Terrible Tuesday Reads: Illness, Death, and ArtPosted: March 31, 2020 Filed under: morning reads, U.S. Politics | Tags: Anthony Fauci, art, coronavirus, death, Deborah Birx, Edvard Munch, Egon Schiele, Frank Figliuzzi, Gustav Klimt, illness, Spanish flu 34 Comments
Good Morning Sky Dancers!
Today’s post is illustrated with paintings by two artists who died of the Spanish flu in 1918, Gustav Klimt and Egon Schiele, and one who survived his terrible bout with the disease, Edvard Munch.
BBC Culture: Klimt and Schiele, the Artists Who Shocked Europe.
At first glance there is little to suggest a connection between Gustav Klimt and Egon Schiele. Klimt was the archetypical sensualist who portrayed Vienna’s elite in gilded finery whilst Schiele, almost three decades his junior, was a tortured egoist whose twisted depictions of the human body shocked and scandalised contemporary audiences. And yet the two men shared a lifelong mutual appreciation and friendship, determined to follow their own artistic visions whatever the cost, until the flu epidemic of 1918 claimed both their lives.
Klimt turned his back on the conventions of academic painting. Disillusioned with the stifling restraints of the Künstlerhaus, the artists’ society which all Viennese artists felt obliged to belong to, he and a number of other artists broke away to form the art movement known as the Vienna Secession.
His new attitude was provocatively outlined in the 1899 work Nuda Veritas, which Sandra Tretter of the Klimt Foundation sums up as “the Künstlerhaus versus the Secession.” A naked woman holds up the mirror of truth while the snake of falsehood lies dead at her feet. Above her in gilded letters is a quotation from the German dramatist Schiller: “If you cannot please everyone with your deeds and your art, please a few. To please many is bad.” […..]
Klimt’s uncompromising attitude appealed to the young Schiele, who sought out the artist in 1907 when he was still a student at the Academy of Fine Arts and finding the academic discipline frustrating.
A precociously gifted artist, Schiele had revealed his talent as an adolescent by sketching his younger sister in the nude, much to his parents’ horror. For Leopold, also a trained psychotherapist, this fascination with adolescent girls was in part a reaction to his ambivalent relationship with his mother, and would go on to cause great scandal.
Schiele’s undoubted talent appealed to Klimt and he took the young man under his wing, providing models and inviting him to exhibit at the 1909 Kunstchau, although Schiele’s four paintings, all very much in the style of his master, failed to make much impact….
Seeking new means of expression Schiele turned to his own body for inspiration in a manner unprecedented in the history of art. In his first nude self portrait from 1907, based on the notorious female figure in Medicine, he had portrayed himself as helpless and fragile, isolated from the rest of humanity.
Read much more about these artists at the BBC link.
Edvard Munch (1863-1944) was another great artist who contracted influenza. He was a contemporary of Klimt and a leader of the modernist school and is best known for his painting(s), The Scream. His patron was Dr Linke, an ophthalmologist who lived in the Northern German city of Lubeck, which now has UNICEF World Heritage listing. Munch visited Lubeck on at least 17 occasions and painted pictures of the gardens of the Linke home and the Linke children, and perhaps these visits helped in Munch’s lifelong battle with depression. In 1919, Munch contracted the “Spanish Flu,” and although he was very ill, he survived. He painted a self-portrait of himself with influenza (now in Oslo) and another of himself recovering from influenza, which hangs in Lubeck in the Behnhaus Museum. As you stand in front of this portrait you see a man suffering from profound depression, perhaps due to a post viral syndrome compounding his long-standing disease. He later wrote that he was fortunate to survive the infection.
This article at Wellcome Collection provides more background on Schiele, Klimt, and Munch as well as other artists who were impacted by the 1918 flu pandemic: Spanish flu and the depiction of disease. It’s quite interesting. This bit about Schiele is heartbreaking:
In 1918, Austrian artist Egon Schiele was at work on a painting of his family. [The painting appears at the top of this post] With his unflinching attention to the human form, he completed the three figures: Schiele himself is at the far back, his sinewy nude body hunched behind his wife, Edith, who looks off to the side, while a child is curled between her feet.
Earlier that year, the rising young art star had been featured in a solo show with the Vienna Secession artists’ association, and, even better, his works had actually sold. That new financial security was particularly important, as Edith was pregnant.
The only thing that disrupts the harmony of the 1918 painting ‘The Family’ is Schiele’s melancholic gaze directed at the viewer. Its sombreness seems in contrast to this scene of domestic tranquillity.
The painting would never be finished. By the end of that autumn, both Edith and Egon were dead; their child was never born. They were two among millions who succumbed to the Spanish flu pandemic. The incomplete painting was transformed into a portrait of loss.
And on Munch:
Among the artists who caught the flu and survived was Norwegian painter Edvard Munch, whose lifelong self-portraiture found a harrowing match in the disease. While many of his early self-portraits have morbid fantasies of his mortality, including the 1895 ‘Self-portrait with Skeleton Arm’ or the 1902–3 ‘Self-portrait on the Operating Table’, his Spanish flu series plainly confronted his frailty and vulnerability.
His 1919 ‘Self-Portrait with the Spanish Flu’ has Munch wrapped in a gown and blanket, sitting in a cane chair, his tousled bed in the background. Hues of a sickly yellow surround him; his mouth gapes open like a corpse. There’s a feeling of isolation in this personal struggle. Later that year he painted its sequel, ‘Self-Portrait after the Spanish Flu’, in which he leans toward the viewer, swirls of paint creating circles around his eyes, but colour returning to his sallow face.
More than 100 years later, we are in the midst of another terrible pandemic, and we have no idea yet how many people will die. Yesterday, Coronavirus Response Coordinator Dr. Deborah Birx said that 100,000 to 200,000 deaths in the U.S. would be the best case scenario. CNBC: Dr. Birx predicts up to 200,000 U.S. coronavirus deaths ‘if we do things almost perfectly.’
The White House coronavirus response coordinator said Monday that she is “very worried about every city in the United States” and projects 100,000 to 200,000 American deaths as a best case scenario.
In an interview on “TODAY,” Dr. Deborah Birx painted a grim message about the expected fatalities, echoing that without doing any measures they could hit as high as 2.2 million, as coronavirus cases continue to climb throughout the U.S.
“I think everyone understands now that you can go from five to 50 to 500 to 5000 cases very quickly,” Birx said.
Somehow Birx and Anthony Fauci and advisers bearing poll results managed to convince Trump that he couldn’t loosen government recommendations without killing thousands of people. The New York Times: Behind Trump’s Reversal on Reopening the Country: 2 Sets of Numbers.
The numbers the health officials showed President Trump were overwhelming. With the peak of the coronavirus pandemic still weeks away, he was told, hundreds of thousands of Americans could face death if the country reopened too soon.
But there was another set of numbers that also helped persuade Mr. Trump to shift gears on Sunday and abandon his goal of restoring normal life by Easter. Political advisers described for him polling that showed that voters overwhelmingly preferred to keep containment measures in place over sending people back to work prematurely.
Those two realities — the dire threat to the country and the caution of the American public — proved decisive at a critical juncture in the response to the pandemic, his advisers said. The first of those two realities, the deadly arc of the virus, has been known for weeks even if disregarded by the president when he set his Easter target. But the second of the two upended Mr. Trump’s assumptions about the politics of the situation and restrained, for a moment at least, his eagerness to get back to business as usual.
The president’s reversal may prove to be an important pivot point in the effort to curb the pandemic, one that in the view of public health officials averted a greater catastrophe.
Right now Trump needs Fauci and Birx to provide some credibility to his public health policies. But how long before he turns on them? Former Assistant Director for Counterintelligence at the FBI Frank Figliuzzi has some advice for them at Vanity Fair: Hostage Survival Tips for Drs. Fauci and Birx.
Kidnappers can quickly come to regret taking hostages because, quite honestly, their care and feeding becomes almost unbearable. That’s when some hostages find themselves dumped alongside a road or come to an even worse fate. So, you must avoid upsetting the president to the point that he neutralizes you. You’ve already had success in convincing the president to back off the indefensible assertion that the nation can return to normal on Easter Sunday. Dr. Fauci, your minimizing of Trump’s nonsensical notion as simply “aspirational” was masterful in that it helped him to save face and to view you as less of a threat. Bravo. Similarly, Dr. Birx’s praise of the president as “attentive to the scientific literature and the details and the data” may have stroked the president’s planet-sized ego to buy you some time.
Second, hostage negotiators must prepare for the abductor’s initial ransom call. Maybe that’s already happened. Maybe that first demand was to reopen the economy by Easter. If so, you handled it well. But more demands are coming. In fact, expect to see that first demand repeated. That’s why successful negotiators select a primary communicator to engage the captor. Two physicians coming at the president at once won’t work. The communicator must present a previously agreed upon message but maintain limited authority. In other words, let’s say you select Dr. Birx (the president seems to view her as less of a threat). Dr. Birx should already secretly know what Dr. Fauci’s position on things is, but when negotiating with the president, should always say, “Let me make sure we have Dr. Fauci’s opinion,” or, “I’ll have to get back to you after I consult the team.” This allows for the negotiator to establish a requirement for what hostage negotiators call a reasonable delay. In life or death hostage crises, reasonable delays can make the difference between the abductor doing something rash and emotional, or doing the right thing.
Third, a real hostage communicator is never a debater but more of an influencer and persuader. Hostage communicators maintain some control by scheduling set times to speak with the abductor. This also allows them to develop their objectives and rehearse responses with their larger team. Hostage negotiators work from a quiet, tucked away negotiation operations center. They plot out anticipated demands and scripted responses on white boards around the room. They have a plan even when the captor doesn’t. Got it? Drs. Fauci and Birx, we need you to have a plan. Our survival may depend on your survival. In a sense, we’re all being held hostage, and you are negotiating for our safe release. Hostages sometimes develop Stockholm syndrome when they start identifying with their captor and his causes as a survival mechanism. Don’t let that happen to you. Don’t let that happen to us.
