Thursday Reads

Good Morning!!

08bruni-jumboI’m not going to spend much time on the vice presidential debate in today’s post. CNN’s post-debate poll showed Kamala Harris was the winner.

I don’t think Mike Pence did a very good job of defending Trump, and that’s what he needed to do. He lied again and again with a straight face–that has always been his modus operandi. He refused to answer a question about what states should do about abortion if Roe v. Wade is overturned, and–worst of all–he dodged a question about whether there will be a peaceful transition of power if Trump loses. From The Daily Beast:

At the tail end of Wednesday night’s vice-presidential debate—one that was noticeably less fiery and chaotic than last week’s presidential clash—Vice President Mike Pence completely avoided answering what he would do if President Donald Trump refuses to step down if he loses the election….

The veep first said that he thinks his ticket will win re-election before accusing Democrats of not accepting the outcome of the 2016 election, bringing up the Russia investigation and the impeachment of the president. After invoking former Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton’s advice that Joe Biden shouldn’t concede on election night if the results are close, Pence reiterated his belief that Trump would be re-elected.

“President Trump and I are fighting every day to prevent Joe Biden and Kamala Harris from changing the rules and creating a massive opportunity for voter fraud,” he concluded. “If we have a free and fair election, we’ll have confidence in it.”

Matt Flegenheimer and Annie Karni at The New York Times: Pence, Peerless Trump Defender, Confronts His Limits.

Vice President Mike Pence approached his task on Wednesday as he has approached his four years as the executive straight man to an unruly leader: not merely defending President Trump but effectively insisting, with poker-faced conviction, that those who doubt his boss should not believe their eyes and ears.

R6ZUW44OCRGKHMJQMHJKXZTXDIThe trouble this time was not Mr. Pence’s skill set on this front, which remains peerless. It was the fact set underpinning this debate, which remains inconvenient to an administration so overwhelmed by the virus that its own West Wing has become a hot spot.

And so Mr. Pence — stripped of most politically palatable explanations for the White House pandemic response — set off on a curious charge when Senator Kamala Harris said that the Trump team’s leadership “clearly” has not worked: He chose to hear it as a direct affront to the American people.

“When you say what the American people have done over these last eight months hasn’t worked,” Mr. Pence said gravely, as controlled as his president is rambunctious onstage, “that’s a great disservice to the sacrifices the American people have made.”

At last, the strain seemed to be showing, at least a little. Perhaps that is what a full term of wear-and-tear can do to even the most accomplished rhetorical gymnast.

Or perhaps the reality is simply too bleak for any administration to explain away entirely: The president has contracted the virus that has killed more than 210,000 Americans on his watch. His behavior, since leaving the hospital on Monday, appears to be a continuation of the kind of scientifically dubious happy talk that has left the Trump-Pence ticket at a significant polling disadvantage four weeks before Election Day.

Yes, the story today and every day until the election will be about Trump’s mishandling of the coronavirus pandemic, which has led to the deaths of 211,917 Americans as of this morning. In addition, Trump either doesn’t understand or simply refuses to admit that the pandemic is killing the economy.

244003_rgb_768IMHO, the biggest story this morning is the coronavirus outbreak at the White House and the obvious fact that Trump and his Trumpists have likely spread the virus very widely. Here’s the latest.

ABC News: 34 people connected to White House, more than previously known, infected by coronavirus: Internal FEMA memo.

The coronavirus outbreak has infected “34 White House staffers and other contacts” in recent days, according to an internal government memo, an indication that the disease has spread among more people than previously known in the seat of American government.

The memo also notes that a senior adviser to the president is among those infected. Hope Hicks and Stephen Miller, both senior aides to the president, have tested positive in recent days.

The new figures underscore both the growing crisis in the White House and the lengths to which government officials have gone to block information about the outbreak’s spread. ABC News had previously reported that a total of 24 White House aides and their contacts had contracted the virus. It was not clear in the FEMA memo with the larger number what “other contacts” referred to.

Jennifer Jacobs at Bloomberg: White House Security Official Contracted Covid-19 in September.

A top White House security official, Crede Bailey, is gravely ill with Covid-19 and has been hospitalized since September, according to four people familiar with his condition.

I'm in control hereThe White House has not publicly disclosed Bailey’s illness. He became sick before the Sept. 26 Rose Garden event President Donald Trump held to announce his Supreme Court nominee Amy Coney Barrett that has been connected to more than a dozen cases of the disease.

A White House spokesman declined to comment on Bailey. He is in charge of the White House security office, which handles credentialing for access to the White House and works closely with the U.S. Secret Service on security measures throughout the compound.

