Tuesday Reads: Trump Declares War On American Citizens

 

Good Morning!!

Yesterday was one of the most surreal days in the nearly four years of the Trump “presidency.” and worse days are very likely coming. Yesterday evening Trump used federal troops and tear gas to remove peaceful protesters so that he could have a photo op of himself holding an upside down and backwards bible in front of the damaged church door of St. John’s Episcopal Church near the White House.

Here’s the campaign video the White House released after Trump’s despicable performance.

The New York Times: Protesters Dispersed With Tear Gas So Trump Could Pose at Church

People who gathered outside the White House to protest police brutality spent Monday waving signs and screaming for justice. They watched as police officers and National Guard units flooded Lafayette Square, delivering on a threat made by President Trump. And just before the city’s 7 p.m. curfew went into effect, they were hit with flash-bang explosions and doused with tear gas.

It was because the president, who spent part of the weekend in a secure bunker as protests roiled, wanted to have his picture taken holding a Bible at a battered church just beyond the gates.

That church, St. John’s — the so-called Church of the Presidents because every one since James Madison has attended — had been briefly set ablaze as the protests devolved on Sunday evening. After Mr. Trump’s aides spent much of Monday expressing outrage over the burning of a place of worship, Hope Hicks, a presidential adviser, eventually hatched a plan with others at the White House to have the president walk over to the building, according to an official familiar with the events.

As Mr. Trump delivered a speech in the Rose Garden vowing to send the military to states where governors could not bring rioting under control but calling himself “an ally of all peaceful protesters,” the sound of explosions and the yells of demonstrators could be heard. After receiving repeated warnings to disperse before the city’s curfew, the crowd was tear-gassed.

Bill Barr was there for the show and apparently approved of the violence against protesters and media that followed Trump’s ugly speech.

Mr. Trump began his walk to the church at 7:01 p.m. for a photo session that lasted about 17 minutes. On his way over, after protesters had been driven from the park, he was trailed by a group of aides, including Attorney General William P. Barr. Mr. Barr had strolled to the edge of the police line to observe the crowd in the minutes before the tear-gassing began.

He walked alongside Jared Kushner, the president’s son-in-law and senior adviser, and Ivanka Trump, his eldest daughter and senior adviser. Ms. Trump was wearing a mask, one of the few visible reminders on Monday that the administration was in the middle of battling a public health crisis. Kayleigh McEnany, the White House press secretary, Ms. Hicks and Mark Meadows, Mr. Trump’s chief of staff, were also among the cadre of aides.

Please go read this thread by Jared Yates Sexton on what Trump was trying to accomplish with his Bible stunt.

 

Trump did not ask permission to use the church in his propaganda video and photos and we now know that he had a priest and a seminarian forcibly evicted from the church beforehand.

Religion News Service: Ahead of Trump Bible photo op, police forcibly expel priest from St. John’s church near White House.

Authorities also expelled at least one Episcopal priest and a seminarian from the church’s patio.

“They turned holy ground into a battleground,” said the Rev. Gini Gerbasi.

Gerbasi, who serves as rector at a different Saint John’s Episcopal Church in Georgetown, arrived at St. John’s Lafayette earlier that day with what she said were at least 20 other priests and a group of laypeople. They were organized by the Episcopal Diocese of Washington to serve as a “peaceful presence in support of protestors.”

The volunteers and clergy offered water, snacks, and hand sanitizer to demonstrators who were gathered in Lafayette Park across the street — which sits directly in front of the White House — to denounce racism and police brutality following the death of George Floyd.

But sometime after six in the evening, when volunteers were packing up supplies, Gerbasi said police suddenly began to expel demonstrators from the park — before the 7:00 pm curfew announced for Washington residents earlier in the day.

“I was suddenly coughing from the tear gas,” she said. “We heard those explosions and people would drop to the ground because you weren’t sure what it was.”

The Rev. Glenna J. Huber, the rector of the Church of the Epiphany who was at St. John’s but left as the National Guard arrived, said she watched as police rushed into the area she had just fled. Concerned, the priest sent a frantic email to clergy at the church urging them to be careful.

Back at St. John’s, Gerbasi said she was dressed in clerical garb and standing on church grounds as police approached.

“I’m there in my little pink sweater in my collar, my gray hair up in a ponytail, my reading glasses on, and my seminarian who was with me — she got tear gas in her eyes,” she said.

Gerbasi said as she and the seminarian watched, police began to expel people from the church patio.

“The police in their riot gear with their black shields and the whole bit start pushing on to the patio of St. John’s Lafayette Square,” she said, adding that people around her began crying out in pain, claiming to be shot with non-lethal projectiles.

Gerbasi and others eventually fled the scene, leaving emergency medical supplies behind. By the time she reached K street several blocks away and checked her phone, Trump was already in front of the church holding a Bible.

The mayor of DC reacted on Twitter:

 

As Dakinikat reported yesterday, Trump verbally attacked U.S. governors earlier in the day during a phone call that was to have been with Mike Pence about the coronavirus crisis.

The Daily Beast: ‘Unhinged’ Trump Demands Mass Arrests, Flag-Burning Laws.

President Trump lashed out at state governors Monday, saying that those who did not mass arrest protesters “for long periods of time” would end up looking like “a bunch of jerks.”

“You have to dominate. If you don’t dominate… you’re wasting your time,” Trump said on a private conference call with governors and national security officials. “They’re going to run over you, you’re going to look like a bunch of jerks.”

The president, who is hunkered down in the White House, added during the call that local officials have to put protestors and looters in prison “for long periods of time” in order to assert control amid nationwide protests over the death of George Floyd.

“It’s a movement, if you don’t put it down it will get worse and worse,” Trump said. “The only time it’s successful is when you’re weak and most of you are weak.”

A source on the call, who shared it with The Daily Beast, called Trump’s talk “unhinged,” noting that it often veered off in various directions. At one point, the source said, the president brought up flag burning and encouraged states to pass laws banning it….

At another, he blurred legal lines when discussing the needs for prosecution. “When someone is throwing a rock, that’s like shooting a gun. What’s the difference?” Trump said. “You have to do retribution in my opinion.”

Listen to the whole insane rant at the Daily Beast link above.

Kevin Baron at Defense One writes: Trump Finally Gets the War He Wanted.

President Donald Trump finally got the war he wanted. It isn’t in Afghanistan, or Iraq, Syria, or North Korea. It’s right here in Washington, D.C., where on Monday the president claimed moral and Constitutional authority and ordered federal law enforcement and the U.S. military to turn against Americans who opposed him.

After warning over the weekend that out-of-line rabble-rousers across the street from the White House would face “vicious dogs,” Trump instead sicced police, troops, and U.S. Army helicopters, on protestors — violent and nonviolent — whom he claims, without evidence, are led by the militant left-wing Antifa group of Americans. It’s the culmination of three years of Trump praising militant, far-right, all-white, AR-15-brandishing protestors from Charlottesville to Lansing, while amplifying conspiracy theories about his enemies — including that the media, Democrats, left-wing extremists, and pretty much anyone without a MAGA hat on at a Trump rally was out to ruin him and the United States. He has sought to turn Americans against each other from his inaugural speech, with tweet after tweet, purposefully criticizing the media to undermine Americans’ trust in facts. He’s played DC’s traditional partisan politics like a master fiddler.

Trump has also tried to draw in the military and national security services. In his first month in office, he flew to U.S. Central Command and U.S. Special Operations Command and bashed the media to American service members. He bashed his enemies in front of the CIA’s hallowed memorial stars. He bashed his political opponents in a partisan speech inside the Pentagon. He’s used troops as backdrops for political rallies. He took over Independence Day, ordering service members to participate in a celebration about himself as much as America. He ordered the military into the heart of his most controversial projects like building the southern border wall. And he changed the very makeup of the U.S. armed forces, banning foreign and transgender soldiers.

For three years, half a dozen defense secretaries and Joint Chiefs chairmen tried, each in his own way, to keep the military out of Trump’s politics while complying dutifully with the commander in chief. But on Monday, Joint Chiefs Chairman Gen. Mark Milley and Defense Secretary Mark Esper walked right into it. First, Esper was caught on tape during the president’s phone call with governors, likening the protests to a “battlespace.” Trump berated the governors, told them to use the National Guard against protestors, and warned that if the state leaders resisted him, he would send in military force. He said he put Milley in charge of coordinating the nationwide response.

Please click the link and read the rest at Defense One.

I had planned to focus today’s post on Police and National Guard attacks on journalists, but something worse always seems to come up when I make plans about what to cover in a post. But here’s something that happened yesterday and it could lead to a serious international incident.

Yahoo News: Australia probes US police assault on its journalists.

Australia is investigating a US police attack on two Australian television journalists outside the White House, the foreign minister said Tuesday, expressing “strong concerns” about the assault caught live on camera.

“We have asked the Australian embassy in Washington, DC to investigate this incident,” Marise Payne said after the journalists were slammed with a riot shield, punched and hit with a baton while broadcasting from the protest.

“I want to get further advice on how we would go about registering Australia’s strong concerns with the responsible local authorities in Washington,” she said, indicating a formal complaint would follow.

Footage showed 7NEWS reporter Amelia Brace being clubbed with a truncheon and cameraman Tim Myers being hit with a riot shield and punched in the face by police clearing Washington’s Lafayette Square of protesters on Monday.

The journalists said they were later shot with rubber bullets and tear-gassed, which Brace said left the pair “a bit sore”.

The incident was widely broadcast in Australia, causing consternation in a country that has been a close US ally.

The US ambassador to Australia, Arthur B. Culvahouse Jr., said on Twitter: “We take mistreatment of journalists seriously, as do all who take democracy seriously.”

Two more links on the topic of law enforcement attacks on journalists:

Nieman Lab: U.S. police have attacked journalists more than 100 times in the past four days.

bellingcat: US Law Enforcement Are Deliberately Targeting Journalists During George Floyd Protests.

I just hope today won’t be worse than yesterday. I’m tired of withstanding shocks to my system, and I know I’m not alone in that. Take care of yourselves Sky Dancers!


Lazy Caturday Reads: Tinderbox America

Good Morning!!

The photos in today’s post are by Chinese photographer Wu Hongli, who has photographed street cats across China and several other countries. Read more about him and his project at National Geographic.

This week the U.S. added 1968-style violent protests to the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic, and the growing madness of the monster in the White House who is doing his very best to make both of these crises so much worse.

Michelle Goldberg: America Is a Tinderbox. Scenes from a country in free fall.

The last two and a half months in America have felt like the opening montage in a dystopian film about a nation come undone. First the pandemic hit and hospitals in New York City were overwhelmed. The national economy froze and unemployment soared; one in four American workers has applied for unemployment benefits since March. Lines of cars stretched for miles at food banks. Heavily armed lockdown protesters demonstrated across the country; in Michigan, they forced the Capitol to close and legislators to cancel their session. Nationwide, at least 100,000 people died of a disease almost no one had heard of last year.

Then, this week, a Minneapolis police officer was filmed kneeling on the neck of a black man named George Floyd. As the life went out of him, Floyd pleaded that he couldn’t breathe, echoing the last words of Eric Garner, whose 2014 death at the hands of New York policemen helped catalyze the Black Lives Matter movement. Floyd’s death came only days after three Georgia men were arrested on charges of pursuing and killing a young black man, Ahmaud Arbery, whom they saw out running. A prosecutor had initially declined to charge the men on the grounds that their actions were legal under the state’s self-defense laws.

In Minneapolis protesters poured into the streets, where they met a far harsher police response than anything faced by the country’s gun-toting anti-lockdown activists. On Wednesday night, peaceful demonstrations turned into riots, and on Thursday Minnesota’s governor called in the National Guard.

For a moment, it seemed as if the blithe brutality of Floyd’s death might check the worst impulses of the president and his Blue Lives Matter supporters. The authorities were forced to act: All four of the policemen involved were fired, police chiefs across the country condemned them and William Barr’s Justice Department promised a federal investigation that would be a “top priority.” Even Donald Trump, who has encouraged police brutality in the past, described what happened to Floyd as a “very, very bad thing.”

But Trump can never allow himself to support human beings against authoritarian power.

But on Thursday night, after a county prosecutor said his office was still determining if the four policemen had committed a crime, the uprising in Minneapolis was reignited, and furious people burned a police precinct. (One of the officers was arrested and charged with third-degree murder on Friday.) On Twitter, an addled Trump threatened military violence against those he called “THUGS,” writing, “When the looting starts, the shooting starts.”

Whether Trump knew it or not, he was quoting a racist phrase from the 1960s used by George Wallace, among others. The president later tried to tamp down outrage by saying he was just warning of danger — the Trump campaign has hoped, after all, to peel off some black voters from the Democrats — but his meaning was obvious enough. This is the same president who on Thursday tweeted out a video of a supporter saying, “The only good Democrat is a dead Democrat.”

The Trump presidency has been marked by shocking spasms of right-wing violence: the white nationalist riot in Charlottesville, Va., the massacre at the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh, the mass shooting targeting Latinos in El Paso. But even as the country has simmered and seethed, there hasn’t been widespread disorder. Now, though, we might be at the start of a long, hot summer of civil unrest.

It certainly looks that way.

Julie Pace at the Associated Press: Analysis: Trump fuels new tensions in moment of crisis.

Over 48 hours in America, the official death toll from the coronavirus pandemic topped 100,000, the number of people who filed for unemployment during the crisis soared past 40 million, and the streets of a major city erupted in flames after a handcuffed black man was killed by a white police officer.

It’s the kind of frenetic, fractured moment when national leaders are looked to for solutions and solace. President Donald Trump instead threw a rhetorical match into the tinderbox. “When the looting starts, the shooting starts,” he declared ominously in a late-night tweet.

Trump’s words were so jarring that Twitter attached a warning to his post — as well as to an identical message from an official White House account — saying that the president of the United States was “glorifying violence.” It’s the first time the social media giant has taken such a step with any world leader, prompting new claims of bias from Trump and some of his conservative allies.

The episode encapsulated Trump’s approach to the presidency and to this time of national crisis, which has upended nearly every aspect of American life and put his November reelection prospects at risk. He’s latched on to personal grievances and cast himself as a victim, while making only occasional references to the staggering loss of life across the country. He’s willingly stoked partisan divisions over public health, and now racial divisions in the face of a death, rather than seeking opportunities to pull the nation together.

Read the rest at AP.

Matt Zapotosky and Isaac Stanley-Becker at The Washington Post: Gripped by disease, unemployment and outrage at the police, America plunges into crisis.

America’s persistent political dysfunction and racial inequality were laid bare this week, as the coronavirus death toll hit a tragic new milestone and as the country was served yet another reminder of how black people are killed by law enforcement in disproportionately high numbers. Together, the events present a grim tableau of a nation in crisis — one seared by violence against its citizens, plagued by a deadly disease that remains uncontained and rattled by a devastating blow to its economy.

“The threads of our civic life could start unraveling, because everybody’s living in a tinderbox,” said historian and Rice University professor Douglas Brinkley.

Barbara Ransby, a historian at the University of Illinois at Chicago and a longtime political activist, said the toll of the coronavirus outbreak made long-standing racial inequities newly stark. Then, images of police violence made those same disparities visceral.

“People are seething about all kinds of things,” said Ransby, the author of “Making All Black Lives Matter: Reimagining Freedom in the Twenty-First Century.” “There are major turning points and ruptures in history. . . . This is one of these moments, but we’ve not seen how it will fully play out.”

Read more at the WaPo.

This seems really ominous from James LaPorta at the Associated Press: Pentagon puts military police on alert to go to Minneapolis.

As unrest spread across dozens of American cities on Friday, the Pentagon took the rare step of ordering the Army to put several active-duty U.S. military police units on the ready to deploy to Minneapolis, where the police killing of George Floyd sparked the widespread protests.

Soldiers from Fort Bragg in North Carolina and Fort Drum in New York have been ordered to be ready to deploy within four hours if called, according to three people with direct knowledge of the orders. Soldiers in Fort Carson, in Colorado, and Fort Riley in Kansas have been told to be ready within 24 hours. The people did not want their names used because they were not authorized to discuss the preparations.

The get-ready orders were sent verbally on Friday, after President Donald Trump asked Defense Secretary Mark Esper for military options to help quell the unrest in Minneapolis after protests descended into looting and arson in some parts of the city.

Trump made the request on a phone call from the Oval Office on Thursday night that included Esper, National Security Advisor Robert O’ Brien and several others. The president asked Esper for rapid deployment options if the Minneapolis protests continued to spiral out of control, according to one of the people, a senior Pentagon official who was on the call.

I’m not a lawyer, but I thought it was illegal for the U.S. military to police American citizens. More from the AP story:

The person said the military units would be deployed under the Insurrection Act of 1807, which was last used in 1992 during the riots in Los Angeles that followed the Rodney King trial.

“If this is where the president is headed response-wise, it would represent a significant escalation and a determination that the various state and local authorities are not up to the task of responding to the growing unrest,” said Brad Moss, a Washington D.C.-based attorney, who specializes in national security.

Members of the police units were on a 30-minute recall alert early Saturday, meaning they would have to return to their bases inside that time limit in preparation for deployment to Minneapolis inside of four hours. Units at Fort Drum are slated to head to Minneapolis first, according to the three people, including two Defense Department officials. Roughly 800 U.S. soldiers would deploy to the city if called.

One more and I’ll end this catalog of horrors. I read this post at bellingcat a couple of days ago, and Michelle Goldberg discusses it in her NYT op-ed quoted up top: The Boogaloo Movement Is Not What You Think.

As Minneapolis exploded over the death of a another black man at the hands of police, members of a weird political subculture weighed a response.

On the internet, meanwhile, a largely white, and far right movement publicly contended over what risks its members should take to support a black man killed by police.

Wu Hongli and his rescued cat

On the Facebook page, Big Igloo Bois, which at the time of writing had 30,637 followers, an administrator wrote of the protests, “If there was ever a time for bois to stand in solidarity with ALL free men and women in this country, it is now”.

They added, “This is not a race issue. For far too long we have allowed them to murder us in our homes, and in the streets. We need to stand with the people of Minneapolis. We need to support them in this protest against a system that allows police brutality to go unchecked.”

One commenter added, “I’m looking for fellow Minneapolis residents to join me in forming a private, Constitutionally-authorized militia to protect people from the MPD, which has killed too many people within the last two years.”

These exchanges offer a window into an extremely online update of the militia movement, which is gearing up for the northern summer. The “Boogaloo Bois” expect, even hope, that the warmer weather will bring armed confrontations with law enforcement, and will build momentum towards a new civil war in the United States.

Mostly, they’re not even hiding it. And for the last several months, their platform of choice has been Facebook.

Like many other novel extremist movements, the loose network of pro-gun shitposters trace their origins to 4chan. What coherence the movement has comes from their reverence for their newly-minted martyrs and a constellation of in-jokes and memes

The article describes how this subculture has used Facebook to advance its agenda. Facebook is aiding numerous violent right wing movements and actively enabling the campaign of Donald Trump. Read more at these links:

Zeynep Tufekci at The Atlantic: Trump Is Doing All of This for Zuckerberg.

John Stanton at The Daily Beast: Mark Zuckerberg Profits from Rage as Much as Donald Trump Does.

Donnie O’Sullivan at CNN Business: Mark Zuckerberg silent as Trump uses Facebook and Instagram to threaten ‘looting’ will lead to ‘shooting.’

That’s it for me. What do you think? What stories are you following today?


Thursday Reads: Pink Houses For You And Me (Ain’t That America?)

By Richard Ernst Eurich

Good Morning!!

The fake “president” claims to love the Second Amendment, but he’s not so fond of the First Amendment–or, for that matter, the Constitution itself.

Trump is trying to take steps to shut down free speech.

Reuters: Trump executive order takes aim at social media firms: draft.

U.S. President Donald Trump is expected to order a review of a law that has long protected Twitter, Facebook and Alphabet’s Google from being responsible for the material posted by their users, according to a draft executive order and a source familiar with the situation.

News of the order comes after Trump threatened to shut down websites he accused of stifling conservative voices. It follows a dispute with Twitter after the company decided to tag Trump’s tweets about unsubstantiated claims of fraud in mail-in voting with a warning prompting readers to fact-check the posts.

The order, a draft copy of which was seen by Reuters, could change before it is finalized. On Wednesday, officials said Trump will sign an executive order on social media companies on Thursday. It was not, however, listed on Trump’s official schedule for Thursday released by the White House.

What’s in the draft order?

The executive order would call for the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to propose and clarify regulations under Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, a federal law largely exempting online platforms from legal liability for the material their users post. Such changes could expose tech companies to more lawsuits.

The pink house, Newburyport, MA, by Melissa Abbott

The order asks the FCC to examine whether actions related to the editing of content by social media companies should potentially lead to the firms forfeiting their protections under section 230.

It requires the agency to look at whether a social media platform uses deceptive policies to moderate content and if its policies are inconsistent with its terms of service.

The draft order also states that the White House Office of Digital Strategy will re-establish a tool to help citizens report cases of online censorship. The tool will collect complaints of online censorship and submit them to the Department of Justice and the Federal Trade Commission (FTC).

It requires the FTC to look into whether complaints violate the law, develop a report describing such complaints and make the report publicly available….

The draft order also requires the attorney general to establish a working group including state attorneys general that will examine the enforcement of state laws that prohibit online platforms from engaging in unfair and deceptive acts.

Congressional Republicans are helping out. The Hill: Republicans working on legislation to strip Twitter of federal liability protections.

Sen. Josh Hawley (R-Mo.) and Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.) on Wednesday separately announced they were both working on legislation to strip Twitter of federal protections that ensure the company is not held liable for what is posted on its platform.

The lawmakers began work on legislation following Twitter’s decision to add warnings to two tweets by President Trump this week in which he railed against California’s decision to expand mail-in voting. Trump tweeted without evidence that mail-in voting could increase voter fraud.

Plum Island Pink, by Heather Karp

Both Hawley and Gaetz argued that Twitter’s decision to flag the tweets called its legal liability protections under Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act into question. Section 230 protects social media platforms from facing lawsuits over what users post.

Hawley sent a letter to Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey on Wednesday questioning why the platform should be given Section 230 protections and tweeted that he would soon introduce legislation to end “government giveaways” under the legal shield.

“If @Twitter wants to editorialize & comment on users’ posts, it should be divested of its special status under federal law (Section 230) & forced to play by same rules as all other publishers,” Hawley tweeted. “Fair is fair.”

Hawley questioned Dorsey on whether Twitter’s “fact check” was part of an effort to “target the President for political reasons” and raised concerns that Twitter fact-checkers were biased against Trump.

Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey tweeted yesterday that Twitter will continue to correct false information about elections that is posted to his platform.

From the Associated Press: Trump continues to claim broad powers he doesn’t have.

Threatening to shut down Twitter for flagging false content. Claiming he can “override” governors who dare to keep churches closed to congregants. Asserting the “absolute authority” to force states to reopen, even when local leaders say it’s too soon.

As he battles the coronavirus pandemic, President Donald Trump has been claiming extraordinarily sweeping powers that legal scholars say the president simply doesn’t have. And he has repeatedly refused to spell out the legal basis for those powers….

First it was Trump’s assertion that he could force governors to reopen their economies before they felt ready. “When somebody’s the president of the United States, the authority is total,” he claimed.

Pink House, by Julia Kamenskikh

Trump soon dropped the threat, saying he would instead leave such decisions to the states. But he has revived the idea in recent days as he has tried to pressure governors to allow churches and other places of worship to hold in-person services, even where stay-at-home orders and other limits on large gatherings remain in effect.

Asked Tuesday what authority he had to enforce such a mandate, Trump was cagey.

“I can absolutely do it if I want to,” he said. “We have many different ways where I can override them and if I have to, I’ll do that.”

Trump simply doesn’t care about any constitutional limits on his powers. He will continue to push the limits and get away with more than any past president.

Trump “certainly does not have the power under any reasonable reading of the Constitution or federalism to order places of worship to open,” said Matthew Dallek, a historian at George Washington University’s Graduate School of Political Management who specializes in the use of presidential power.

But Dallek said that just because Trump doesn’t have the authority to do most of the things he’s threatened, doesn’t mean he won’t, for instance, try to sign executive orders taking such action anyway — even if they are later struck down by the courts.

“What has limited Trump previously? Not very much. So I think he will do whatever seems to be in his best interest at any particular moment,” Dallek said.

Trump, he said, also could try to abuse his powers to leverage other instruments of government, from the Department of Justice to the IRS, to push for investigations or launch regulatory crackdowns to punish states, cities or companies. Trump also has showed he’s willing to exercise powers that modern presidents have largely avoided, including his recent purging of inspectors general.

Brian Klaas at The Washington Post: Why does Trump get away with everything?

In January 2016, Donald Trump said something unintentionally profound: “I could stand in the middle of Fifth Avenue and shoot somebody, and I wouldn’t lose any voters.” We’ll hopefully never find out whether Trump really could get away with murder. But we now know he can at least falsely accuse someone of murder without triggering a political exodus.

Pink House, by Carol Bouville

This “Fifth Avenue problem” is a central puzzle of the Trump presidency. Somehow, Trump can tweet something that would destroy any other politician when he wakes up, and it’s forgotten by lunchtime.

Don’t believe me? In the last week, Trump didn’t just make a false accusation of murder. He also praised one of the United States’ most virulent anti-Semites as a man who bestowed “good bloodlines” on his descendants. He retweeted a man who called Hillary Clinton, the first woman to be a major-party candidate for president, a “skank.” Trump shared an image with Nancy Pelosi, the first woman to serve as House speaker, with duct tape over her mouth and then mocked her physical appearance. And he repeatedly fabricated lies about voter fraud.

If Joe Biden behaved like that, it would destroy his career. But when Trump does it, it has no significant impact on his support. His depravity is now just widely assumed. It’s baked in.

That presents a paradox: The last three years have felt like we’re collectively strapped into the world’s worst roller coaster — of endless scandals, tweets in search of reality and new lows for presidential conduct. Yet for all those disorienting twists and turns,and the seemingly endless plunge of presidential standards, Trump’s approval rating has remained pretty much the same.

Read the rest at the WaPo.

We passed a terrible milestone yesterday, and that is likely the reason for Trump’s attempts to distracts us with his wannabe dictator claims.

Meghan O’Rourke at The Atlantic: Grappling With a Terrible Milestone: One Hundred Thousand Dead.

That number—100,000 dead from the coronavirus—is hard to grasp. For those who have lost someone, the pandemic’s scope is not just a statistic; within the abstraction lies an intimately life-changing event. For the rest of us, it is a fact we must try to wrestle into perspective. One hundred thousand people is nearly the population of the city I now live in; it is a neighborhood’s worth of people in Brooklyn, my longtime home; it is perhaps 10 times the total number of people most of us will cross paths with in our entire lives. It is graveyard upon graveyard upon graveyard. It is mass burials at Hart Island, bodies stacked in refrigerated trucks outside hospitals and nursing homes. It is PTSD for the nurses and doctors in the hardest-hit areas. Mostly, it is the shocking echo that follows the loss of even one person: zero, zero, zero, zero, zero. A lament: O, O, O, O, O.

Please go read the whole essay at The Atlantic.

Melinda Saminski The Pink House in Cape May

Ed Pilkington at The Guardian: As 100,000 die, the virus lays bare America’s brutal fault lines – race, gender, poverty and broken politics.

A country that prides itself on its exceptionalism can now without ambiguity claim that title for its experience of the virus. The United States stands head and shoulders at the top of the world league table of confirmed cases, as well as the total number of deaths.

There will be much to analyse in coming years about how the US responded to this contagion, including how many lives have been lost needlessly as a result of Trump’s maverick response.

Already one lesson of the pandemic is clear: America’s deep and brutal fault lines – of race, partisanship, gender, poverty and misinformation – rendered the country ill-prepared to meet the challenges of this disease. The ravages of Covid-19 have revealed the deep cracks in the glittering facade of the richest and most powerful nation on Earth.

Head over to the Guardian and read the rest.

More stories to check out, links only:

The Washington Post: For a numbers-obsessed Trump, there’s one he has tried to ignore: 100,000 dead.

Tony Schwartz at Medium: The Psychopath in Chief.

NBC News: George Floyd protest turns deadly; Minneapolis mayor requests National Guard.

MPR News: Photos: Fires, looting devastate Minneapolis after George Floyd’s death.

The Washington Post: ‘This invokes a history of terror’: Central Park incident between white woman and black man is part of a fraught legacy.

The New York Times: Trump’s ‘Horrifying Lies’ About Lori Klausutis May Cross a Legal Line.

NBC News: Asymptomatic COVID-19 cases may be more common than suspected.

So . . . what else is happening? What stories are you following today?

 


Tuesday Reads

 

Good Morning!!

Massachusetts, along with other states, is slowly reopening its economy. The numbers of deaths from and positive tests for Covid-19 have been dropping here in recent days, but it’s not at all clear that we are safe from a second wave of the virus. From The Boston Globe: With reopening comes the threat of a second wave of COVID-19, scientists warn.

It could start in a half-empty restaurant or a Sunday morning church service, with a stray cough or a joyful hymn. Public health experts warn that without a vaccine or a heavy dose of caution, Massachusetts could easily be hit by a second wave of COVID-19 infections that rivals the first.

Such a wave could come in the fall or sooner, as restrictions ease and people return to traveling and spending time in crowded, closed-in spaces. And, experts say, if the state’s tools for tracking the virus’s spread are not up to snuff by then, a second wave could go undetected until it’s too late.

The state began reopening some stores and offices on Monday, the latest step in the long journey back to something resembling pre-pandemic life. But the road to normalcy may prove to be a two-way street.

Built into Governor Charlie Baker’s reopening plan is something epidemiologists caution is not just possible but perhaps even likely: a return to the severe lockdowns of April and most of May.

The state opened a nine-lane COVID-19 drive-thru testing center in Lawrence last week.JOHN TLUMACKI/GLOBE STAFF

What experts say:

“The virus may be with us for a good part of the next year,” said Barry Bloom, a professor and former dean of Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health. “The public has to be prepared that there will be continuous monitoring of the numbers.”

Bloom said that reopening may not be a straight path toward a new normal. Rather, restrictions may ease in fits and starts — or even backtrack, with all or parts of the state periodically relapsing into total lockdown.

“If [the number of cases] gets to the point where they threaten again to be a giant peak and even overwhelm the hospitals,” he said, “the state and the cities are going to have to have some re-installation or re-imposition of constraints.”

From the very start of the coronavirus outbreak, those inside and outside of the scientific community have feared a second wave. History shows that several pandemics have returned with a vengeance after months of seeming calm. The Spanish flu of 1918 lasted two years. Its second peak was its deadliest.

Now, as Massachusetts reopens before it has fully left the first wave of infection behind, epidemiologists say fears of a second are well-founded.

“The chances are pretty high that we’re going to see the number of cases come back up” as the economy reopens, said Samuel Scarpino, a Northeastern University professor who specializes in infectious disease.

The question, Scarpino said, is just how much those case counts will rise.

Read more at the Globe.

Meanwhile, lots of Americans are acting as if there is no pandemic.

The Washington Post: ‘An international example of bad judgment’: Local officials stunned by raucous Memorial Day festivities.

At a flashy club in Houston, dozens splashed around the pool and sipped on drinks on the patio. In rural North Carolina, thousands packed the stands shoulder to shoulder at Ace Speedway on its opening night, where face masks were the exception. And in Daytona Beach, Fla., even after an event called “Orlando Invades Daytona” was canceled, hundreds still danced in the street and on top of cars near the boardwalk.

Lake of the Ozarks on Memorial Day

“It looks like there are two people out the sunroof throwing money,” the seemingly perplexed pilot of a police helicopter said over his radio, flying over the wild scene near the beach to get a closer look. “They’re clearly throwing cash at the crowd.”

The raucous events across the country over the holiday weekend led some local officials to sound the alarm Monday, warning that consequences could be dire if such behavior continued unchecked.

Some, like Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner (D), vowed to crack down on businesses failing to enforce capacity restrictions. Turner chastised the clubbers who may end up exposing responsible people “who chose to do the right thing” by staying home. In Missouri, viral images of pool parties at waterfront bars and yacht clubs in the Lake of the Ozarks even led St. Louis County officials to issue a travel advisory, calling the scenes an “international example of bad judgment.”

One Ozarks pool party at Backwater Jack’s featured live music under the theme “Zero Ducks Given,” while photos at another yacht club showed dozens of people crammed together beneath a sign that said, “Please practice social distancing.” On Monday, St. Louis County Executive Sam Page, who is also a physician, urged employers to question workers about their recent travels, and recommended a 14-day quarantine for anyone who flouted social distancing.

“This reckless behavior endangers countless people and risks setting us back substantially from the progress we have made in slowing the spread of COVID-19,” Page said in a statement announcing the travel advisory.

Not surprisingly, these “bad examples” happened in red states.

More from the WaPo: Memorial Day weekend parties and crowds spark warnings from public health officials.

Beaches, parks, restaurants and churches were open for recreational use in many states over the holiday weekend – with restrictions for social distancing that were not always followed.

As coronavirus cases in the United States crossed 1.6 million, people mobbed boardwalks and oceanfronts in Maryland, Georgia and Florida. Crowds were sometimes dense from Newport Beach, Calif., to the Tampa, Fla., area, where law enforcement started turning away beachgoers and closed full parking lots.

Flocks of people sans face coverings packed the beach at Indiana Dunes National Park. And “more than 100 partygoers packed into a swimming pool area at a club in Midtown Houston Saturday and flouted social distancing orders to maintain space or wear masks a day after Texas Gov. Greg Abbott (R) eased restrictions on bars and restaurants,” our colleagues report.

Videos of a packed pool party in Lake of the Ozarks, Missouri went viral online.

Read more and see photos at the link above.

Slightly different behavior at a Rhode Island beach.

Trump spent the long weekend playing golf and sending out vile tweets, and there has been some pushback in the media, as Dakinikat reported yesterday. Now the husband of a long-dead woman Trump tweeted about is fighting back and asking Twitter for some common decency.

Kara Swisher at The New York Times: Twitter Must Cleanse the Trump Stain.

“Please delete those tweets,” the widower begged in a letter last week to Twitter’s chief executive, Jack Dorsey. “My wife deserves better.”

Yes, Twitter, Lori Klausutis certainly does deserve better, nearly two decades after she died in a tragic accident that has morphed into a macabre and continuing nightmare for her husband, Timothy Klausutis.

The boogeyman plunging him and the family of his late wife into the very worst of memory holes is a conspiracy-theory-loving, twitchy-fingered and often shameless tweeter who also happens to be the president of the United States, Donald J. Trump.

“President Trump on Tuesday tweeted to his nearly 80 million followers alluding to the repeatedly debunked falsehood that my wife was murdered by her boss, former U.S. Rep. Joe Scarborough. The son of the president followed and more directly attacked my wife by tweeting to his followers as the means of spreading this vicious lie,” wrote Mr. Klausutis, in a letter sent to Mr. Dorsey on Thursday that I obtained over the weekend.

“I’m asking you to intervene in this instance because the president of the United States has taken something that does not belong to him — the memory of my dead wife — and perverted it for perceived political gain.” (You can read the letter in full here.)

Mr. Klausutis deserves an answer from Mr. Dorsey, who has the unenviable task of sorting out what is perhaps unsortable, which is to say, the ugly heart of Twitter’s most famous customer. While sources close to the company said executives had been trying to figure out what to do over the weekend, the company has at this writing been silent about this latest controversy involving Mr. Trump’s appalling and rule-breaking Twitter habit.

Trump tweeted about this conspiracy theory again this morning. You can go to his timeline to see the tweets if you’re interested.

It’s beginning to look like Trump is losing older voters because of his catastrophic failure to deal with the pandemic.

The Washington Post: Trump’s poor handling of the crisis may lose him the GOP’s most reliable voters.

One of the most durable political assets that Republicans have enjoyed throughout the 21st century is their edge among Americans 65 and older, who tend to turn out at the polls more reliably than any other group.

But with President Trump’s inept and erratic handling of the novel coronavirus pandemic, he is rapidly losing support among the age group most vulnerable to its ravages — which is a big warning sign to Republicans as they look to the fall. Trump has also been showing slippage in support among the next-oldest cohort, those 55 and older.

The shift has been showing up in a string of recent polls, reportedly including those that have been conducted by Trump’s own campaign. One of the most striking is a survey of 44 battleground House districts done by Democratic pollster Geoff Garin during the second week of May.

In those districts, voters over 65 said they had supported Trump in 2016 by a 22-point margin — 58 percent to 36 percent.

But this year, those same respondents are practically evenly divided, with 47 percent saying they are planning to vote for the president and 43 percent expressing an intention to cast their ballots for former vice president Joe Biden, the presumptive Democratic nominee. That is an enormous net swing of 18 percentage points.

“They’re in real trouble if they can’t count on a strong showing with seniors,” said Garin, who did the survey for a client he declined to name. “Trump is blowing what had become an important Republican advantage.”

Also from the WaPo: In crucial Florida, some senior voters cast a skeptical eye toward Trump’s reelection.

Allen Lehner

Allen Lehner was a Republican until Donald Trump became his party’s nominee in 2016. The 74-year-old retiree says he couldn’t bring himself to vote for someone who lied, belittled others, walked out on his bills and mistreated women — but he also couldn’t bring himself to vote for Hillary Clinton. So he didn’t vote.

Trump has done nothing since to entice Lehner back.

Lehner, who now considers himself an independent, says he is frightened by the president’s lack of leadership and maturity amid the nation’s health and economic crisis. Several people in his gated community in Delray Beach, Fla., have gotten sick; at least one has died. He worries about his own health — he has an autoimmune disease — and also about his adult children, including a daughter who has gone back to work and a son whose pay has been cut.

He plans to vote for Joe Biden in November.

“Regardless of what they say about his senior moments, I think he would be good and take good care of the country,” said Lehner, who owned furniture and fireplace-supply stores in central Pennsylvania before retiring to Florida.

How did you spend your Memorial Day? What stories are you following today?


Lazy Caturday Reads

Good Morning!!

After several days of a media diet–reading and playing video games instead of following the news closely–I’m feeling a lot more grounded. The fake “president” is still insane and we are still living through a global pandemic that was made much worse by the actions and non-actions of Trump and his gang of evil thugs, but I feel more able to handle it today. It helps that it’s a long weekend and Trump might go play golf and leave us alone for some stretches of time.

Anyway, I hope all of you are doing well and staying safe in these crazy times. Please stay home as much as you can and take good care of yourselves and your loved ones.

Here’s the latest on the pandemic:

The Washington Post: Study estimates 24 states still have uncontrolled coronavirus spread.

The coronavirus may still be spreading at epidemic rates in 24 states, particularly in the South and Midwest, according to new research that highlights the risk of a second wave of infections in places that reopen too quickly or without sufficient precautions.

Researchers at Imperial College London created a model that incorporates cellphone data showing that people sharply reduced their movements after stay-at-home orders were broadly imposed in March. With restrictions now easing and mobility increasing with the approach of Memorial Day and the unofficial start of summer, the researchers developed an estimate of viral spread as of May 17.

It is a snapshot of a transitional moment in the pandemic and captures the patchwork nature across the country of covid-19, the disease caused by the virus. Some states have had little viral spread or “crushed the curve” to a great degree and have some wiggle room to reopen their economies without generating a new epidemic-level surge in cases. Others are nowhere near containing the virus.

The model, which has not been peer reviewed, shows that in the majority of states, a second wave looms if people abandon efforts to mitigate the viral spread.

“There’s evidence that the U.S. is not under control, as an entire country,” said Samir Bhatt, a senior lecturer in geostatistics at Imperial College.

The model shows potentially ominous scenarios if people move around as they did previously and do so without taking precautions. In California and Florida, the death rate could spike to roughly 1,000 a day by July without efforts to mitigate the spread, according to the report.

Nic Robertson at CNN: The pandemic could reshape the world order. Trump’s chaotic strategy is accelerating US losses.

London (CNN)Europe outright rejected US President Donald Trump’s vision of the world this week. Tensions between these historic democratic allies that have been simmering since Trump came to office three years ago have now come to a boil during the coronavirus pandemic.

Covid-19 has shocked the world by the speed of its spread, but it is also accelerating another global change in the balance of power — and not in America’s favor.
The extent of the divide became clear on Tuesday during a vote at the World Health Organization annual assembly in Geneva, Switzerland, backing Europe’s conciliatory approach to China relating to an investigation into the outbreak. Power had visibly ebbed away from the United States as its demand for a tougher approach was dismissed, a move that should sound alarm bells in Washington.

Vladimir Sichov, street portrait

Five months into 2020 and it already feels like a new era: now there is only BC and AC — before and after coronavirus. Suddenly the dynamics of almost every single geopolitical dispute are being exacerbated by the pandemic, sharpened by the complexity and urgency of the situation.

Chief among these is the perennial, three-way battle for dominance between the US, Europe and China. Despite Trump’s early hailing of Xi Jinping’s handling of the pandemic, he has since blamed the Chinese President for covering up the early stages of China’s outbreak. Beijing has consistently denied such accusations, and criticized the US approach to the pandemic.

Trump has tried to blame China and WHO for his own disastrous response to the pandemic, but Europe is sticking with China and WHO.

Despite deep concerns about China’s handling of the pandemic, European leaders backed the WHO resolution calling for “a stepwise process of impartial independent and comprehensive evaluation, including using existing mechanisms, as appropriate to review experience gained and lessons learned” from the global response to Covid-19.

The language is convoluted and hardly inspires confidence China will atone appropriately for its early failures, but it is a measure of the gulf opening up between Trump and his European allies that such a compromise could even be countenanced….

Europe’s decision to reject Trump’s confrontation with China and the WHO will affect both parties vying to win this year’s US election. Regardless of who wins that race, Trump and his handling of Covid-19 are weakening America’s global leverage.

At The Atlantic, Charles C. Mann on “What history can tell us about the long-term effects of the coronavirus”: Pandemics Leave Us Forever Altered. I hope you’ll read the whole thing; here’s just a brief excerpt:

Americans may have forgotten the 1918 pandemic, but it did not forget them. Garthwaite matched NHIS respondents’ health conditions to the dates when their mothers were probably exposed to the flu. Mothers who got sick in the first months of pregnancy, he discovered, had babies who, 60 or 70 years later, were unusually likely to have diabetes; mothers afflicted at the end of pregnancy tended to bear children prone to kidney disease. The middle months were associated with heart disease.

Other studies showed different consequences. Children born during the pandemic grew into shorter, poorer, less educated adults with higher rates of physical disability than one would expect. Chances are that none of Garthwaite’s flu babies ever knew about the shadow the pandemic cast over their lives. But they were living testaments to a brutal truth: Pandemics—even forgotten ones—have long-term, powerful aftereffects.

The distinguished historians can be forgiven for passing over this truth. Most modern people assume that our species controls its own destiny. We’re in charge! we think. After all, isn’t this the Anthropocene? Being modern people, historians have had trouble, as a profession, truly accepting that brainless packets of RNA and DNA can capsize the human enterprise in a few weeks or months.

The convulsive social changes of the 1920s—the frenzy of financial speculation, the resurgence of the Ku Klux Klan, the explosion of Dionysian popular culture (jazz, flappers, speakeasies)—were easily attributed to the war, an initiative directed and conducted by humans, rather than to the blind actions of microorganisms. But the microorganisms likely killed more people than the war did. And their effects weren’t confined to European battlefields, but spread across the globe, emptying city streets and filling cemeteries on six continents.

Unlike the war, the flu was incomprehensible—the influenza virus wasn’t even identified until 1931. It inspired fear of immigrants and foreigners, and anger toward the politicians who played down the virus. Like the war, influenza (and tuberculosis, which subsequently hit many flu sufferers) killed more men than women, skewing sex ratios for years afterward. Can one be sure that the ensuing, abrupt changes in gender roles had nothing to do with the virus?

We will probably never disentangle the war and the flu. But one way to summarize the impact of the pandemic is to say that its magnitude was in the same neighborhood as that of the “war to end all wars.”

What societal and health changes will follow the coronavirus pandemic? Read Mann’s speculations at The Atlantic.

Some presidential election news:

The Guardian: Barack Obama poised to add his star appeal to Joe Biden’s campaign.

Former president Barack Obama has dipped his toes into the 2020 presidential campaign recently and is positioned to do more in the coming months as Joe Biden’s effort to defeat Donald Trump gathers steam.

Interviews with about a dozen Democratic strategists, party officials and people close to Obama want the popular former president utilizing his powerful online presence and focusing on rallying key Democrat constituencies that are critical to a Biden victory.

Obama is regarded as one of the most popular politicians in American politics and a huge asset within the Democratic party. He left the White House with a near-60% approval rating. His endorsement for any candidate is the political campaign equivalent of an oilman and hitting a gusher.

Obama would be most effective, interviewees said, in highlighting his former vice-president’s résumé, rallying key Democratic voting groups like African American women, and pushing voters to register.

The situation is unique. There hasn’t been a popular former two-term president eager to hit the trail for his former running mate for years. On top of that, the coronavirus pandemic limits in-person campaigning and rallies. Still, the strategists interviewed say Obama is valuable and should be used everywhere.

“You rarely have a former president that is more popular than the now-sort-of-nominee,” Democratic pollster Cornell Belcher said. “Barack Obama is the most popular political figure in America right now.”

Read the rest at The Guardian.

Trump may be losing some evangelicals. Politico: Behind Trump’s demand to reopen churches: Slipping poll numbers and alarm inside his campaign.

A sudden shift in support for Donald Trump among religious conservatives is triggering alarm bells inside his reelection campaign, where top aides have long banked on expanding the president’s evangelical base as a key part of their strategy for victory this November.

The anxiety over Trump’s standing with the Christian right surfaced after a pair of surveys by reputable outfits earlier this month found waning confidence in the administration’s coronavirus response among key religious groups, with a staggering decline in the president’s favorability among white evangelicals and white Catholics. Both are crucial constituencies that supported Trump by wide margins in 2016 and could sink his reelection prospects if their turnout shrinks this fall.

The polls paint a bleak picture for Trump, who has counted on broadening his religious support by at least a few percentage points to compensate for weakened appeal with women and suburban populations. One GOP official said the dip in the president’s evangelical support also appeared in internal party polling, but disputed the notion that it had caused panic. Another person close to the campaign described an April survey by the Public Religion Research Institute, which showed a double-digit decline in Trump’s favorability among white evangelicals (-11), white Catholics (-12) and white mainline protestants (-18) from the previous month, as “pretty concerning.”

To safeguard his relationship with religious conservatives, Trump on Friday demanded that America‘s governors permit houses of worship to immediately reopen, and threatened to “override“ state leaders who decline to obey his directive. The announcement — which came days after the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention omitted religious institutions in new guidance about industry reopenings — featured clear appeals to white evangelicals, many of whom have long supported Trump’s socially conservative agenda.

Read more at the link.

According to The Daily Beast, Trump wants an in-person convention despite the pandemic, and his advisers are afraid to tell him it might not happen: Trump Plows Ahead With His Convention Planning, Virus Be Damned.

President Donald Trump has been adamant that the 2020 Republican National Convention—or some version of it—go on. For months, he’s demanded that back-up options for less crowded gatherings be fully explored by his staff, if a full-blown convention isn’t ultimately possible or safe, according to three people familiar with his private insistence. But he has scoffed at the notion of a virtual convention in recent weeks, saying that it sounds like “something Joe Biden would do from his basement,” said a source who heard Trump mock the idea.

Trump’s desire to have some sort of coronation moment fits his love of pageantry and spectacle. But various staffers working on plotting the Republican gathering aren’t quite so optimistic that it’s doable, knowing that they are entirely at the mercy of the virus and that the convention may end up even sparser than some expect.

“I don’t want to be the one to tell the president,” the White House official said, envisioning a scenario in which a disappointed, possibly angry Trump is informed he would have to be livestreamed into his own convention.

More stories to check out, links only:

The New York Times: Trump’s Press Secretary Displays One of His Checks in a Little Too Much Detail.

The Washington Post: Trump administration discussed conducting first U.S. nuclear test in decades.

WJC CBS Baltimore: Baltimore Mayor Jack Young On President Trump’s Memorial Day Fort McHenry Visit: ‘I Think He’s Violating The Law’

New York Magazine: That Office AC System Is Great — at Recirculating Viruses.

NBC News: Jeff Sessions stands up to former boss Trump on Twitter.

Business Insider: Roughly half the Twitter accounts pushing to ‘reopen America’ are bots, researchers found.

Now it’s your turn. What stories are you following today?


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:

APPOINTMENTS
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.

UPON ARRIVAL
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.

CONTACTLESS CHECKOUT
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!


Can’t Take Any More Tuesday Reads

Richard Prince, Nurse of Greenmeadow (2002)

Good Morning!!

I’m going through one of my “I can’t take it anymore” phases. Yesterday I almost succeeded in shutting out the news entirely until last night when I accidentally learned that Trump claims to be taking hydroxycholoquine. He has to be lying, right? But the White House doctor sorta kinda confirmed it.

CNN: Trump says he is taking hydroxychloroquine though health experts question its effectiveness.

President Donald Trump claimed Monday he is taking daily doses of hydroxychloroquine, a drug he’s long touted as a potential coronavirus cure even as medical experts and the US Food and Drug Administration question its efficacy and warn of potentially harmful side effects.

Speaking at a meeting of restaurant executives, Trump said he began taking the antimalarial drug after consulting the White House doctor, though stopped short of saying his physician had actually recommended the drug.

“A couple of weeks ago, I started taking it,” Trump said. He later said he’d been taking it every day for a week and a half.
The admission was a dramatic development in Trump’s attempts to promote hydroxychloroquine as a treatment for coronavirus, which began earlier in the outbreak and has been met with resistance from medical professionals.

Because the drug is prescribed to treat malaria and other conditions, Trump has cast it as safe and suggested coronavirus patients have little to lose by trying it.

The infirmary at Helgelandsmoen, Edvard Munch

But there are concerns about using the drug for coronavirus, which Trump claimed he doesn’t have:

…at least one study has shown the drug does not work against Covid-19 and could cause heart problems.

The study was published in the Journal of the American Medical Association. It follows a study published in the New England Journal of Medicine that also showed the drug doesn’t fight the virus.

Even before these reports were published, the FDA and the National Institutes of Health issued warnings about using the drug for coronavirus patients.

Trump said he hadn’t been exposed, and that he started taking the drug because he had heard from frontline responders who sent him letters saying they were taking it preventatively.

There’s no evidence for using it as a preventative, but Trump claims it works because “I get a lot of positive calls about it.” Shouldn’t this be the last straw for the V.P. and the Trump Cabinet? Shouldn’t they be invoking the 25th Amendment today? But of course it won’t happen, and the media will try to normalize his latest insanity.

At The Los Angeles Times, Chris Megerian, Noah Bierman, and Eli Stokols remind us that the hyroxychloroquine controversy is just part of Trump’s attempts to distract us from all the deaths he’s responsible for: Trump lashes out with distractions and disinformation.

President Trump has accelerated his attacks on government watchdogs, judges, reporters and other independent voices as he runs for reelection, escalating his spread of disinformation about perceived enemies and his administration’s record during the COVID-19 crisis.

Trump fired yet another inspector general, raged against a government whistleblower and repeatedly retweeted video of a local TV reporter being harassed in New York — all since Friday. He also amplified a sinister conspiracy theory he dubbed “Obamagate” in which he alleges, but never specifies, crimes by his predecessor.

Angry Nurse, Astrid Haereid

On Monday, Trump abruptly said he has been taking hydroxychloroquine pills daily for “about a week and a half” as a preventative against the novel coronavirus, dramatically intensifying his efforts to promote an unproved anti-malaria drug that he has touted as a potential “game changer” for dealing with the pandemic.

His comments caused alarm because the Food and Drug Administration warned last month that the prescription drug has “not been shown to be safe and effective” at treating or preventing COVID-19, saying it could cause “serious heart rhythm problems.”

It’s crazy making.

Experts struggled to think of a historical parallel where the president has turned the world’s most powerful and influential office into a megaphone for wholesale fabrications and bizarre claims in an effort to confuse voters and salvage his own political future.

“Trump is certainly not the first politician to lie or invent stories,” said Eileen Culloty, who researches disinformation at Dublin City University in Ireland. “But his history of making baseless, conspiratorial claims — whether it’s Obama’s birth certificate, linking Ted Cruz’s family to the Kennedy assassination or now Obamagate — is striking for its scale and frequency.”

Critics said Trump’s messaging was particularly destructive as Americans struggle with the pandemic, which has crippled the economy and killed more than 90,000 in the U.S. as of Monday.

“A pandemic is the perfect laboratory for disinformation because people are scared, they’re anxious — and all of the social science around conspiracy theories shows when people feel anxious and scared, they’re more likely to believe conspiracy theories,” said Richard Stengel, a former editor of Time magazine and former senior State Department official.

“Trump has figured that out. This campaign is headed to a low point that we’ve never experienced before in American history, because he is not at all compelled to align his message with reality,” he added.

Read more at the LA Times.

The Nurse, Jose Perez

Richard Stengel, quoted in the LA Times piece, writes at Vanity Fair about what Trump’s incompetence has done to our country’s reputation: The Bungling Superpower: COVID-19 Has Recast America as a Global Chump.

When I was under secretary of state for public diplomacy during the Barack Obama administration—the job that is essentially the chief marketing officer for the American brand around the world—I found that the most common request I got from international diplomats and leaders was, could I help them get in touch with the Silicon Valley tech companies? Would I introduce them to someone at Google, Apple, and Facebook? Our brand differentiator was no longer drones, Tomahawks, and foreign assistance—though all of them still mattered—it was search, likes, and Twitter. No, we weren’t as generous and deep-pocketed as we once had been, nor could we build bridges and highways like China was doing, but we were seen as the land of the future, and people wanted to know how we did it. It was a welcome change.

But the election of Donald Trump and our inept response to the coronavirus has reversed much of that. Even when we were the arrogant and galumphing superpower—a continuation of the Ugly American stereotype from the 1950s—we were always seen as competent. Yes, we were headstrong and naive, but we got things done. Now, thanks to the combination of Trump’s much-mocked America First doctrine and his administration’s chaotic and chuckleheaded response to the coronavirus, the Trump administration has recast our brand in a new way: the bungling superpower. The country that created the iPhone could not figure out how to manufacture enough cotton swabs. While Germany is led by a woman with a doctorate in quantum chemistry, the U.S. president was suggesting that people inject disinfectant to cure the virus.

Nursing, by Jeff Conway

Last week, in a rare move in its nearly 200-year history, the distinguished British medical journal The Lancet published an editorial saying that the U.S. had fallen from what it once was, the gold standard in disease detection and control, and must not reelect a president who prized partisanship above science. A poll in France earlier this month found that Angela Merkel, and not the American president, was overwhelmingly regarded as the leader of the free world. Only 2% of those polled said Trump was heading in the right direction. A Bosnian TV journalist proclaimed that the White House was dysfunctional and America was beginning to resemble the Balkans. The Balkans.

Many people have cited the line from the Irish Times that “the world has loved, hated, and envied the U.S. Now, for the first time, we pity it.” That’s not quite right. The emotion is not pity, but schadenfreude: people around the world are taking a secret pleasure in the U.S.’s ineptitude. They feel the U.S is getting payback for its self-righteousness, boasting, and incessant lecturing. It’s karmic retribution, not pity.

But there’s a greater and more existential threat to American influence than the scorn people around the world have for Trumpism: it is the increasing non-essentialness of America among nations and the discrediting of the American model of governance and capitalism.

Bloomberg reports on a study that shows that Covid Patients Testing Positive After Recovery Aren’t Infectious.

Researchers are finding evidence that patients who test positive for the coronavirus after recovering aren’t capable of transmitting the infection, and could have the antibodies that prevent them from falling sick again.

Gregg Chadwick, Nurses and therapy dog

Scientists from the Korean Centers for Disease Control and Prevention studied 285 Covid-19 survivors who had tested positive for the coronavirus after their illness had apparently resolved, as indicated by a previous negative test result. The so-called re-positive patients weren’t found to have spread any lingering infection, and virus samples collected from them couldn’t be grown in culture, indicating the patients were shedding non-infectious or dead virus particles.

The findings, reported late Monday, are a positive sign for regions looking to open up as more patients recover from the pandemic that has sickened at least 4.8 million people. The emerging evidence from South Korea suggests those who have recovered from Covid-19 present no risk of spreading the coronavirus when physical distancing measures are relaxed.

The results mean health authorities in South Korea will no longer consider people infectious after recovering from the illness. Research last month showed that so-called PCR tests for the coronavirus’s nucleic acid can’t distinguish between dead and viable virus particles, potentially giving the wrong impression that someone who tests positive for the virus remains infectious.

The research may also aid in the debate over antibody tests, which look for markers in the blood that indicate exposure to the novel coronavirus. Experts believe antibodies probably convey some level of protection against the virus, but they don’t have any solid proof yet. Nor do they know how long any immunity may last.

Read more at the link.

I’ll end with a non-Trump story from The Guardian: Exclusive: Police tried to tase Ahmaud Arbery in 2017 incident, video shows.

Police attempted to use a Taser on Ahmaud Arbery, the slain Georgia jogger, after questioning why he was sitting alone in his car in a park one morning in November 2017, according to records and a police video obtained by the Guardian.

Edwin Harleston, The Nurse

The video, obtained through a public records request, comes to light as law enforcement in the area faces scrutiny after Arbery was shot dead by two white men while jogging in February. Police did not arrest Gregory and Travis McMichael, who chased down and killed the unarmed Arbery, and a prosecutor assigned to the case wrote a lengthy memo explaining why the killing was legally justified….

In the video an officer patrolling the area suspected Arbery of using marijuana, saying he was in a park known for drug activity.

Arbery, dressed in a green hat, winter coat and athletic pants, said he didn’t have drugs and refused to let the officer search his car. He told the officer he was relaxing by rapping in his car over instrumental beats and had the day off from work at Blue Beacon Truck Wash.

The incident, previously described by the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, escalated when Arbery began to question why the officer, Michael Kanago, was hassling him. Kanago claimed he began to feel threatened by Arbery, later writing in his report that “veins were popping from [Arbery’s] chest, which made me feel that he was becoming enraged and may turn physically violent towards me”. Kanago requested help from a second officer.

“You’re bothering me for nothing,” Arbery said to Kanago, according to body camera footage. After Kanago told him he was looking for criminal activity, Arbery said “criminal activity? I’m in a fucking park. I work.”

How dare a young black man sass a George police officer. Well, they finally got him killed, didn’t they? Racist monsters.

That’s all I have for you today. What’s on your mind? What stories are you following?