Links to more Reads:
Must Read at Vox: Trump is mishandling coronavirus the way Reagan botched the AIDS epidemic.
The Washington Post: The National Security Council sounded early alarms about the coronavirus.
The New York Times: The Medical News Site That Saw the Coronavirus Coming Months Ago.
The New York Times: They Survived the Spanish Flu, the Depression and the Holocaust.
Jewish Journal: 101-Year-Old Holocaust And Spanish Flu Survivor Just Beat COVID-19.
The Local: Italian 101-year-old leaves hospital after recovering from coronavirus.
The New York Times: For Autocrats, and Others, Coronavirus Is a Chance to Grab Even More Power.
ProPublica: He Was Ordered to Self-Isolate. He Didn’t. Now He’s Facing Criminal Charges.
The Guardian: Astrophysicist gets magnets stuck up nose while inventing coronavirus device.
The Daily Beast: Rodney Howard-Browne, Megachurch Pastor Who Flouted Virus Rules, Arrested.
Socially Distant Monday ReadsPosted: March 30, 2020 Filed under: morning reads | Tags: Covid-19 36 Comments
Good Day Sky Dancers!
Well, one more week closer to the first wave of peak chaos. The US is expected to be at peak pandemic overload mode as a country some where around April 15 while each state is scattered around that. Dr. Daughter sent me this link I tweeted out this morning. You may find your state’s expected peak hospital use there as well as death projections. New York City is looking pretty grim today as the US Comfort pulled into port.
Louisiana is expected to be the next big”epicenter”. We continue to get worse press than NYC does to in terms of did we do things to deserve this? I just watched General Honore on MSNBC telling reporters to stay off the politics and get on the logistics. Actually, he was shouting so maybe some one would hear him.
From CNN: “The alarming message of Louisiana’s sharp rise in Covid-19 cases” which is an Op Ed written by Kent Sepkowitz.
The explosion of cases in New Orleans, Louisiana, has caught the attention of Covid watchers and doomsayers across the country. Less than two weeks ago, the Crescent City recorded less than 100 cases. By March 29 the number of infections in Orleans Parish reached 1,350, with 73 deaths. The fatalities per capita rivals that of New York City.
Though all eyes are on New Orleans, an equally alarming outbreak is occurring in a smaller city in the northwest of the state. Shreveport, near the border of Texas, Arkansas and Oklahoma — a region referred to locally as Ark-La-Tex (sorry, Oklahoma) — has about 200,000 people and sits across the Red River from Bossier City, with its population of 70,000. And right now, it is in the first stages of its own unique Covid-19 nightmare.
In recent days, the cases from these sister cities, which are in Caddo and Bossier parishes, have risen 30 or a 40 a day. As of March 29, the total for the two parishes sits at 275 overall, including five deaths. Incredibly, just a week ago, there were just 21 cases. Stated simply, this has the makings of serious trouble.
I’m staying home. I’m fortunate that I’ve found places that will deliver pet supplies and fresh food. I also joined a wine club. I’m going to be leaving presents for my all my delivery drivers.
Today’s vintage photos are of folks during the 1918 Spanish flu.
I’ve been watching the daily presser from NY and also the presser from my Governor and mayor. What worries me is this daily event (also from CNN): ‘Fact check: A breakdown of false and misleading statements at Trump’s Rose Garden briefing— Trump berates reporter for ‘threatening’ question during briefing.’
On two occasions during Sunday’s coronavirus briefing, President Donald Trump falsely denied he had said words he had said publicly last week.
When PBS’s Yamiche Alcindor noted that the President had said he did not believe that governors actually need all the equipment they claimed they did, Trump said, “I didn’t say that” — even though he said precisely that on Fox News on Thursday.
Later, when CNN White House Correspondent Jeremy Diamond noted that Trump had said he wanted governors to be “appreciative” of him, and that “if they don’t treat you right, I don’t call,” Trump said, “But I didn’t say that” — even though he said precisely that at the Friday briefing
It would be on thing if Trump was simply useless. However, Trump is toxic and every thing coming out of his mouth and the actions he takes puts us deeper into national strife. His first instinct was to grab hold of some whack ideas. This is elucidated by Isaac Chotiner of The New Yorker: “The Contrarian Coronavirus Theory That Informed the Trump Administration,”Chotiner interviewed the liberatarian (of course he is) that created this outrageous idea.
..“WE CANNOT LET THE CURE BE WORSE THAN THE PROBLEM ITSELF.” Trump said repeatedly that he wanted the country to reopen by Easter, April 12th, contradicting the advice of most health officials. (On Sunday, he backed down and extended federal social-distancing guidelines for at least another month.) According to the Washington Post, “Conservatives close to Trump and numerous administration officials have been circulating an article by Richard A. Epstein of the Hoover Institution, titled ‘Coronavirus Perspective,’ which plays down the extent of the spread and the threat.”
Epstein, a professor at New York University School of Law, published the article on the Web site of the Hoover Institution, on March 16th. In it, he questioned the World Health Organization’s decision to declare the coronavirus outbreak a pandemic, said that “public officials have gone overboard,” and suggested that about five hundred people would die from covid-19 in the U.S. Epstein later updated his estimate to five thousand, saying that the previous number had been an error. So far, there have been more than two thousand coronavirus-related fatalities in America; epidemiologists’ projections of the total deaths range widely, depending on the success of social distancing and the availability of medical resources, but they tend to be much higher than Epstein’s. (On Sunday, Anthony Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, estimated that there could be between a hundred thousand and two hundred thousand deaths in the U.S.) In a follow-up article, published on March 23rd and titled “Coronavirus Overreaction,” Epstein wrote, “Progressives think they can run everyone’s lives through central planning, but the state of the economy suggests otherwise. Looking at the costs, the public commands have led to a crash in the stock market, and may only save a small fraction of the lives that are at risk.”
Epstein has long been one of the most cited legal scholars in the country, and is known for his libertarian-minded reading of the Constitution, which envisions a restrained federal government that respects private property. He has also been known to engage with controversial subjects; last fall, he published an article on the Hoover Institution Web site that argued, “The professional skeptics are right: there is today no compelling evidence of an impending climate emergency.” Last Wednesday, I spoke by phone with Epstein about his views of the coronavirus pandemic. He was initially wary of talking, and asked to record his own version of the call, which I agreed to. During our conversation, which has been edited for length and clarity, Epstein made a number of comments about viruses that have been strongly disputed by medical professionals. We have included factual corrections alongside those statements.
Which brings me to this:
Take a guess … or just look at the previous nonsense to find the answer.
Overall, the models could explain only a small amount of variability in how often people engaged in the recommended behaviors (approximately 6% of past behavior, 11% of future behavior). In both cases, only one variable stood out as predicting whether a person would engage in these behaviors more: faith in your own intuition. If you had more faith in your own intuition, you were more likely to follow the health recommendations both in the last week, and to say you would follow them in the next week.
Surprisingly, this trait beat out others like scientific literacy and a tendency to engage in cognitive reflection in terms of predictive power.
The researchers then estimated a second model that didn’t just use personal beliefs about science and truth generally, but also included political beliefs. This was based on people rating how much you agree with the statement “I identify myself as [liberal/conservative/libertarian].”
When political identity was added, the most important predictor became whether an individual was a libertarian. The more an individual identified as a libertarian, the less likely they were to follow the official recommendations for reducing the spread of COVID-19.
When political beliefs were included as predictors, the models were able to predict 17% of variability in past behavior and 29% of variability in intended future behaviors. That’s a pretty large jump in accuracy (from 6% and 11% for the non-political models).
Of course we know who combines that with a toxic form of Christianity. This is from Elizabeth Williamson writing for the NYT: “Liberty University Brings Back Its Students, and Coronavirus Fears, Too — The decision by the school’s president, Jerry Falwell Jr., to partly reopen his evangelical university enraged residents of Lynchburg, Va. Then students started getting sick.
As Liberty University’s spring break was drawing to a close this month, Jerry Falwell Jr., its president, spoke with the physician who runs Liberty’s student health service about the rampaging coronavirus.
“We’ve lost the ability to corral this thing,” Dr. Thomas W. Eppes Jr. said he told Mr. Falwell. But he did not urge him to close the school. “I just am not going to be so presumptuous as to say, ‘This is what you should do and this is what you shouldn’t do,’” Dr. Eppes said in an interview.
So Mr. Falwell — a staunch ally of President Trump and an influential voice in the evangelical world — reopened the university last week, igniting a firestorm. As of Friday, Dr. Eppes said, nearly a dozen Liberty students were sick with symptoms that suggested Covid-19, the disease caused by the virus. Three were referred to local hospital centers for testing. An additional eight were told to self-isolate.
Lucian K Truscott IV wrote this for Salon.
Trump won’t mourn for those suffering and dying from the virus, but he’ll accept the sympathies of the fawning suck-asses he surrounds himself with at the daily thank-a-thon that substitutes for the rallies he can no longer hold.
“Thanks to your leadership, Mr. President,” Vice President Mike Pence will typically begin, as he rolls out a list of dubious statistics for masks delivered or ventilators suddenly discovered hidden away in some warehouse. “Thank you, Mr. President … we all thank you … the nation thanks you,” another toady will parrot, likely some “acting” department head or secretary-of-something-or-another Trump’s thinking about going through the motions of nominating so he can keep another former lobbyist at the top of another important government agency.
Trump stands there, eyes unfocused, looking like he’d rather be on the 13th tee at Bedminster as he soaks in the praise. All of that praise is due him, he told said at the Wednesday thank-a-thon, because “we’re the ones that gave the great response, and we’re the ones that kept China out of here, and if I didn’t do it, you’d have thousands and thousands of people died — who would have died that are now living and happy.” The Wednesday thank-a-thon was filled with self-congratulation and chest-pounding, but it was no different from Tuesday’s, or Thursday’s for that matter. Trump spent 25 percent of the time he spoke in self-congratulation or blaming others for the difficulties he has faced, or the obstacles he has overcome, according to a study of his Wednesday remarks by the Washington Post. “These passages constituted about 25 percent of all the words Trump spoke — more than 1,500 words out of about 6,000 spoken. That is more time than he spent conveying details about the coronavirus response,” the Post reported.
When he wasn’t congratulating himself or accepting the thanks of the Suck-Ass Chorus, Trump was on Twitter lamenting the slings and arrows he suffers daily from his “nasty” enemies in the “media.” “The LameStream Media is the dominant force in trying to get me to keep our Country closed as long as possible in the hope that it will be detrimental to MY election success,” he tweeted. “The real people want to get back to work ASAP. We will be stronger than ever before!”
Someone in the White House press corps should have asked Trump about the “real people” in overcrowded hospitals in New York, in understaffed clinics in New Orleans, in panicked waiting rooms in Detroit, and lying on soaked sheets in their own bedrooms in every state in the union. They aren’t lining up to go back to work. They’re dying in numbers that are doubling every 24 hours.
We are living through dark times with exactly the wrong person in the lead. He has surrounded himself with all the wrong people. Stay inside. This is going to get worse.
What is on your reading and blogging list today?
Sunday Reads: KISS OFF!Posted: March 29, 2020 Filed under: just because 39 Comments
Kiss it goodbye!
Here are some quick cartoons and a few tweets…
Mostly funny with some serious news.
This is an open thread…
Lazy Caturday Reads: Trump’s Narcissistic Rage is Killing UsPosted: March 28, 2020 Filed under: morning reads, U.S. Politics | Tags: coronavirus, corruption, Covid-19, Donald Trump, Gretchen Whitmer, narcissistic rage 24 Comments
This morning I’m feeling very grateful that I live alone. I’m so stressed out by what’s happening in the world that I don’t think I could handle being around other people. On the other hand, I’m grateful for the internet as a way to keep in touch with other human beings while still keeping them at a distance.
Part of the stress I’m experiencing is probably coming from how angry I am about having Trump as president. It feels like he’s torturing all of us who didn’t vote for him. I think he would just as happy to see all of us die off. He is truly a monster in the mold of Hitler and Stalin.
Aaron Blake at The Washington Post: Trump ties coronavirus decisions to personal grievances.
Those states are particularly important. Washington state was the first real hot spot in the United States for the coronavirus outbreak. Michigan, which has among the nation’s highest rates of the virus, is also a key swing state in the 2020 election. You wonder if Trump’s comments about not wanting to communicate with Gov. Gretchen Whitmer (D) during a crisis might be used against him in his reelection campaign.
Asked what more he wants from Washington Gov. Jay Inslee (D), in particular, Trump said he just wants more gratitude.
“All I want them to do — very simple: I want them to be appreciative,” he said. “I don’t want them to say things that aren’t true. I want them to be appreciative.”
Crain’s Detroit Business: Whitmer: Feds told vendors not to send medical supplies to Michigan.
“When the federal government told us that we needed to go it ourselves, we started procuring every item we could get our hands on,” Whitmer said Friday on WWJ 950AM. “What I’ve gotten back is that vendors with whom we had contracts are now being told not to send stuff here to Michigan. It’s really concerning.”
Whitmer didn’t say who has told vendors to stop sending medical supplies to the state, but strongly implied the order came from President Donald Trump’s administration.
“We’ve entered into a number of contracts and as we are getting closer to the date when shipments are supposed to come in, they’re getting canceled or they’re getting delayed,” Whitmer said. “We’ve been told they’re going first to the federal government.” [….]
Trump called into Sean Hannity’s Fox News program Thursday night and bashed Whitmer’s handling of the coronavirus public health crisis that has claimed the lives of 92 Michigan residents as of Friday.
“Your governor of Michigan, I mean, she’s not stepping up,” Trump said, who referred to Whitmer as “a woman governor” and not by her name. “I don’t know if she knows what’s going on, but all she does is sit there and blame the federal government. She doesn’t get it done. And we send her a lot.”
During a Friday evening press conference, Trump said he’s instructed Vice President Mike Pence, “don’t call the woman in Michigan.”
This is a must read by Peter Wehner at The Atlantic: The President Is Trapped. Trump is utterly unsuited to deal with this crisis, either intellectually or temperamentally.
For his entire adult life, and for his entire presidency, Donald Trump has created his own alternate reality, complete with his own alternate set of facts. He has shown himself to be erratic, impulsive, narcissistic, vindictive, cruel, mendacious, and devoid of empathy. None of that is new.
But we’re now entering the most dangerous phase of the Trump presidency. The pain and hardship that the United States is only beginning to experience stem from a crisis that the president is utterly unsuited to deal with, either intellectually or temperamentally. When things were going relatively well, the nation could more easily absorb the costs of Trump’s psychological and moral distortions and disfigurements. But those days are behind us. The coronavirus pandemic has created the conditions that can catalyze a destructive set of responses from an individual with Trump’s characterological defects and disordered personality.
We are now in the early phase of a medical and economic tempest unmatched in most of our lifetimes. There’s too much information we don’t have. We don’t know the full severity of the pandemic, or whether a state like New York is a harbinger or an outlier. But we have enough information to know this virus is rapidly transmissible and lethal.
The qualities we most need in a president during this crisis are calmness, wisdom, and reassurance; a command of the facts and the ability to communicate them well; and the capacity to think about the medium and long term while carefully weighing competing options and conflicting needs. We need a leader who can persuade the public to act in ways that are difficult but necessary, who can focus like a laser beam on a problem for a sustained period of time, and who will listen to—and, when necessary, defer to—experts who know far more than he does. We need a president who can draw the nation together rather than drive it apart, who excels at the intricate work of governing, and who works well with elected officials at every level. We need a chief executive whose judgment is not just sound, but exceptional.
There are some 325 million people in America, and it’s hard to think of more than a handful who are more lacking in these qualities than Donald Trump.
Charlie Savage at The New York Times: Trump Suggests He Can Gag Inspector General for Stimulus Bailout Program.
When President Trump signed the $2 trillion economic stabilization package on Friday to respond to the coronavirus pandemic, he undercut a crucial safeguard that Democrats insisted upon as a condition of agreeing to include a $500 billion corporate bailout fund.
In a signing statement released hours after Mr. Trump signed the bill in a televised ceremony in the Oval Office, the president suggested he had the power to decide what information a newly created inspector general intended to monitor the fund could share with Congress.
Under the law, the inspector general, when auditing loans and investments made through the fund, has the power to demand information from the Treasury Department and other executive branch agencies. The law requires reporting to Congress “without delay” if any agency balks and its refusal is unreasonable “in the judgment of the special inspector general.”
Democrats blocked a final agreement on the package this week as they insisted on stronger oversight provisions to ensure that the president and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin could not abuse the bailout fund. They feared that Mr. Trump, who has previously stonewalled congressional oversight, would do the same when it came to the corporate aid program.
But in his statement, which the White House made public about two hours after the president signed the bill, Mr. Trump suggested that under his own understanding of his constitutional powers as president, he can gag the special inspector general for pandemic recovery, known by the acronym S.I.G.P.R., and keep information from Congress.
Please go read the rest. This man is planning to steal billions from taxpayers for himself and his corrupt buddies. Nancy Pelosi said last night that there would be oversight despite Trump’s efforts. I sure hope so.
One more before I return to my catatonic trance.
Linda Qiu at The New York Times: Analyzing the Patterns in Trump’s Falsehoods About Coronavirus.
Hours after the United States became the nation with the largest number of reported coronavirus cases on Thursday, President Trump appeared on Fox News and expressed doubt about shortages of medical supplies, boasted about the country’s testing capacity, and criticized his predecessor’s response to an earlier outbreak of a different disease.
“I don’t believe you need 40,000 or 30,000 ventilators,” he said, alluding to a request by Gov. Andrew Cuomo of New York. The president made the statement in spite of government reports predicting shortages in a severe pandemic — and he reversed course on Friday morning, calling for urgent steps to produce more ventilators.
Speaking on Fox on Thursday, Mr. Trump suggested wrongly that because of his early travel restrictions on China, “a lot of the people decided to go to Italy instead” — though Italy had issued a more wide-ranging ban on travel from China and done so earlier than the United States. And at a White House briefing on Friday, he wrongly said he was the “first one” to impose restrictions on China. North Korea, for one, imposed restrictions 10 days before the United States.
He misleadingly claimed again on Friday that “we’ve tested now more than anybody.” In terms of raw numbers, the United States has tested more people for the coronavirus than Italy and South Korea but still lags behind in tests per capita.
And he continued to falsely claim that the Obama administration “acted very, very late” during the H1N1 epidemic in 2009 and 2010.
These falsehoods, like dozens of others from the president since January, demonstrate some core tenets of how Mr. Trump has tried to spin his response to the coronavirus epidemic to his advantage.
Read Qiu’s analysis of the lies at the NYT.
How are you doing and what stories are you following? Hang in there Sky Dancers!
ClusterFuck Friday Reads: Can the Trumpist Regime get any more Incompetent?Posted: March 27, 2020 Filed under: just because | Tags: COVID19, New Orleans, pandemic 34 Comments
Good Day Sky Dancers!
I’m waiting for a phone call from Doctor Daughter who was on call last night at her hospital in the Seattle Burbs. Youngest Daughter joined my graduate class in Derivatives on Wednesday night to talk about Options strategies and the consumer retail brokerage market from Denver to the students held up here in New Orleans. I’m beginning to feel superfluous which is fine but I worry about them both. I especially fret about the doctors in Seattle and I can only imagine the stories that I will hear today.
My paychecks continue and I’m paying my bills which keeps me in the thankful old lady range. I’m trying like crazy not to get sick again although I–like BB–wonder if the Mardi Gras Flu that kept me sick and home for 3 weeks last month was COVID 19 instead of Influenza Type B. At this point, I’d be glad to have some antibodies because my lean/mean blue cross blue shield ACA health plan keeps me from doing anything but the required annual visits, etc. I’m having to hold out to get sick or whatever until the less expensive–but still not inexpensive–Medicare becomes available to me in the fall.
So now the narrative is that my city is supposedly to blame as the supposedly evil place that gave it to the rest of the country because Mardi Gras. This is from the NYT. We’ve reached the demonize the cities with all those people of color portion of deflecting blame from the Orange Snot Blob.
In a grim irony, there is a rising suspicion among medical experts that the crisis may have been accelerated by Mardi Gras — the weekslong citywide celebration that unfolds in crowded living rooms, ballrooms and city streets — which this year culminated on Feb. 25.
It is the city’s trademark expression of joy — and an epidemiologist’s nightmare.
“I think it all boils down to Mardi Gras,” said Dr. F. Brobson Lutz Jr., a former health director of New Orleans and a specialist in infectious disease. “The greatest free party in the world was a perfect incubator at the perfect time.”
The feeling is at once familiar and distinct for a city whose history is punctuated with epic disasters, including the deadly yellow fever outbreaks of 1853 and 1905, and Hurricane Katrina a century later in 2005. Once again, New Orleanians are afraid they could be neglected by national leaders, only this time because the coronavirus is a worldwide calamity.
“This hurricane’s coming for everybody,” said Broderick Bagert, an organizer with the community organizing group Together Louisiana.
Mr. Edwards, who, like most other Louisiana governors, has extensive experience dealing with hurricanes, said the state was struggling to confront this new kind of disaster. “We don’t really have a playbook on this one,” he said.
“If you have a flood or a hurricane it’s only a small part of the country that’s affected, so you can get the full attention of the federal government and you can get a lot of help from sister states,” he said. “That’s not possible right now because this is in every state in our country.”
As a kind of ghostliness settles over a locked-down nation, the effect of social distancing feels particularly jarring in New Orleans, a city that runs on intimacy — from the deep webs of kinship and geography that connect families and neighborhoods to the fleeting threads that bind strangers and regulars in storied restaurants and packed, sweaty clubs.
The fact that the Trumpist regime underplayed this disease at a time it was arriving in places like Seattle, Boston, NYC and yes, New Orleans cannot be underplayed right now. Nor can the fact that Trump refuses to truly act to flatten the curve and step up the production of hospital supplies and ICU beds in first, the worst hit cities, and then seeing that it continues to go to the next wave of places.
None of our cities are to blame. The Federal Government clearly botched this from the very beginning.
From WAPO: “From party to pandemic: New Orleans fears Mardis Gras fueled coronavirus outbreak as cases spike”.
More than a million dancing, singing, bead-catching celebrants packed the streets of the French Quarter and other venues across this city in the weeks leading up to the sprawling open-air party that is Mardi Gras.
There was little worry during the February festivities about the new virus that had infected a few dozen people in other parts of the country. The city’s top health official believed the flu “is far more dangerous right now than the coronavirus,” she told the Times-Picayune/New Orleans Advocate newspaper.
Thirteen days later, on March 9, Louisiana reported its first case of covid-19. Then came another, and another. Clusters broke out in several nursing homes. The cases popping up across the state were not easily linked to each other, meaning that a galloping community spread was already underway.
A terrible realization began to dawn on residents and political leaders: The famous bonhomie of the world’s biggest free party may have helped supercharge one of the most rapid spreads of the coronavirus, which is now threatening to overwhelm Louisiana’s health-care system and potentially make the state one of the next epicenters.
“We had people from all over the world. We also had the spread of this virus, and people did not realize it was spreading,” said Rebekah Gee, a former state health secretary now on the faculty of Louisiana State University’s medical school. “So people not only caught beads, but they caught covid-19.”
As of Thursday, Louisiana had reported 2,305 cases and 83 deaths related to coronavirus — with about two-thirds of the cases and deaths in the New Orleans metro area. During the first two weeks of known infections, the virus was coursing through Louisiana at an extraordinarily rapid pace, according to an analysis by Gary Wagner, a professor at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette. He found that the rate of growth in that period was the highest in the world.
One of the biggest barriers to progress is Jared Kushner’s Shadow Task force which CREW says violates multiple laws.
Jared Kushner’s shadow coronavirus task force appears to be violating both the Presidential Records Act (PRA) and Federal Advisory Committee Act (FACA) by using private email accounts with no assurance their communications are being preserved and by meeting in secret, according to a letter sent today by Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW). The failure of the White House to comply with any of the PRA and FACA requirements leaves the public in the dark about the work the shadow task force has done and the influence of private industries on the administration’s response to the coronavirus pandemic.
Kushner’s task force, composed of a team of allies from within the government and representatives from private industries, has operated adjacent to the official government task force spearheaded by Vice President Pence. With confusion over the shadow task force’s role and who its members are, and reports that the members of the shadow task force communicate using private email accounts, CREW has reason to believe the White House is not creating and maintaining accurate and complete records of the shadow task force’s activities as required by the PRA.