Chris Christie is still in the hospital and there has been no news about how he is doing. NJ.com:

Former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie remains hospitalized at Morristown Medical Center, where he was admitted Saturday after testing positive COVID-19

Christie’s current condition is not known. Hospital officials declined comment Tuesday….

Christie, who has struggled with his weight and has a lifelong history of asthma, tweeted that he checked himself into the hospital Saturday. Because of his conditions, he’s at higher risk of developing complications from the virus.

The Daily Beast: White House Quietly Told Vets Group It Might Have Exposed Them to COVID.

On the same day President Donald Trump acknowledged contracting the coronavirus, the White House quietly informed a veterans group that there was a COVID-19 risk stemming from a Sept. 27 event honoring the families of fallen U.S. service members, the head of that charitable organization told The Daily Beast.

5_wexler_0The White House warning, which came on Oct. 2, is the earliest known outreach to visitors of the complex that there was a risk of coronavirus emerging from the grounds where the president, the first lady, and at least 17 of his aides, according to Politico, have now tested positive for the virus.

The Sept. 27 event to honor Gold Star families came the day after the White House hosted a celebration for Supreme Court nominee Amy Coney Barrett that appears to have been an early source of the White House outbreak, though West Wing officials have quietly disputed that linkage. It is unclear to the head of the veterans charity—the Greatest Generations Foundation—which participant’s potential positive coronavirus test sparked the warning.

USA Today: White House coronavirus outbreak may have exposed thousands from Atlanta to Minnesota.

President Donald Trump and other White House insiders infected with COVID-19 carried the virus across the country in a matter of days, potentially exposing hundreds, perhaps thousands, of people as they went about their business, a USA TODAY investigation found. 

From a religious summit outside Atlanta to a campaign rally at a Pennsylvania airport and a private fundraiser in Minnesota, Trump, his aides and political allies attended events with thousands of people, often without masks and little regard for social distancing….

USA TODAY reporters examined hundreds of photos and videos from news coverage and social media posts and scoured attendance logs to identify people who came in contact with those individuals.

don't be afraid of covidAt least 6,000 people attended meetings, rallies and other gatherings with them within a week of the Supreme Court nomination ceremony Sept. 26 in the White House Rose Garden, pegged as a potential “superspreader” event….

Epidemiologists and public health experts said USA TODAY’s analysis shows that the White House outbreak has put more people, in more places, at risk than has been previously known. It illustrates just how quickly and how far a superspreader event can carry COVID-19. 

“I don’t think we know the extent of this outbreak yet … people could die,” said Danielle Ompad, an associate professor of epidemiology at New York University’s School of Global Public Health. “It’s the height of irresponsibility for people who are supposed to be leaders.”

Meanwhile, Trump hasn’t been seen in public since he returned to the White House on Monday evening. Instead he has been posting videos of himself wearing heavier make-up than usual and babbling nonsense, including claiming he has been “cured” of the virus and may be immune to it. We haven’t been told what medications Trump is still taking, and the White House and Trump’s doctors have refused to say when Trump last tested negative for the virus. ABC News reports:

The White House has also declined to confirm when and how Trump was tested before last Tuesday’s presidential debate with Joe Biden, even though both campaigns certified to debate organizers that the candidates and everyone who traveled with them to Cleveland tested negative within 72 hours of the debate.

The White House, which has made contradictory statements about when and how often Trump is tested, said the president first tested positive Thursday evening, and first discussed symptoms with his doctor at that time. Studies have shown that coronavirus patients are infectious up to two days before the onset of symptoms.

primitive tribes“People ought to have the right to know whether or not they should be quarantining themselves, if they’re at risk,” Dr. Jeremy Faust, an emergency physician at Brigham and Women’s Hospital and an instructor at Harvard Medical School, told ABC News. “Potentially the president and his team have put others in harm’s way.”

While it’s not clear when Trump was infected with the virus, the White House’s silence raises questions about its compliance with debate rules, the frequency of Trump’s tests, and whether the president or his aides had concerns about him having the virus before he tested positive — as he kept up his busy schedule of campaign events.

And what about the next presidential debate? The debate commission announce that it will be done virtually, and Trump says he won’t participate and instead will hold a superspreader rally! The New York Times: Trump Objects to Commission’s Virtual Debate Plan.

President Trump, in an extraordinary break from the norms of modern campaigning, said on Thursday that he would refuse to participate in the next presidential debate after organizers changed the event to a virtual format because of health concerns about the coronavirus.

His withdrawal from the Oct. 15 event came shortly after the Commission on Presidential Debates, citing the “health and safety of all involved,” abandoned plans to stage the next in-person debate in Miami, saying that Mr. Trump and Joseph R. Biden Jr. would instead participate remotely from separate locations.

