day by day and almost minute by minute the past was brought up to date. In this way every prediction made by the Party could be shown by documentary evidence to have been correct, nor was any item of news, or any expression of opinion, which conflicted with the needs of the moment, ever allowed to remain on record. All history was a palimpsest, scraped clean and reinscribed exactly as often as was necessary. In no case would it have been possible, once the deed was done, to prove that any falsification had taken place.

Got that? Now here are some excerpts from recent news stories about the Trump administration's response to the coronavirus pandemic. The first deals with First Son-In-Law Jared Kushner:

The official government webpage for the Strategic National Stockpile was altered Friday to seemingly reflect a controversial description of the emergency repository that White House adviser Jared Kushner offered at a news conference Thursday evening.

According to a brief online summary on the Department of Health and Human Services website, the stockpile's role "is to supplement state and local supplies during public health emergencies. Many states have products stockpiled, as well."

But just hours earlier, the text characterized the stockpile as the "nation's largest supply of life-saving pharmaceuticals and medical supplies for use in a public health emergency severe enough to cause local supplies to run out."

The previous language stated that when "state, local, tribal, and territorial responders request federal assistance to support their response efforts, the stockpile ensures that the right medicines and supplies get to those who need them most during an emergency."

Also stripped from the new summary is a sentence that affirmed the stockpile "contains enough supplies to respond to multiple large-scale emergencies simultaneously."

The revisions come after Kushner argued at the White House coronavirus task force press briefing Thursday that the stockpile's reserves are the property of the federal government, not the states.

"The notion of the federal stockpile was it's supposed to be our stockpile. It's not supposed to be states' stockpiles that they then use," he said. "So we're encouraging the states to make sure that they're assessing the needs, they're getting the data from their local situations, and then trying to fill it with the supplies that we've given them."

Katherine McKeogh, a spokeswoman for the Department of Health and Human Services, said in a statement Friday that the edits to the stockpile's webpage had been in the works prior to Kushner's remarks.

"This is language we have been using in our messaging for weeks now," McKeogh said. She added that the Office of the Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response "first began working to update the text a week ago to more clearly explain to state and local agencies and members of the public the role of the [Strategic National Stockpile]."

Another HHS spokesperson also told POLITICO Tuesday that the role of the stockpile "is to supplement state and local supplies during public health emergencies, limited displacements, localized disasters and terrorist attacks."

Earlier, President Trump had tried to defend his refusal to provide any sort of federal leadership in the supply chain for critical supplies, stating: "We're not a shipping clerk," which was doubtlessly why Jared said what he did. And, if they can be believed, why the H.H.S. was already moving to send the original definition of the stockpile's purpose straight down the memory hole. Because you simply cannot contradict the Dear Leader, either in the present or in the past.

Here's the second news story which caught our eye in this particular regard, this time dealing with Trump-Toady-In-Chief Mike Pence:

Vice President Mike Pence said Wednesday that President Donald Trump is merely being "optimistic" with remarks that downplayed the coronavirus outbreak.

Pence was pressed during an appearance on CNN by politics anchor Wolf Blitzer to explain why Trump hadn't ordered a national lockdown in the days since he had stopped "belittling the enormity of this crisis." New White House projections, Blitzer noted, suggest as many as 200,000 people may die from COVID-19 in the U.S. if the current state-by-state advisories and restrictions are maintained.

Pence rejected the criticism.

"I don't believe the president has ever belittled the threat of the coronavirus," Pence said, adding: "He expressed gratitude and confidence in health care workers in this country, and the American people can be assured President Trump is going to continue to be confident that we will meet this moment."

. . .

"The president is an optimistic person," Pence responded. "We've been from the very beginning -- when the president suspended all travel from China, stood up the White House coronavirus task force in January -- we have been hoping for the best but planning for the worst. And that's been being worked out every single day. And what the American people can see in this president every day is a leader who knows that we will get through this."

This is the new party line: Trump never downplayed the crisis, has been swiftly acting all along, and any video clips to the contrary should be sent straight down the memory hole, because they simply do not exist. As Orwell put it: "Day by day and almost minute by minute the past was brought up to date."

Fortunately for us all, we're not quite in Winston Smith's world yet. Because while the Trump administration would dearly love to have the power to rewrite the past, it simply is not possible. The videos do exist, and people do notice when official government webpages suddenly change to reflect the new political reality from the top.

Also, we are free to mock and ridicule them for trying, as happened to both Pence and Jared, after their Big Lie tactic fell flat. Journalists have been pointing out Trump's Big Lies falling flat as well. In fact, the worst irony came from Kushner himself, who stated during the same briefing: "What a lot of the voters are seeing now is that when you elect somebody to be a mayor or governor or president, you're trying to think about who will be a competent manager during the time of crisis." He better hope that one doesn't come true, because if it does he and his father-in-law will be out of a job next January.

Here's just one example of how reality-based journalists are pushing back on the fantasy past that Trump is now insisting happened. The story deals with Alex Azar, the secretary of the Health and Human Services Department, and how he warned Trump and the White House very early on how serious this was going to be, and how they responded:

Indeed, CNN's revelations about Azar's early concerns are particularly interesting -- and damning -- in light of other aspects of the timeline. As Politico reports, as early as mid-January, the HHS secretary urgently tried to warn Trump to take the coronavirus extremely seriously, but Trump's aides "mocked and belittled Azar as alarmist."

This shouldn't need saying, but given that officials inside Trump's own administration were sounding the alarm and understood the dire nature of the threat, the China excuse is absurd.

What's more, the vast bulk of the catastrophic failures on the administration's part, the ones that could have vastly mitigated the situation once it was upon us, occurred after the administration fully understood what was happening.

Trump regularly downplayed the threat for weeks and weeks as confirmed cases and deaths mounted. Some of this was because Trump feared rattling the markets -- and harming his reelection chances.

Then came the massive failure to ramp up testing, which allowed the virus to rage out of control, and the failure to deploy federal power to secure needed lifesaving equipment in time to be prepared when cases swamped hospitals. All of that took place long after everyone knew what was happening.

Let's make this simple. We know how to fight pandemics, having done it before. Many officials inside the government fully understood that a pandemic could come along, and that when it did, it would pose a dire threat. Many officials knew (and know) how to spot threats early. In fact, in this case, that actually happened.

In other words, actual honest memory beats Trump's memory hole tactics. As indeed it should. Because otherwise we'd be living in a very Orwellian world indeed.


Most Impressive Democrat Of The Week

Perhaps we are biased, being based in California, but we've been more impressed with our own governor's response to the coronavirus pandemic than that of any other Democrat out there. New York's Andrew Cuomo has become a media darling for his sometimes brutal attacks on Trump and his lies, but we'll get to him in a moment. Instead, we feel that some praise is due for Newsom's forward-thinking. He was singled out (with five other governors) by Politico for the best pandemic response in the entire country:

[O]n March 19, [California Governor Gavin] Newsom was the first governor in America to issue a statewide order to shutter businesses and keep people at home. (Newsom had help when, three days earlier, public health officials in six Bay Area counties went first and issued a joint stay-at-home order.)

The strong action appears to be bending the curve. California's number of Covid-19 confirmed cases and deaths is rising slower than in hard-hit states like New York, New Jersey, Louisiana and Michigan. (The death number may be a better indicator of spread than the confirmed cases number, because testing has been so poorly administered.)

National media outlets are starting to notice. Even Trump, who has repeatedly tangled with Newsom over the past three years, conceded this week that California has done a "good job." But both Newsom and Trump acknowledge that California may still be facing a surge of cases, and that could strain its hospital system. Newsom is scrambling to fortify the system with additional hospital beds on ships and convention centers, and with an effort to enlist medical retirees and students in joining an expanded health care workforce.

Whether he succeeds may ultimately determine if Newsom is heralded as a skilled administrator who might warrant a promotion to the presidency someday.

Newsom is no stranger to getting out in front of ideas and movements that later become safe for other Democratic politicians to back. He has shown such leadership on gay marriage (he was the one marrying gay couples on the courthouse steps in San Francisco, many years before gay marriage was actually made legal) and marijuana legalization, just to cite two examples. So that "promotion to the presidency" wouldn't be such a bad thing.

Newsom's early and decisive action has made California a model for other states to emulate. And it appears to be working well to flatten the curve, exactly as designed:

Six Bay Area counties were first in the country to adopt aggressive tactics with an enforceable March 16 order requiring residents to stay at home. Gov. Gavin Newsom quickly followed with a statewide order three days later restricting the state's 40 million residents from all but essential activities.

After 14 days -- the outermost period at which symptoms are believed to emerge post-infection -- doctors at area hospitals are now reporting fewer cases than they expected to see at this point, and officials credit the lockdown with stemming the tide of patients they feared would flood into emergency rooms.

The Washington Post ran a similar story as well.

Perhaps, as we said, it's because we live here, but we honestly think Gavin Newsom has been the Most Impressive Democrat Of The Week, not only this past week but throughout the entire crisis.

[Congratulate California Governor Gavin Newsom on his official contact page, to let him know you appreciate his efforts.]


Most Disappointing Democrat Of The Week

Originally, we thought we'd give the Most Disappointing Democrat Of The Week to Wisconsin's governor, Tony Evers. Here's why:

In Wisconsin, like many states, a governor cannot decide to move the primary himself or herself. They need the state legislature to weigh in. Wisconsin Gov. Tony Evers (D) did not ask the Republican-controlled legislature to consider postponing the primary. Instead, he asked the legislature to mail absentee ballots to every voter.

The legislature said no. (Republicans in other states, and President Trump, have openly expressed concerns that more voting by mail will increase Democratic turnout. Republicans in Wisconsin have not said that, but they do have a competitive state Supreme Court election on Tuesday. And Republican lawmakers in Wisconsin have a history of playing politics with elections to benefit their party. Wisconsin is one of the most gerrymandered states, and two years ago, the Republicans in charge tried to move a state legislative election to a different date to help their candidate win.)

So there was a stalemate between the governor and the legislature, with each accusing the other of not doing anything about it. "If I could have changed the election on my own, I would have," Evers said in a statement this week, "but I can't without violating state law."

National Democrats, however, were confused about why he didn't at least try. He could have called a special session, or he could have applied pressure to the legislature to seriously consider it. "He seemed unwilling to use any political capital to do this," said Carolyn Fiddler, communications director for the liberal elections blog Daily Kos and a state elections expert.

Even the Wisconsin Democratic Party and Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) urged Evers to find a way to postpone that election.

However, today we get the news that Evers is now trying to redeem himself:

In a reversal, Wisconsin Gov. Tony Evers announced he wants to postpone his state's Tuesday election. He called the state legislature into a special session on Saturday to take up legislation that would avoid in-person voting and create an all-mail election with a deadline of May 26 to return ballots.

The Republican-led legislature has previously rejected a call from Evers, a Democrat, to send ballots to every voter who hadn't already requested one.

So we're just going to give him a (Dis-)Honorable Mention, for delaying this decisive action for so long, which has led to an enormous amount of confusion.

Instead, we're going to take a look at what else Andrew Cuomo has been up to of late, because while he's been charming television audiences with his press conferences, he has apparently also been making indefensible deals when the cameras are off.

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) has struck a deal with state lawmakers to enact a budget that cuts billions of dollars a year from the state's Medicaid system and other social programs, and punishes his political enemies in the progressive Working Families Party.

Cuomo, whose daily press conferences about the COVID-19 pandemic have turned him into a national media darling, had endured some pushback in recent days for his plan to take $2.5 billion a year out of the Medicaid program. As they were initially structured, the cuts would have made the state ineligible for $6.7 billion in emergency federal assistance for the state's Medicaid program for the duration of the pandemic, since the money requires states to preserve existing program standards and eligibility guidelines.

At the very end of Cuomo's press conference on Thursday, though, Cuomo's budget director, Robert Mujica, announced that they had found a solution: Putting a delay on the cuts until after the pandemic crisis passes so the state can get its share of federal money and slash the program later.

This is both inexplicable and shocking. But then Cuomo's never been any kind of real progressive, as anyone in New York can tell you. But making a deal to cut Medicaid in the midst of a medical pandemic easily earns Cuomo the Most Disappointing Democrat Of The Week, no matter how strongly he stands up to Trump in his pressers.

[Contact New York Governor Andrew Cuomo on his official contact page, to let him know what you think of his actions.]


Friday Talking Points

Volume 568 (4/3/20)

We can't possibly cover all the COVID-iocy coming out of Trump over the course of a week, so we didn't even try in our opening segment. This means the talking points are going to be a little longer than usual to make up for it.

To begin with, a commenter at my site made a nomination that is worth repeating as many times as possible in order to drive home the message. Donald Trump is quite obviously going to win "The Biggest Lie of 2020" this year, and this is the obvious choice that will win it for him:

Anybody that wants a test can get a test. That's what the bottom line is.... Anybody right now and yesterday -- anybody that needs a test gets a test. We -- they're there. They have the tests. And the tests are beautiful. Anybody that needs a test gets a test.
-- Donald Trump, March 6

We are three days away from that statement being one month old, and it still isn't true -- not by a longshot. And as for Trump's disastrous leadership failure, mere days ago, Trump seemed downright astonished that lack of tests was still a problem, telling Montana's governor: "I haven't heard about testing being a problem.... I haven't heard about testing in weeks." Over a month after Trump promised the country that "anybody that wants a test can get a test," we still don't even know at what future date this will come true. Trump, of course, wasn't the only one overpromising and underdelivering, which brings us to the Lie Of The Year runner-up:

Over a million tests have been distributed... before the end of this week, another 4 million tests will be distributed.
-- Mike Pence, March 9

Pence said that in an article whose headline included the phrase: "U.S. Cases Top 700." We are now north of 270,000 cases (as of this writing), which equates to being almost 400 times worse off than we were when Pence said that, and what he promised still isn't true. Five million tests? Tell that to the state governors, because they'll tell you why it is laughable, even now. Maybe someone should, you know, tell Trump there's still a problem?

Here is Illinois Governor J.. B. Pritzker this week, trying to explain:

"The White House has promised millions of tests for weeks now, and they're just not here," the Democratic governor said at his daily press briefing. "I'm not going to wait on promises from the federal government that may never be fulfilled. We need this testing capacity now. So, we're building it ourselves in Illinois."

The governor called the "loss of essentially the entire month of February" without major testing as leading to an "exponential" increase in coronavirus cases in the state. He attributed it to the "profound failing of the federal government" to deliver promised tests.

Here is the Republican governor of Maryland saying the same thing:

"President Trump has suggested that the testing problems are over," NPR's Rachel Martin told Hogan during the interview.

"Yeah, that's just not true," said Hogan, who chairs the National Governors Association. "I know that they've taken some steps to create new tests, but they're not actually produced and distributed out to the states. So it's an aspirational thing."

He added that the Trump administration has some new testing measures "in the works," but for now "no state has enough testing."

Just for good measure, here's the former governor of Maryland telling Trump what he really needs to do:

"That is a Darwinian approach to federalism; that is states' rights taken to a deadly extreme," said Martin O'Malley, the former Maryland governor who served for eight years on the Homeland Security Task Force of the National Governors Association. "The better read of federalism is that the states and federal government work together when the U.S. is attacked, whether it is by imperial Japan or a pandemic."

"For all of the good work I see governors doing, only the president has the intelligence and resources to tip the shores, the power to invoke the Defense Production Act and control over whether there are adequate stockpiles for the threats of our day and the FEMA reserves," O'Malley added.

And it's not just tests that haven't been delivered, either. The mask shortage grows more acute with each passing day. So far, we haven't had anyone die for a lack of a ventilator, but that could be coming very soon if the current chaos continues.

So today's talking points mostly deal with the serious situation we now find ourselves, although the first two highlight a problem that will come later on, and is so far is being fought in the background. But it really is important enough for Democrats to start making a honkin' big deal of it right now, due to the lead times involved.


   Let everyone vote!

This has the chance to be an enormous issue in November, but that shouldn't stop Democrats from starting to use it now.

"While Democrats like Nancy Pelosi are trying to get the federal government to force the states to be prepared for an all-mail-in election in November, the Trump campaign is actually suing in court to restrict the spread of vote-by-mail. Yes, you read that right -- Democrats want to ensure that every eligible voter can safely cast their ballot, should the coronavirus be a problem in November, while Republicans are spending millions of dollars on lawsuits to stop it. The voters should be aware that this is already happening. This is a national emergency. Our very democracy is at stake, because if some states don't allow voting by mail and we're in the midst of a second outbreak wave then it could invalidate or at least call into question the presidential vote in this country. Democrats are fighting as hard as they can to avoid this, but Republicans are fighting efforts to allow everyone to vote. Voters, take note -- we're the ones who want you to be able to safely vote, no matter what. Think about that when you cast your ballot."


   Would that be such a bad thing?

Of course, there's a secret reason why Republicans are so worried. Although they usually don't come right out and admit it.

"You want to know why Republicans are fighting allowing everyone to vote by mail? Donald Trump helpfully explained this to Fox News recently, when talking about how House Democrats wanted a national vote-by-mail mandate in the last coronavirus relief bill. Here's how he put it: 'The things they had in there were crazy. They had things, levels of voting that if you'd ever agreed to it, you'd never have a Republican elected in this country again.' In other words, he said the part out loud that you're not supposed to say out loud -- that more people voting means more Democrats elected to office. Need further proof? Here's the state house speaker from Georgia, echoing Trump: 'The president said it best -- this will be extremely devastating to Republicans and conservatives in Georgia. Every registered voter is going to get one of these. Now I ask you... what was turnout in the primary back in 2018 or 2016. Was it 100%? No. No. It's way, way, way lower. This will certainly drive up turnout.' In other words, the more people vote, the harder it is for conservative Republicans to get elected. No wonder Team Trump is suing every state they can to try and prevent the horrors of (gasp!) full participation in our democracy."


   More GOP voices speak out

A roundup of what some Republicans are saying about Trump. No wonder his "bump" in the polls has all but disappeared.

"There's a new ad up by a conservative group called Republicans for the Rule of Law, led by Bill Kristol. Here's what five Republican voters in key swing states have to say about Trump's handling of the crisis:

Even though I've been a Republican all my life, I can't support Trump, and his response to the coronavirus is exactly why.... He told us this infection would just go away, even as it ripped across other countries.... He's been lying to us about available testing. He has squandered the one advantage that America had: time to prepare.... He says he puts America first, but it's clear he only knows how to put Trump first. This is a crisis, and we need real leadership. Donald Trump is incapable of it.

Kristol himself put it even stronger:

[President Trump] lied about the coronavirus, about its seriousness, and about the government's response to it, he damaged the very foundation of our government. The coronavirus is a threat to our people. But the president's mendacity is a threat to our Constitution.

And a staunch Trump defender in his hometown, sports radio talk show host Mike Francesca, had also had enough of the lies, telling Trump:

We're watching one thing happen in our city on the 11 o'clock news every night. We're watching people die, and now we know people who died. And we're not seeing one or two people die now in our neighborhood. We're seeing them die by the tens and twenties by the day.... So don't give me the MyPillow guy doing a song-and-dance up here on a Monday afternoon when people are dying in Queens. Get the stuff made, get the stuff where it needs to go, and get the boots on the ground! Treat this like the crisis it is!... How can you have a scoreboard that says 2,000 people have died and tell us, 'It's OK if another 198,000 die, that's a good job,' How is that a good job in our country? It's a good job if nobody else dies! Not if another 198,000 people die! So now 200,000 people are disposable?"


   Still no leadership at the top

Chaos reigns at the White House.

"Every day that goes by gives us more evidence at how incapable Donald Trump is of handing a national crisis. Governors are left squabbling with each other over supplies, because Donald Trump refuses to step in and use the power available to him to direct the supply chain. Because of this, price-gouging and profiteering is rampant, which is costing taxpayers untold billions of dollars. There is still no national stay-at-home order, because the president doesn't want to act even though his own medical advisors are flabbergasted by his inaction and are begging all the remaining governors to follow this life-saving policy (Dr. Fauci: "I don't understand why that's not happening.... I do not understand why we are not doing that. We really should be."). Instead, chaos reigns. The White House never had a clue how to deal with this crisis, and they still don't have a clue. All Trump knows how to do is attack journalists who point out his incompetence, attack governors who dare to disagree with his rosy-tinted view of how things are going, attack any Democrat who tries to get Trump to admit reality, and attack hospitals and even first-line responders -- who Trump insinuated rather bizarrely must be stealing all those masks 'out the back door' of the hospitals. This is not leadership -- it is the exact opposite of leadership. In fact, it's exactly what we've seen from Trump on a number of issues, except this one happens to be one of life and death for thousands of Americans."


   Heckuva job, Trumpie!

Yet another thing Trump was never supposed to admit out loud became clear.

"Trump let the cat out of the bag in one of his press conferences this week, fully admitting that he expects everyone and anyone to kiss his ass before he will give them the time of day... much less some masks or ventilators. Here he is, fully admitting his own childish petulance:

When they're not appreciative to me, they're not appreciative to the Army Corps, they're not appreciative to FEMA, it's not right. I say, 'Mike, don't call the governor of Washington; you're wasting your time with him. Don't call the woman in Michigan. It doesn't make any difference what happens.' You know what I say: 'If they don't treat you right, I don't call.' He's a different type of person; he'll call quietly anyway.

It's been reported that the state of Florida, for instance, has gotten everything it has asked for immediately, while other states are left twisting in the wind. But even being a successful Trump sycophant doesn't guarantee good results, apparently. Florida's governor just instituted a stay-at-home order, about three or four weeks after he should have acted. Georgia's governor just stated he just found out in the past 24 hours that the virus can be spread by people who aren't showing any symptoms. Dr. Sanjay Gupta was aghast at the governor's stupidity:

This is inexcusable... It's just inexcusable. My kids who go to school in Georgia knew that a month ago. We've known this. For a long time. To say that we just found out in the last 24 hours and that's why we're doing this? This is just not right.

Meanwhile, Dr. Anthony Fauci -- the one person working for Trump that the public still trusts to any degree whatsoever -- has had to increase his personal security because of all the threats he's been getting from Trump supporters who think he's somehow responsible for reality not matching what Trump tells them. The best response to such idiocy came from Twitter user Denise Wu, who responded to Ben Carson saying Trump had shown 'courage' by tweeting:

Ben Carson and other MAGA, social distancing means get your head out of Trump's ass.

That just about sums it up, don't you think?"


   Blood on his hands

So far, we haven't noticed much of what we'd call genuine outrage on the part of the media, which is somewhat puzzling. But this Boston Globe editorial made up for the lack. It does not mince words at all. Here are the two most damning paragraphs, but the entire thing is well worth reading in full:

While the spread of the novel coronavirus has been aggressive around the world, much of the profound impact it will have here in the United States was preventable. As the American public braces itself for the worst of this crisis, it's worth remembering that the reach of the virus here is not attributable to an act of God or a foreign invasion, but a colossal failure of leadership.

. . .

Timing is everything in pandemic response: It can make the difference between a contained local outbreak that endures a few weeks and an uncontrollable contagion that afflicts millions. The Trump administration has made critical errors over the past two months, choosing early on to develop its own diagnostic test, which failed, instead of adopting the World Health Organization's test -- a move that kneecapped the US coronavirus response and, by most public health experts' estimation, will cost thousands if not hundreds of thousands of American lives. Rather than making the expected federal effort to mobilize rapidly to distribute needed gowns, masks, and ventilators to ill-equipped hospitals and to the doctors and nurses around the country who are left unprotected treating a burgeoning number of patients, the administration has instead been caught outbidding individual states (including Massachusetts) trying to purchase medical supplies. It has dragged its heels on invoking the Defense Production Act to get scarce, sorely needed ventilators and masks into production so that they can be distributed to hospitals nationwide as they hit their peaks in the cycle of the epidemic. It has left governors and mayors in the lurch, begging for help. The months the administration wasted with prevarication about the threat and its subsequent missteps will amount to exponentially more COVID-19 cases than were necessary. In other words, the president has blood on his hands.


   Trump lied...

Which means it is now time to dust off a previous political slogan, and update it for the 2020 campaign season. Because this is what it really comes down to, in the end:

"Trump lied. People died."

-- Chris Weigant


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Cross-posted at: Democratic Underground


Americans Rediscover Shared Sacrifice

[ Posted Thursday, April 2nd, 2020 – 17:16 UTC ]

Americans are newly discovering their ability for shared sacrifice in the name of the good of all. Now, this isn't universal -- disasters tend to bring out both the best and the worst in us, it seems -- but it is pretty close to universal in the areas hardest hit. Life has changed, in major ways. Daily routines have been obliterated. We all have to protect ourselves and in doing so protect each other as well. This has meant radical changes in the way we interact with each other which will likely be with us for months, if not years. What I find interesting is that we're shouldering the burdens -- so far -- about as well as can be expected.

I'm not talking about the politicians and the other people in charge of the response -- for once, this isn't a political column. I'm talking instead about average people and how they've been reacting and changing as a result of the pandemic. Because America just hasn't seen this sort of widespread change in attitude for a very long time -- perhaps since World War II.

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April Is The Cruelest Month

[ Posted Wednesday, April 1st, 2020 – 16:35 UTC ]

"April is the cruelest month" begins T. S. Eliot's famous poem "The Waste Land," which is why it seems particularly appropriate to quote right now. You'll doubtless be hearing this line again throughout the month, for obvious reasons. But while contemplating the impact of the coronavirus pandemic during April is indeed beyond sobering, what we should all be hoping for is that Eliot's line does indeed prove prophetic. Because the alternative is even worse -- that April will only be a preamble to even worse news in May and beyond.

As we enter April, America just passed the milestone of having over 200,000 officially-reported cases of COVID-19. I say "officially-reported" because that figure is nowhere near the actual truth. There simply are not enough tests to go around, even among people who are already obviously sick. The only ones tested in many areas are either frontline responders (doctors, nurses, EMTs, etc.) or people so ill they must be hospitalized. Even people who have most likely died from the virus aren't always tested, due to the lack of testing resources. So while the official number just topped 200,000, the reality could be many times that number of Americans actually infected. We just don't know.

But even that large number pales in comparison to where it will likely be at the end of the month. How many million Americans will be infected on the first of May? It is currently impossible to even predict. Most people, both in politics and in the media, have now switched to only paying attention to the number of coronavirus deaths, since that number is a lot lower. For now. The White House finally had to admit that we could be looking at 100,000 to 240,000 coronavirus deaths as a best-case scenario. Will the number of coronavirus deaths at the end of April be higher than the total number of cases at the beginning of the month? It is not out of the question, the experts tell us. April is going to be viciously cruel, no matter what the final tally turns out to be.

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Can Democrats Flip The Senate?

[ Posted Tuesday, March 31st, 2020 – 16:54 UTC ]

It's tough to focus on politics right now, in the middle of a viral pandemic that is sweeping the country. But it's also necessary to step away from the coronavirus news from time to time, so I thought it might be useful to take a look today at where the race for control of the Senate stands.

The current makeup of the Senate is 53 Republicans, 45 Democrats, and two Independents who caucus with the Democrats. This means to wrest control away from the GOP, Democrats will have to pick up at least three seats if Democrats win the White House, or four if Trump wins a second term. Luckily for them, the map is a lot more friendly to Democratic chances than it was in the last cycle. Only a third of the Senate is up for re-election in any one election, but the makeup of that third is crucial -- and this time it will mostly be Republicans playing defense, not Democrats.

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Why Is California Doing So Well?

[ Posted Monday, March 30th, 2020 – 16:53 UTC ]

It might sound like a strange question, coming from a Californian, but I do have to wonder why California seems to be doing so well in fighting off the coronavirus pandemic, compared to other states. If this is a real difference, it would behoove others to study why we've been so successful, but there is another possibility -- that we just haven't realized how hard we've been hit yet. Either way, the question of why we're doing so well would seem to be an important one to answer.

By the raw numbers, we're not doing all that wonderfully. California is the third-most-infected state, with 6,895 current cases. New York is by far the worst off, with 66,497 cases, followed by New Jersey with 16,636 cases. But then right after California come some states with a lot less population: Michigan (6,498), Massachusetts (5,752), and Florida (5,704). But the real difference is in the rate of change. Today (as of this writing), New York added 5,818 more new cases, New Jersey 3,250 cases, Michigan 1,102 cases, Massachusetts 797 cases, and 754 cases were added to Florida's total -- all while California only reported 691 new cases in the past 24 hours. At this rate, California could soon move down the national list to fourth, fifth, or even sixth place.

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Friday Talking Points -- We're Number One (Hundred Thousand)!

[ Posted Friday, March 27th, 2020 – 18:12 UTC ]

[Program Note: I am pre-empting our normal column format today (as well as our use of the editorial "we") in order to make room for a straight-up rant. After finishing it, I don't think I've ever written such a lengthy one before, and after finishing I still feel like I've barely scratched the surface of the criminal incompetence and lies emanating from the White House in shameful fashion during the worst crisis of Donald Trump's presidency. Books will be written later about this monumental screwup, when we all have time to examine the many, many things that have gone wrong... and are still going wrong. But until then, I just felt the need to get this rant off my chest. You have been warned.]


We're number one! Well... number one hundred thousand and climbing, at any rate....

Yesterday, the United States of America took the lead on the world stage, but not in a good way. We're now the most-infected nation on the planet, and are now the number one epicenter of the COVID-19 coronavirus outbreak. Today, the number of cases in this country surpassed 100,000 -- a grim milestone indeed. We still have a ways to go before we are the country with the most deaths from the disease, but at the rate we're going that won't be long either.

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Unemployment Figures Even Worse Than They Look

[ Posted Thursday, March 26th, 2020 – 17:06 UTC ]

For the second straight day, I'm going to write about numbers and their relation to the current reality on the ground. Yesterday, it was the case numbers for COVID-19, and today we've got new unemployment numbers to examine.

The Department of Labor just announced a rather staggering number -- almost 3.3 million new unemployment insurance claims nationwide in the past week alone. That sets a grim new record for this one-week statistic, far outpacing any previous spike (it's never even gone above one million before, ever). But this record is almost certain to be a huge undercount, which means that next week could be much worse. And by the time they get around to releasing the adjusted numbers (which usually takes a few months) which show the actual reality of the situation, we'll all have moved on.

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