“If there was ever a time we need records and transparency, this is it. As the seriousness of this pandemic continues to grow, the public needs to understand who in the White House is making policy decisions, who from private industry is influencing those decisions, and how decisions to address this pandemic are being made,” said CREW Executive Director Noah Bookbinder. “After this crisis has passed, we will need to be able to look back at how this administration responded to the situation and have the full picture of what was going on behind closed doors in order to understand what we could do better in the future.”
The PRA requires the president and his staff to document, preserve and maintain records of “the activities, deliberations, decisions, and policies that reflect the performance of the President’s constitutional, statutory, or other official or ceremonial duties.” With Kushner at the head, the shadow task force’s development and implementation of federal strategies to address the coronavirus pandemic fall within these requirements.
The shadow task force also appears to fall under FACA provisions, which are triggered whenever a committee within the Executive Office of the President is advising the president and is not “composed wholly of full-time, or permanent part-time, officers or employees of the Federal Government.” The FACA prohibits such committees from being “inappropriately influenced by the appointing authority or by any special interest.” Contrary to the FACA’s requirements, the shadow task force is operating in secret, with neither the members of Kushner’s committee nor their interests fully disclosed to the public. Understanding and preserving the committee’s actions and conversations will be key in understanding how the administration ultimately decided to approach its COVID-19 response efforts.
Notice the part about Kushner’s private emails.
Trump has pulled back the offer of ventilators to NYC, demonized Washington State Governor Jay Inslee, and now appears to be attacking GM and FORD who are simply waiting for the proper channels to get activated. WTF?
The White House had been preparing to reveal on Wednesday a joint venture between General Motors and Ventec Life Systems that would allow for the production of as many as 80,000 desperately needed ventilators to respond to an escalating pandemic when word suddenly came down that the announcement was off.
The decision to cancel the announcement, government officials say, came after the Federal Emergency Management Agency said it needed more time to assess whether the estimated cost was prohibitive. That price tag was more than $1 billion, with several hundred million dollars to be paid upfront to General Motors to retool a car parts plant in Kokomo, Ind., where the ventilators would be made with Ventec’s technology.
Government officials said that the deal might still happen but that they are examining at least a dozen other proposals. And they contend that an initial promise that the joint venture could turn out 20,000 ventilators in short order had shrunk to 7,500, with even that number in doubt. Longtime emergency managers at FEMA are working with military officials to sort through the competing offers and federal procurement rules while under pressure to give President Trump something to announce.
But in an interview Thursday night with Sean Hannity, the president played down the need for ventilators.
This is an interesting headline from a Michigan: “‘After Trump Attacks Whitmer, She Says Vendors Aren’t Sending Desperately Needed Coronavirus Supplies. “They’re being told not to send stuff to Michigan.”‘
After President Donald Trump issued scathing comments about Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, saying she’s “not stepping up,” and “doesn’t know what’s going on,” she told WWJ 950 the state is having trouble getting the equipment they need to fight the novel coronavirus.
“What I’ve gotten back is that vendors with whom we’ve procured contracts — They’re being told not to send stuff to Michigan,” Whitmer said live on air. “It’s really concerning, I reached out to the White House last night and asked for a phone call with the president, ironically at the time this stuff was going on.”
The other stuff was Trump speaking with Sean Hannity on FOX News about Whitmer, a Democrat who has said very pointed things about the federal government’s lack of coordinated response to the coronavirus crisis. Trump said of Whitmer, “She is a new governor, and it’s not been pleasant … “We’ve had a big problem with the young — a woman governor. You know who I’m talking about — from Michigan. We don’t like to see the complaints.”
Michigan’s request for disaster assistance has not yet been approved by the White House, and Trump told Hannity he’s still weighing it.
“She doesn’t get it done, and we send her a lot. Now, she wants a declaration of emergency, and, you know, we’ll have to make a decision on that. But Michigan is a very important state. I love the people of Michigan.”
In her public addresses closing schools, bars and restaurants, and issuing a shelter in place order, Whitmer has complained about the federal’s government lack of organization and state assistance, but she told WWJ she has never personally attacked the president.
“It’s very distressing,” she said about Trump’s attack, noting that she was only one of several governors who noted “the federal preparation was concerning.”
But she apparently struck a nerve with the president. And now the question is whether the leader of the free world could possibly take it out on medical professionals, patients and communities who desperately need help.
“I’ve been uniquely singled out,” Whitmer said. “I don’t go into personal attacks, I don’t have time for that, I don’t have energy for that, frankly. All of our focus has to be on COVID-19.”
This continued pettiness ruling our National Public Health Policy and Actions should be called out immediately. I still believe no press outlet other tha CSPAN should be carrying the Trump’s political and disinformation-laden pressers. They can edit him out and play the Science portion and quit scaring the rest of us. But look, he didn’t cancel his damned rallies during the same Mardi Gras period.
So, I guess if me sitting home is the best I can do to help this, here I sit. Still, we rely heavily on our Congress Critters to do the right thing right now. You still might want to give them a ring and an earful. Please be safe!
What’s on your reading and blogging list today?