Thursday Reads

Woman reading a newspaper by Partosh Sen

Good Morning Sky Dancers!

I’m still not handling the news very well. I’ve pretty much tried to tune it all out since my last post on Tuesday. It was probably a mistake to start reading The Stand, by Stephen King; but now I’m hooked, and I was already freaked out by the pandemic in real life anyway. So this post is going to be a quick one so I can go back to trying to maintain my sanity in this time of Trump and Covid-19.

Massachusetts is starting to open up, and people will be allowed to go to beaches beginning on Memorial day. I don’t think that’s a very good idea, but I have nothing to say about it. We are still seeing more than 100 deaths a day here. I’m planning to keep on staying home except for grocery shopping. I’m considering getting my hair cut in June. The hair salons are opening on the May 26th, with lots of restrictions. I got an email from my hairdresser explaining all the rules:

We appreciate your patience as some service providers may have limited availability. Due to the scheduled shifting of the Service Providers, your scheduled appointment may not stand as it was previously scheduled, however, you will be notified. We have limited phone staff that will be working to accommodate the many changes that have occurred.

If you are experiencing any of the following symptoms; Fever (>100.4) or Feverish, Cough, Sore Throat, Shortness of Breath, Unusual Fatigue, Chills, Body Aches, we ask that you stay home and call us at 617-489-7733 to reschedule. Let’s all stay healthy.

We ask that you arrive for your appointment at the time of your appointment and no earlier. Please wait in your car outside the salon for your appointment. We will text/call you when to enter. Please limit personal belongings to payment methods and cell phones. Please do not bring any guests with you and please do not bring children to your appointment at this time.

Before you arrive for your appointment, we ask that you call and provide a credit card for us to securely store on file – the same way you might store it with Amazon or Netflix. After your appointment, we can simply charge your card through our system – no buttons to press, no screens to touch, no unnecessary physical contact required. Just safe & healthy service.

So it’s going to be pretty complicated. But I’m getting desperate.

Here are the news stories that caught my attention today.

This one isn’t really news to anyone, but it’s a reminder of Trump’s limited cognitive abilities and his deteriorating mental condition. The article is a response to Trump’s claims that intelligence briefers didn’t warn him adequately about the coming pandemic.

Man Reading Newspaper c.1918 – Hugo Scheibe

The New York Times: For Spy Agencies, Briefing Trump Is a Test of Holding His Attention.

Mr. Trump, who has mounted a yearslong attack on the intelligence agencies, is particularly difficult to brief on critical national security matters, according to interviews with 10 current and former intelligence officials familiar with his intelligence briefings.

The president veers off on tangents and getting him back on topic is difficult, they said. He has a short attention span and rarely, if ever, reads intelligence reports, relying instead on conservative media and his friends for information. He is unashamed to interrupt intelligence officers and riff based on tips or gossip he hears from the former casino magnate Steve Wynn, the retired golfer Gary Player or Christopher Ruddy, the conservative media executive.

Mr. Trump rarely absorbs information that he disagrees with or that runs counter to his worldview, the officials said. Briefing him has been so great a challenge compared with his predecessors that the intelligence agencies have hired outside consultants to study how better to present information to him.

Working to keep Mr. Trump’s interest exhausted and burned out his first briefer, Ted Gistaro, two former officials said. Mr. Gistaro did not always know what to expect and would sometimes have to brief an erratic and angry president upset over news reports, the officials said.

The simple truth is that Trump is a childish, narcissistic jerk with no interest in serving the American people. He’s never been particularly bright, and now he’s sinking into dementia. But the media continues to try to normalize him. It’s frightening how hard they work at it.

Woman reading a newspaper, Todros Geller, 1944

Mother Jones on the person who is supposedly leading the administration’s response to the pandemic: Jared Kushner Had One Job: Solve America’s Supply Crisis. He Helped Private Companies Instead.

On March 29, President Trump held a press briefing to tout “Project Airbridge,” the administration’s new effort to organize and pay for airlifts of personal protective equipment and other medical supplies from abroad. The first of Project Airbridge’s “big, great planes” coming from Asia had landed in New York that day, Trump said, bringing in “2 million masks and gowns, over 10 million gloves, and over 70,000 thermometers,” which would be distributed to virus hot spots across the country. The heads of some of the country’s biggest medical supply distributors joined him at the podium to pay tribute to the administration and talk about the project. “They’re big people,” Trump declared of the executives working together with the administration to deliver “record amounts of lifesaving equipment.”

The origins of Project Airbridge lie with MIT experts, who originally proposed a government led and funded airlift of supplies, according to the Washington Post. But it was seized upon by Trump’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner, who ran a volunteer shadow coronavirus task force that included his former roommate and people from private-equity companies and consulting firms like McKinsey. (“Young geniuses” Trump called them.) Unhappy employees at the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) dubbed them “the children.”

Yet less than two months later, after many glowing PR hits, the administration decided to put an end to Project Airbridge as members of Congress and the media started demanding answers about how the supplies were being distributed, who received them, and whether the White House was making distribution decisions based on politics rather than public health. On April 21, 10 Democratic senators, led by Elizabeth Warren, asked the inspector general of the Department of Health and Human Services to investigate the project. “The novelty and complexity of this arrangement demands heightened scrutiny and transparency,” they wrote in a letter. “However, the administration’s implementation of Project Airbridge has been completely opaque.”