But Mr. Trump, whose recent contraction of the coronavirus was a significant impetus for the commission to modify its plans, immediately dismissed the idea of a remote debate as “ridiculous” and accused the debate commission without evidence of seeking to protect his Democratic opponent.

“No, I’m not going to waste my time on a virtual debate,” Mr. Trump told the Fox Business anchor Maria Bartiromo in a television interview. “That’s not what debating is all about. You sit behind a computer and do a debate — it’s ridiculous.”

And this is extraordinary: the editors of The New England Journal of Medicine have publicly stated that Trump should not get a second term: Dying in a Leadership Vacuum.

Here’s the gist:

Covid-19 has created a crisis throughout the world. This crisis has produced a test of leadership. With no good options to combat a novel pathogen, countries were forced to make hard choices about how to respond. Here in the United States, our leaders have failed that test. They have taken a crisis and turned it into a tragedy….

The United States came into this crisis with enormous advantages. Along with tremendous manufacturing capacity, we have a biomedical research system that is the envy of the world. We have enormous expertise in public health, health policy, and basic biology and have consistently been able to turn that expertise into new therapies and preventive measures. And much of that national expertise resides in government institutions. Yet our leaders have largely chosen to ignore and even denigrate experts.

The response of our nation’s leaders has been consistently inadequate. The federal government has largely abandoned disease control to the states. Governors have varied in their responses, not so much by party as by competence. But whatever their competence, governors do not have the tools that Washington controls. Instead of using those tools, the federal government has undermined them. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which was the world’s leading disease response organization, has been eviscerated and has suffered dramatic testing and policy failures. The National Institutes of Health have played a key role in vaccine development but have been excluded from much crucial government decision making. And the Food and Drug Administration has been shamefully politicized,3 appearing to respond to pressure from the administration rather than scientific evidence. Our current leaders have undercut trust in science and in government,4 causing damage that will certainly outlast them. Instead of relying on expertise, the administration has turned to uninformed “opinion leaders” and charlatans who obscure the truth and facilitate the promulgation of outright lies….

Anyone else who recklessly squandered lives and money in this way would be suffering legal consequences. Our leaders have largely claimed immunity for their actions. But this election gives us the power to render judgment. Reasonable people will certainly disagree about the many political positions taken by candidates. But truth is neither liberal nor conservative. When it comes to the response to the largest public health crisis of our time, our current political leaders have demonstrated that they are dangerously incompetent. We should not abet them and enable the deaths of thousands more Americans by allowing them to keep their jobs.

I think this post is getting too long; but I can’t be sure, because the new WordPress editor doesn’t provide a word count. I’ll post a few more stories in the comment thread below. I hope you all have a peaceful day. Take care of yourselves and your loved ones, and please check in with us if you have the time and inclination.


26 Comments on “Thursday Reads”

  1. bostonboomer says:

    I finally figured out how to get the word count and this post is way too long. Sorry about that!

  2. bostonboomer says:

    This story explains a lot.

    NBC News: Trump asked Walter Reed doctors to sign nondisclosure agreements in 2019

    President Donald Trump required personnel at the Walter Reed National Military Medical Center to sign nondisclosure agreements last year before they could be involved with treating him, according to four people familiar with the process.

    During a surprise trip to Walter Reed on Nov. 16, 2019, Trump mandated signed NDAs from both physicians and nonmedical staff, most of whom are active-duty military service members, these people said. At least two doctors at Walter Reed who refused to sign the NDAs were subsequently not permitted to have any involvement in the president’s care, two of the people said.

    The reason for his trip last year remains shrouded in mystery.

    • quixote says:

      Oh for …… isn’t patient confidentiality right in the Hippocratic oath? And what’s HIPAA for? When has anyone ever heard a doctor calling up the New York Post to unload the scoop on a patient?

      God. He is SUCH A PILE OF GARBAGE. (Have I mentioned that before? I don’t think I’ve mentioned that before. /*rollseyes*/ )

      • NW Luna says:

        Indeed. Patient confidentiality and protected health information regs at any healthcare facility forbid giving any identifiable health information to anyone who doesn’t need it. That means you can’t even tell another healthcare worker about your patient unless that person is also involved in your patient’s care and needs to know. Walter Reed is a military facility so has even more stringent restrictions.

        An NDA would be duplicative, unnecessary, and a waste of time. Of course Trump thinks it makes him seem important.

  3. bostonboomer says:

    JJ mentioned this in her post yesterday, but it bears repeating.

    MIT Technology Review: Trump’s antibody treatment was tested using cells originally derived from an abortion.

    This week, President Donald Trump extolled the cutting-edge coronavirus treatments he received as “miracles coming down from God.” If that’s true, then God employs cell lines derived from human fetal tissue.

    The emergency antibody that Trump received last week was developed with the use of a cell line originally derived from abortion tissue, according to Regeneron Pharmaceuticals, the company that developed the experimental drug.

    The Trump administration has taken an increasingly firm line against medical research using fetal tissue from abortions. For example, when it moved in 2019 to curtail the ability of the National Institutes of Health to fund such research, supporters hailed a “major pro-life victory” and thanked Trump personally for taking decisive action against what they called the “outrageous and disgusting” practice of “experimentation using baby body parts.”

    • dakinikat says:

      Yeah. I think that’s important to know and it’s also something that was developed during the Obama years in response to the H1N1 outbreaks.

    • Enheduanna says:

      Thanks for reposting this information. Lots of smoke and mirrors going on with Regeneron’s explanation.

      • NW Luna says:

        Regeneron also received millions through the Trump admin to develop and study covid-19 treatments.

  4. bostonboomer says:

  5. MsMass says:

    https://mobile.twitter.com/senmikelee/status/1314089207875371008?ref_url=https%3a%2f%2fwww.democraticunderground.com%2f100214246301
    Sen. Lee says “rank democracy “ is bad, l wonder why. Rank democracy brought us Trump in its vilest form.

    • quixote says:

      Not really. I think it’s important to continue stressing that he did steal the 2016 election.

      “Winning” by 77,000 votes in a single-digit number of rural counties in very specific swing states, in the teeth of a 4% (around that, not sure) deficit compared to exit polls, with loads of reports of weird vote-counting irregularities (every last one of which supposedly had “no effect on the vote count” without any evidence to support that statement) — the list goes on. Kenya invalidated and re-did their election for less.

      • NW Luna says:

        And no audits. In many cases, no chance of audit as no records kept or were “automatically” wiped. Russia accessed state voting systems, although reportedly no evidence that results were changed. But they never say they are certain nothing is changed.

    • NW Luna says:

      A lot of mail-in ballots are being rejected in North Carolina. The Tar Heel State is one of many along the East Coast with very low historical rates of absentee voting — before the coronavirus struck. Already this year, the state has accepted about double the mail-in ballots it counted in the entire 2016 presidential election, with four weeks to go, according to state board of elections figures.

      With higher rates of mail-in voting comes a higher number of rejected ballots for mistakes such as a missing signature or other minor errors, a total that is also running a bit less than double the entire 2016 sum. Disturbingly, it appears that Black voters’ ballots are being rejected at a massively disproportionate rate, according to University of Florida elections expert Michael McDonald.

      A major factor is North Carolina’s requirement that absentee ballots be witnessed and signed by a third party, a requirement found in many other states. This is actually a relaxed policy relative to previous years, when North Carolina required two witness signatures or that of a notary public.

      Witness requirements add little extra security to the absentee ballot process but pose health risks to voters.

  6. bostonboomer says:

    • Enheduanna says:

      LOL. He actually wants a chance to berate and abuse everyone on the stage.

      BTW Biden is still testing negative as of today.

    • NW Luna says:

      My thought too. He’s got no rational reason to not debate virtually. He’d still be on TV.

    • NW Luna says:

      Ha. Also, there’s this: “an option to cut off a participant’s mic. “

  7. NW Luna says:

    Good news!

    The Supreme Court on Thursday evening rejected the Trump administration’s request to reinstate a rule requiring patients to obtain the first pill required to induce a medication abortion at an in-person appointment with their doctor. The unsigned order, which temporarily keeps in place the ruling of lower courts, is the high court’s first decision following the death of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, a fierce supporter of abortion rights.

    Siding with abortion-rights groups, the Supreme Court declined to lift a nationwide court order that, due to the pandemic, temporarily suspends the Food and Drug Administration’s long-standing requirement that mifepristone (also sold as Mifeprex), the first pill of two used to induce a medication abortion, be dispensed by a doctor in-person. In its five-page order, the high court pushed the case down to the district court and said it will wait for a “more comprehensive record.”

    When used within the first nine weeks of pregnancy, medication abortion works as directed 99.6% of the time, has a 0.4% rate of major complications and an associated mortality rate of less than 0.001%, according to data compiled by the Kaiser Family Foundation.

    In a letter to the FDA, the conservative lawmakers also called for the agency to remove the abortion pill from the U.S. market entirely, writing that “pregnancy is not a life-threatening illness.” The comment riled women’s rights groups, who noted that the United States’ maternal mortality rate is among the highest of developed countries.

    Reminder: induced abortion by medical intervention is safer than childbirth.