The short-lived Project Airbridge is an example of how the Trump administration has taken advantage of the pandemic to boost some of the country’s biggest companies while doing little more than offer hard-hit states photo ops and the chance to compete against each other to pay exorbitant prices for PPE. And while the project did little to ameliorate national shortages of PPE, it may have a lasting impact on everything from health care costs to the consolidation of corporate power.

Read the rest at Mother Jones.

Jeffrey DeVore, Woman reading newspaper

Gabriel Sherman on Trump’s “Obamagate” obsession: “With Obama He’s Going for the Jugular”: As Trump Goes After Obama, Some in Trumpworld See a “Big Risk.”

On May 7, Donald Trump’s campaign manager, Brad Parscale, tweeted a GIF of the Death Star firing its planet-destroying laser to announce the start of the campaign’s war on Joe Biden. Parscale’s choice of pop-culture ephemera was widely mocked. But the meme’s biggest weakness was that it bore no resemblance to the campaign’s messaging, which so far has been all over the place. During a week when America’s COVID-19 death toll approached 90,000, Trump allies floated smears that Biden was a tool of China, an invalid eating from a spoon, and even a pedophile, none of which caused damage. Sources close to Trump said the president has vented to friends about the lack of focused firepower coming out of the campaign. “There is deep frustration that there is no overarching message,” an unofficial campaign adviser told me. (The White House and Trump campaign did not respond to requests for comment.)

According to sources, Trump believes the answer to the message weakness is to declare all-out war on Biden’s former boss: Barack Obama. “Trump knows Biden is only popular because he was Obama’s V.P.,” a prominent Republican told me. Which is why, a few days after Parscale’s Death Star tweet, Trump accused Obama of unnamed crimes under the umbrella of “Obamagate.” “Obama is going to be on the campaign trail in a big way. He’s the most popular Democrat of the past four decades. Trump knows you have to neutralize him, and he’s frustrated Brad didn’t think of that,” the campaign adviser said. “Trump feels he’s doing it all alone.”

But Trump’s targeting of Obama has been causing consternation among Republicans, who fear he is pursuing a base-incitement strategy when he needs to appeal to crucial suburban voters in must-win battleground states. “Going after Obama is a big risk,” a former West Wing official said. “Obama is seen as trustworthy and reasonable. If you attack him and people don’t buy it, then you have a huge swing and a miss in front of the entire country.” Another prominent Republican agreed: “Trump cannot draw Obama into this. Obama can’t be ‘softened’ up. American people know him and like him.”

Read the rest at Vanity Fair.

Painting by Armand Schönberger (Hungarian, 1885–1974)

It looks like Trump country is soon going be in deep trouble from the pandemic. The Daily Beast: White House’s Own Data Crunchers: Southern Counties About to Get Hit Hard.

A new analysis being reviewed by the White House shows southern states that moved too quickly to relax social distancing guidelines face significant risk for a resurgence of the coronavirus over the next several weeks. In several cases, counties will see hundreds of additional cases by June 17.

The study, which was put together by PolicyLab at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, is part of a data set being reviewed by top coronavirus task force officials and people working with the team, The Daily Beast reported earlier this month. A previous model by the PolicyLab predicted that if officials moved too quickly and too aggressively to reopen in mid-May, individual counties could witness hundreds, if not a thousand-plus, more coronavirus cases reported each day by August 1.

The new model shows that in southern counties, particularly in Texas, Florida, Alabama, and Virginia, the risk for resurgence is high over the next four weeks. These states have moved to reopen, at least partially, since the team published its last model in April.

The data set now takes into consideration current levels of social distancing rather than projections about what would happen when local communities reopened. It also includes data for more than 200 additional counties across the country. The findings indicate that the risk for large second waves of outbreaks remains low if communities continue to implement cautious, incremental plans to reopening that limit crowding and travel to non-essential businesses. Doctors working on the study said that without vigilance in masking, hygiene, and disinfection, certain southern counties will remain high risk.

The new data, which has been presented to members of the White House’s coronavirus task force, is likely to validate fears by doctors and scientists, including Dr. Anthony Fauci, the top infectious disease official in the administration, that opening states too soon could have disastrous health consequences.

That’s all I have the strength for today. I’m going to spend the rest of the day trying to pull myself out of my current funk. It’s hard not to feel despairing when the world is upside down and we have zero leadership on the national level.

Take care of yourselves Sky Dancers!

13 Comments on “Thursday Reads”

  1. bostonboomer says:

  2. bostonboomer says:

  3. bostonboomer says:

  4. Enheduanna says:

    BB, here’s Pluto Living in case you haven’t seen these yet. Hysterical YouTube viewing, perfect for much-needed laughs:

    My sister sent these to me when I told her I was watching dog rescue vids for all the feels. Hope you like them.

  5. lililam says:

    BB- it sounds like your hairdresser should be used as a model by the CDC.

  6. dakinikat says:

    • bostonboomer says:

      If he doesn’t pick a black woman, I’m not sure he will get the turnout he needs to win.

    • NW Luna says:

      Of course he’s vetting appropriate running mates. I don’t think much needs to be made that Klobuchar is one of them, other than it got leaked.

  7. dakinikat says: