Tuesday Reads: Old Man Trump’s Crazy Axios Interview

Good Morning!!

This morning I forced myself to watch and listen to Trump’s full interview with Jonathan Swan of Axios. It wasn’t easy. Of course it was characterized by Trump’s lying, obfuscating, and excuse-making, but oddly my biggest takeaway was that Trump truly sounds like a feeble old man now. His voice seems very different from the way he sounded during the 2016 campaign–it sounds weak and reedy. I think the difference after four years is really striking. Here’s the interview:

 

I found this 2013 article at NBC News about what happens to our voices as we age: The wavery, shaky ‘old person’s voice,’ explained.

“Voice can depend on general health. In general, we start seeing aging problems at age 65,” says Claudio Milstein, associate professor of surgery at Cleveland Clinic Lerner College of Medicine. “The typical change as we get older, is that we get thin, breathy voices … [and] those are the characteristics that make it sound like a person has an old voice.”

Evidence confirms that voices do change with age. The vocal chords should vibrate between 90 and 230 times per minute, with young people experiencing the most movement and older people experiencing the least, explains Amee Shah, associate professor and director of the Research Laboratory in Speech Acoustics and Perception at Cleveland State University.

“In my lab we look at acoustic data because perception can be misleading and the hard numbers confirm it. It is true that as we age our voices change,” says Shah.

When we age our vocal chords weaken and become drier. Our respiratory systems and torsos change, too, with our lungs and chest cavities becoming more rigid, while our spines curve, causing us to stoop over (for some a little, others a lot). Weakened and dry vocal chords become stringy, which prevent normal vibration, causing higher pitched voices that sound thin. And the transformations in the respiratory system and chest mean we have less power behind our voices. Even the joints in our vocal chords can become arthritic, contributing to problems.

“The vocal folds are made up of muscle and collagen among other things. Just like other muscles thin out or atrophy, the vocal folds do as well,” says Gina Vess, a speech pathologist and director of the Clinical Voice Programs at Duke University Medical Center.

As for the content of the interview, I thought it was interesting that Swan began with a question about Trump’s commitment to Norman Vincent Peale’s positive thinking. Like his wealth, this was something that Trump got from his father, according to his niece Mary Trump.

From NPR on July 25: 2020 Crises Confront Trump With An Outage In The Power Of Positive Thinking.

“Affirm it, believe it, visualize it, and it will actualize itself.” Such mantras have characterized much of the Trump story from his childhood when he first absorbed it from the man who first spoke it, Norman Vincent Peale.

Peale was a minister and author much admired by Trump’s father. His most famous book, The Power of Positive Thinking, sold millions of copies in multiple languages and helped spawn a self-help movement and industry that has flourished ever since.

The Trumps attended Peale’s Marble Collegiate Church on Fifth Avenue in Manhattan, and Peale officiated at the first of Donald Trump’s three marriage ceremonies.

Emulating Peale’s ferocious focus on attitude probably helped Trump plow ahead when his presidential prospects seemed hopeless just weeks before Election Day in 2016. The candidate appeared behind in polls and a now-infamous audio recording revealed his toxic comments about women.

But “there are no hopeless situations,” Peale had counseled, “only people who take hopeless attitudes.”

Obstacles, Peale taught, should never be a deterrent: “You will find they haven’t half the strength you think they have.”

Until this year, it is possible Trump took this literally. Arguably, he was getting away with it far more often than not.

He seemed to have been experimenting with this parallel universe approach all his life.

Trump is trying to apply the “power of positive thinking to the coronavirus pandemic, and it’s obviously not working for him, because a virus can’t be hoodwinked like people can.

So what happens when positive thinking fails? What happens when the power goes out? In common experience, when the power goes out, it gets darker.

Trump’s critics and opponents say that is exactly what we are seeing in America today.

Unable to conquer the combination of pandemic effects and civil unrest by the force of his will and a Twitter blizzard of “alternative facts,” Trump is now turning to a set of alternative powers.

Now Trump has turned to outright fascist tactics–sending federal agents into U.S. cities to put down protests against police brutality, trying to delegitimize the upcoming presidential election, working to suppress votes by destroying the Post Office and sabotaging the U.S. Census.

USA Today: ‘It is what it is,’ Trump says of rising coronavirus deaths as he insists outbreak is ‘under control.’

Axios National Political Correspondent Jonathan Swan began the interview by asking Trump if his sometimes “wishful thinking” and “salesmanship” was suitable in a crisis that has killed more than 155,000 people in the U.S.

Tom Toles Editorial Cartoon

“I think you have to have a positive outlook, otherwise you would have nothing,” Trump said. As he frequently has done in defending his record on the pandemic, the president pointed to the travel restrictions he imposed on China and Europe, arguing hundreds of thousands – a number he later put in the “millions” – more would have died without those actions. He added that even one death was too many.

“Those people that really understand it, that really understand it, they said it’s incredible the job that we’ve done,” Trump said.

“Who says that?” Swan asked, but Trump continued to talk about the China travel ban. Swan pointed out that the virus was already in the U.S. by the time Trump issued the ban.

Swan pressed Trump on whether his positive spin on outbreak – telling people the outbreak is under control and not to worry about wearing masks – could be putting people in danger by “giving them a false sense of security.” [….]

Trump responded to that criticism by saying he thinks the outbreak is “under control.” Swan asked how he could say that as the average number of daily deaths had climbed back up to over 1,000.

“They are dying, that’s true. And it is what it is,” Trump said. “But that doesn’t mean we aren’t doing everything we can. It’s under control, as much as you can control it.”

More Takeaways from the Axios interview:

Jonathan Ross at The Daily Beast: Trump Reveals Self-Delusion Over COVID Statistics in Mind-Blowing Argument With Reporter.

It’s sometimes hard to determine whether President Trump is being willfully misleading or if he truly believes what he’s saying. But an astonishing interview clip from Axios appears to show that Trump has genuinely managed to convince himself that his response to the coronavirus pandemic has been effective—because he only considers partial and deceptively flattering statistics to be true. Brandishing childishly simplistic, brightly colored COVID-19 graphs presumably provided to him by aides trying to keep him happy, Trump proudly tells Axios’ Jonathan Swan that the U.S. is “lower than the world,” without elaborating. When Swan looks at the chart, it becomes clear Trump is only considering death as a proportion of coronavirus cases—not as a proportion of population, which shows the U.S. is faring very badly. Trump snaps back: “You can’t do that.” Holding out his charts, he goes on: “You have to go by where… look, here is the United States… You have to go by the cases.” Asked why South Korea has lower deaths by population, Trump hints that he believes the country is faking its stats, without providing any evidence to support himself.

Axios: Trump stokes fears of election-night mail voting fraud.

President Trump raised new alarms about the alleged danger of election fraud in an interview with “Axios on HBO,” warning that “lots of things can happen” with voting by mail if the presidential race isn’t decided on election night.

Why it matters: Trump’s comments — which contradict the lengthy history and widespread use of mail-in voting — could be a preview of the claims he’ll make on election night to undermine trust in the results if he appears to be losing.

  • Election experts say there’s a good chance that the presidential race won’t be decided on election night, and could drag on for days, because so many people will vote by mail to protect themselves from the coronavirus.
  • One expert’s scenario suggests that the early returns could favor Trump because most Republicans will vote in person, but that the later returns will swing toward Joe Biden because many Democrats will vote by mail.

Axios: Trump declines to praise John Lewis, citing inauguration snub.

President Trump dismissed the legacy of the late Rep. John Lewis in an interview with “Axios on HBO,” saying only that Lewis made a “big mistake” by not coming to his inauguration.

The big picture: Trump’s comments were a glaring contrast with the praise Republicans and Democrats showered upon Lewis this week, and a default to personal grudges during a week of mourning for a civil rights hero….

When asked if he found Lewis’ life impressive, Trump responded, “He didn’t come to my inauguration. He didn’t come to my State of the Union speeches. And that’s OK. That’s his right. And, again, nobody has done more for Black Americans than I have.” [….]

Trump also declined to say whether he found Lewis personally impressive: “I can’t say one way or the other. I find a lot of people impressive. I find many people not impressive.”

There’s much more to the interview, which was a disaster for Trump. I have to say that Swan did an excellent job. If you can stand to, I hope you’ll watch the whole thing. It’s around 30 minutes long. I’d really like to know what you think about Trump’s old-man voice too.

Have a great day everyone! I’ll post some news links in the comment thread below.


Lazy Caturday Reads

Good Morning!!

Artist Suzanne Valadon and her cat

The paintings in today’s post are by Suzanne Valadon. Here’s some background about this fascinating artist from The Great Cat.org:

Suzanne Valadon (1865-1938), was an illegitimate child of a French laundress and lived a rather rough life in her youth. She performed in a circus on the trapeze until she had a bad fall when she was 16.

After that, she decided to become an artist’s model, a safer profession. Artists such as Pierre Puvis de Chavannes, Henri Toulouse-Lautrec, and Pierre-Auguste Renoir used her in some of their works. Renoir even painted her in The Bathers. Valadon began to study the methods and works of the artists she posed for, and started to paint on her own.

Encouraged by Toulouse-Lautrec, she continued and even caught the eye of Edward Degas, who was so taken by her work that he purchased several of her first paintings in 1893. A true Bohemian, in 1883 at age 18, she gave birth to an illegitimate son, Maurice Utrillo, who became a well known artist as well.

Read more about her life at the pdf link above. You may have to go to the Table of Contents and click on her name.

Now on to today’s news.

It’s been another her horror-filled week, as Dakinikat described in her post yesterday. I avoided TV for most of the week, but it’s impossible to completely escape the Trump chaos. I’ve been doing my best though, mainly by reading lotsYo of books. Anyway, let’s see what’s happening this morning.

Trump has asked for help winning the 2020 election from Ukraine, China, and I assume Russia, since he seems to talk on the phone to Putin constantly.

So how many countries has Trump actually asked for election help? Add Brazil to the list.

The New York Times: Lawmakers ‘Alarmed’ by Reports U.S. Envoy Told Brazil It Could Help Re-elect Trump.

RIO DE JANEIRO — Members of the House Foreign Affairs Committee said Friday they were “extremely alarmed” by assertions that the American ambassador in Brazil had signaled to Brazilian officials they could help get President Trump re-elected by changing their trade policies.

In a letter sent Friday afternoon, Committee Chairman Eliot L. Engel demanded that the ambassador, Todd Chapman, produce “any and all documents referring or related to any discussions” he has held with Brazilian officials in recent weeks about their nation’s tariffs on ethanol, an important agricultural export for Iowa, a potential swing state in the American presidential election.

The committee’s letter was sent in response to reports in the Brazilian news media this week saying that Mr. Chapman, a career diplomat, made it clear to Brazilian officials they could bolster Mr. Trump’s electoral chances in Iowa if Brazil lifted its ethanol tariffs.

Eliminating tariffs would give the Trump administration a welcome trade victory to present to struggling ethanol producers in Iowa, where the president is in a close race with his Democratic rival, Joseph R. Biden Jr.

The House committee said it was opening an inquiry into the matter.

The State Department denied the reports, but . . .

The O Globo newspaper published a story on Thursday saying Mr. Chapman had underscored “the importance to the Brazilian government of keeping Donald Trump” in office. Mr. Bolsonaro, a far-right leader, has made closer alignment with the Trump administration his top foreign policy priority.

A competing newspaper, Estadão, published an article Friday saying its reporters independently confirmed that the ambassador framed his argument against tariffs in partisan terms. The article said the Brazilian officials who met with Mr. Chapman rejected the appeal, declining to be drawn into the American presidential battle.

Neither article named its sources. But Alceu Moreira, a Brazilian congressman who heads the agricultural caucus, told The New York Times in an interview that Mr. Chapman had made repeated references to the electoral calendar during a recent meeting the two had about ethanol.

I guess we can assume Trump has asked for help from just about every country headed by a dictator.

Now Trump has helped Putin by ordering the withdrawal of U.S. Troops from Germany.

CNN: US to withdraw nearly 12,000 troops from Germany in move that will cost billions and take years.

The US is moving forward with President Donald Trump’s plan to withdraw nearly 12,000 troops from Germany, a decision that has attracted bipartisan congressional opposition and roiled key allies who see the move as a blow to NATO.

Secretary of Defense Mark Esper acknowledged the plan will cost billions to execute when he formally announced the decision on Wednesday from the Pentagon. US defense officials said it will take years to relocate the troops.

The plan to pull US troops from the long-time NATO ally has been met with broad bipartisan opposition amid concerns that it will weaken the US military’s position vis a vis Russia, however the Trump Administration has decided to proceed with the move.

Trump defended the decision Wednesday, saying the troop drawdown was taking place because Berlin was not spending the NATO target of 2% of its GDP on defense and because Germany was taking “advantage” of the US….

Defense officials, however, said Wednesday that the decision on where to house the US troops leaving Germany was not influenced by whether the new host country was meeting the 2% target.

Well, I’m sure Putin is thrilled. Will Trump pull us out of NATO next?

At The Daily Beast, Julia Davis reports on Russia’s reaction to Trump’s willful destruction of our country: ‘America’s Dying’: Russian Media Is Giddy at Chaos in the USA.

This week, U.S. President Donald Trump reiterated his intent to move forward with reducing the U.S. military presence in Germany, without any consultations with Berlin. And even as members of the U.S. Congress and America’s allies abroad expressed concerns about the drawdown, the Trump administration’s decision brought joy to the Kremlin and Russian media.

Back in June, 22 Republican members of the House Armed Services Committee urged Trump not to go ahead with the move, stating in a letter: “We believe that such steps would significantly damage U.S. national security as well as strengthen the position of Russia to our detriment … In Europe, the threats posed by Russia have not lessened, and we believe that signs of a weakened U.S. commitment to NATO will encourage further Russian aggression and opportunism.” [….]

Meanwhile, when the intent to reduce the U.S. contingent in Germany was first announced, Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said that the Kremlin “would welcome any steps by Washington to scale down its military presence in Europe,” brazenly telling the United States to take home not only its troops, but also its tactical nuclear weapons.

The Kremlin-controlled Russian state media also sensed a precious propaganda opportunity. Sergey Brilyov, anchor of the news show Saturday Vesti on Russian state media channel Rossiya-1, pondered whether the controversial move by the Trump administration could be considered the proof that Russia no longer poses a military threat to Europe.

Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov used the same rationale today, when he claimed that Russia doesn’t present any threat to European countries and “the fewer U.S. soldiers are on the European continent, the calmer it is in Europe.”

Read more at The Daily Beast.

Don’t miss this must read piece at Vanity Fair about Trump and Kushner’s decision to scrap efforts to fight the coronavirus pandemic because it was only affecting blue states: How Jared Kushner’s Secret Testing Plan “Went Poof Into Thin Air.”

A few choice excerpts:

Six months into the pandemic, the United States continues to suffer the worst outbreak of COVID-19 in the developed world. Considerable blame belongs to a federal response that offloaded responsibility for the crucial task of testing to the states. The irony is that, after assembling the team that came up with an aggressive and ambitious national testing plan, Kushner then appears to have decided, for reasons that remain murky, to scrap its proposal. Today, as governors and mayors scramble to stamp out epidemics plaguing their populations, philanthropists at the Rockefeller Foundation are working to fill the void and organize enough testing to bring the nationwide epidemic under control.

Inside the White House, over much of March and early April, Kushner’s handpicked group of young business associates, which included a former college roommate, teamed up with several top experts from the diagnostic-testing industry. Together, they hammered out the outline of a national testing strategy. The group—working night and day, using the encrypted platform WhatsApp—emerged with a detailed plan obtained by Vanity Fair.

Rather than have states fight each other for scarce diagnostic tests and limited lab capacity, the plan would have set up a system of national oversight and coordination to surge supplies, allocate test kits, lift regulatory and contractual roadblocks, and establish a widespread virus surveillance system by the fall, to help pinpoint subsequent outbreaks.

But it never happened. Why?

By early April, some who worked on the plan were given the strong impression that it would soon be shared with President Trump and announced by the White House. The plan, though imperfect, was a starting point. Simply working together as a nation on it “would have put us in a fundamentally different place,” said the participant.

But the effort ran headlong into shifting sentiment at the White House. Trusting his vaunted political instincts, President Trump had been downplaying concerns about the virus and spreading misinformation about it—efforts that were soon amplified by Republican elected officials and right-wing media figures. Worried about the stock market and his reelection prospects, Trump also feared that more testing would only lead to higher case counts and more bad publicity. Meanwhile, Dr. Deborah Birx, the White House’s coronavirus response coordinator, was reportedly sharing models with senior staff that optimistically—and erroneously, it would turn out—predicted the virus would soon fade away.

Against that background, the prospect of launching a large-scale national plan was losing favor, said one public health expert in frequent contact with the White House’s official coronavirus task force.

Most troubling of all, perhaps, was a sentiment the expert said a member of Kushner’s team expressed: that because the virus had hit blue states hardest, a national plan was unnecessary and would not make sense politically. “The political folks believed that because it was going to be relegated to Democratic states, that they could blame those governors, and that would be an effective political strategy,” said the expert.

That logic may have swayed Kushner. “It was very clear that Jared was ultimately the decision maker as to what [plan] was going to come out,” the expert said.

[Emphasis added.] This is a mind-blowing article. Please read the whole thing if you haven’t already.

More stories to check out today:

The New York Times: Trump Halts TV Advertising as He Struggles in Polls Against Biden.

Yahoo News: New Yahoo News/YouGov poll: Most Trump voters say they will not accept the 2020 results if Biden wins because of mail-in ballots.

John Avlon at CNN: Trump’s election tweet shows a frightened narcissist afraid of losing.

Politico: Barr Makes It Official—He’s Trump’s New “Fixer”

The Guardian: Portland sees peaceful night of protests following withdrawal of federal agents.

The Washington Post: DHS analyzed protester communications, raising questions about previous statements by senior department official.

Yahoo News: Exclusive: CDC projects U.S. coronavirus death toll could top 180,000 by Aug. 22.

Politico: Pelosi upbraids counterintel chief in private briefing over Russian meddling.

The New York Times: Lobbying Intensifies Among V.P. Candidates as Biden’s Search Nears an End.

Business Insider: Joe Biden’s vice presidential contender Rep. Karen Bass praised Scientology at a 2010 ceremony.

Dana Millbank at The Washington Post: Why would Biden pick a human lightning rod as VP?

That’s it for me. Have a terrific weekend everyone!

 


Thursday Reads

Good Morning!!

Claude Monet, Water Lillies, 1916

Here we go folks. Trump is not just laying the groundwork for martial law; he now wants to delay the election.

Associated Press: Trump floats November election delay – but he can’t do that.

President Donald Trump is for the first time floating a “delay” to the Nov. 3 presidential election, as he makes unsubstantiated allegations that increased mail-in voting will result in fraud.

The dates of presidential elections — the Tuesday after the first Monday in November in every fourth year — are enshrined in federal law and would require an act of Congress to change. The Constitution makes no provisions for a delay to the Jan. 20, 2021 presidential inauguration.

Still, the mere suggestion of the delay was extraordinary in a nation that has held itself up as a beacon to the world for its history of peaceful transfer of power.

Trump tweeted Thursday: “With Universal Mail-In Voting (not Absentee Voting, which is good), 2020 will be the most INACCURATE & FRAUDULENT Election in history. It will be a great embarrassment to the USA. Delay the Election until people can properly, securely and safely vote???”

CNN: Trump floats delaying election despite lack of authority to do so.

President Donald Trump explicitly floated delaying November’s presidential election on Thursday, lending extraordinary voice to persistent concerns that he would seek to circumvent voting in a contest where he currently trails his opponent by double digits.

Trump has no authority to delay an election, and the Constitution gives Congress the power to set the date for voting. Yet Trump’s message provides an opening — long feared by Democrats — that both he and his supporters might refuse to accept the results of the presidential results.

But in his tweet on Thursday morning — coming 96 days before the election and minutes after the federal government reported the worst economic contraction in recorded history — Trump offered the suggestion because he claimed without evidence the contest will be flawed.

Trump has previously sought to stoke fear and lay the groundwork to question the election’s results by promoting the idea that mail-in voting leads to widespread fraud and a “rigged” election. Democrats have warned that his efforts are meant both to suppress voting and to provide a reason to refuse to leave office should he lose.

Dove 1949 Pablo Picasso

Bill Barr appears to be planning an “October surprise.” The Washington Post: Barr says he won’t wait until after election to reveal Durham’s findings. Democrats fear a campaign-altering surprise.

Attorney General William P. Barr reiterated this week that he will not wait until after November’s election to release whatever U.S. Attorney John Durham finds in his examination of the FBI’s 2016 investigation into President Trump’s campaign, raising fears among Democrats that Barr and Durham could upend the presidential race with a late revelation.

Republicans have been eagerly awaiting Durham’s findings — hopeful that the prosecutor Barr handpicked last year to investigate the investigation of possible coordination between Trump’s 2016 campaign and Russia will validate their fierce criticisms of the bureau. Democrats, meanwhile, have worried that the Connecticut U.S. attorney is aiding a political stunt designed to undercut an investigation that dogged Trump’s presidency.

As the election draws near — and much of what Durham is doing remains a mystery — both sides have grown increasingly anxious, with liberals fretting over an October surprise, and Republicans wondering whether Durham’s work could push into the next administration.

Barr has repeatedly and stridently attacked the Russia investigation — saying that what happened to Trump was “one of the greatest travesties in American history” — while hinting vaguely that he is “troubled” by what he knows Durham has found. That has drawn accusations from Democrats and legal analysts that he is inappropriately talking about an ongoing case and prejudging its outcome.

“There’s a real danger, in fact an urgent threat, that anything the Department of Justice does will be timed to aid the president,” Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D- Conn.) said in an interview, adding, “Barr has proven ready, willing and able to distort, distract and deceive.”

I wonder if this news will affect Trump’s attitude about the pandemic?

Cain attended Trump’s hate rally in Tulsa and didn’t socially distance or wear a mask.

The Daily Beast: Herman Cain Dies After Month-Long Battle With Coronavirus.

Herman Cain, the one-time Republican presidential candidate and prominent businessman, has died a month after he was hospitalized with COVID-19.

“We knew when he was first hospitalized with COVID-19 that this was going to be a rough fight,” a post on his website said Thursday. “He had trouble breathing and was taken to the hospital by ambulance. We all prayed that the initial meds they gave him would get his breathing back to normal, but it became clear pretty quickly that he was in for a battle.”

The post said there were “hopeful indicators, including a mere five days ago when doctors told us they thought he would eventually recover, although it wouldn’t be quick.”

Vincent Van Gogh, Water Lillies 1887

However, he “never quite seemed to get to the point where the doctors could advance him to the recovery phase.” [….]

Cain was 74. He had been “pretty healthy” in recent years, the post said. However, he was considered at higher risk for severe coronavirus complications due to his history of cancer.

Whatever semblance of normal business remained on Capitol Hill during the COVID-19 outbreak was upended when U.S. Rep. Louie Gohmert, a Tyler Republican, disclosed Wednesday he tested positive for the COVID-19 virus.

Several other members of Congress similarly tested positive to little fanfare over the last several months. But Gohmert’s diagnosis unleashed a commotion on Capitol Hill unlike anything the nearly two dozen staffers, consultants, lobbyists and members interviewed for this story could recall in recent memory.

Gohmert’s aversion to wearing masks and following other practices intended to mitigate the spread of the virus led many here to believe he might eventually contract the virus and potentially expose his colleagues. For months, members and staffers on the Hill watched with simmering fury as Gohmert and a handful of other Republican lawmakers made their rounds each day without masks.

“I just find it very disturbing that there are still many of my colleagues, especially in [the] Judiciary [Committee], that are just not following the attending physicians’ guidelines,” said U.S. Rep. Sylvia R. Garcia, a Houston Democrat who spent much of Tuesday in the same room as Gohmert in a hearing that included testimony from U.S. Attorney General William Barr.

“We’re going to have to find a way to make it a rule — and perhaps make it a rule with sanctions — because we’re spending too much time in Judiciary either arguing about it or talking about it, and we’re all on edge because they’re not wearing their masks,” she added. “I’m not sure why, but it’s just very disturbing.”

Water Lillies, Claude Monet

Gomert thinks wearing a mask is what made him sick.

“I can’t help but wonder if by keeping a mask on and keeping it in place, if I might have put some … of the virus on the mask and breathed it in. … But the reports of my demise are very premature,” he said. “If somebody feels strongly about everybody should wear a mask, then they shouldn’t be around people that don’t wear masks.”

What a moron.

California and Florida recorded record numbers of coronavirus deaths per day yesterday. CBS News:

Both California and Florida — the two states with the highest number of coronavirus cases in the country — set new records for single-day coronavirus deaths on Wednesday. The heartbreaking milestones come as the U.S. surpasses 150,000 deaths from the virus.

California Governor Gavin Newsom on Wednesday said 197 people in the state died from COVID-19 on Tuesday, the state’s highest in a single day. The state also reported 8,755 new positive cases.

According to Johns Hopkins University, California has the highest number of confirmed cases in the U.S., with at least 473,785. If California were its own country, it would have the fifth-highest number of cases behind only the U.S., Brazil, India and Russia….

Florida’s Department of Health confirmed Wednesday that 216 people died from the virus on Tuesday, a new single-day record for the state just one day after setting its previous record of 186 new deaths. An additional 9,448 people tested positive for COVID-19, bringing the state’s total to at least 451,423 confirmed cases.

The Sunshine State surpassed New York — a former hot spot that reported six new COVID-19 fatalities Wednesday — in total confirmed cases Saturday. Many ICUs across the state are at or nearing capacity.

Picasso, Dove of Peace, 1949

I’ll end with this from The New York Times. John Lewis wrote an essay shortly before he died: Together, You Can Redeem the Soul of Our Nation. Though I am gone, I urge you to answer the highest calling of your heart and stand up for what you truly believe.

While my time here has now come to an end, I want you to know that in the last days and hours of my life you inspired me. You filled me with hope about the next chapter of the great American story when you used your power to make a difference in our society. Millions of people motivated simply by human compassion laid down the burdens of division. Around the country and the world you set aside race, class, age, language and nationality to demand respect for human dignity.

That is why I had to visit Black Lives Matter Plaza in Washington, though I was admitted to the hospital the following day. I just had to see and feel it for myself that, after many years of silent witness, the truth is still marching on.

Emmett Till was my George Floyd. He was my Rayshard Brooks, Sandra Bland and Breonna Taylor. He was 14 when he was killed, and I was only 15 years old at the time. I will never ever forget the moment when it became so clear that he could easily have been me. In those days, fear constrained us like an imaginary prison, and troubling thoughts of potential brutality committed for no understandable reason were the bars.

Though I was surrounded by two loving parents, plenty of brothers, sisters and cousins, their love could not protect me from the unholy oppression waiting just outside that family circle. Unchecked, unrestrained violence and government-sanctioned terror had the power to turn a simple stroll to the store for some Skittles or an innocent morning jog down a lonesome country road into a nightmare. If we are to survive as one unified nation, we must discover what so readily takes root in our hearts that could rob Mother Emanuel Church in South Carolina of her brightest and best, shoot unwitting concertgoers in Las Vegas and choke to death the hopes and dreams of a gifted violinist like Elijah McClain.

Like so many young people today, I was searching for a way out, or some might say a way in, and then I heard the voice of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. on an old radio. He was talking about the philosophy and discipline of nonviolence. He said we are all complicit when we tolerate injustice. He said it is not enough to say it will get better by and by. He said each of us has a moral obligation to stand up, speak up and speak out. When you see something that is not right, you must say something. You must do something. Democracy is not a state. It is an act, and each generation must do its part to help build what we called the Beloved Community, a nation and world society at peace with itself.

Ordinary people with extraordinary vision can redeem the soul of America by getting in what I call good trouble, necessary trouble. Voting and participating in the democratic process are key. The vote is the most powerful nonviolent change agent you have in a democratic society. You must use it because it is not guaranteed. You can lose it.

Head over to the NYT to read the rest.

Take care Sky Dancers, and please give a shout out in the comments if you can. I love you all and don’t know how I could have made through the past four years without your voices.


Tuesday Reads: 97 Days Until November 3

Good Morning!!

Trump personal attorney Bill Bar will testify before the House Judiciary Committee today. The hearing will begin around 10:45. I should watch it, but I’m going to spare myself that maddening experience. Megan Mineiro of Courthouse News will be tweeting about it, so I’ll check her timeline for updates.

Barr has released his opening statement. CNN: Barr calls Russia scandal ‘bogus,’ says he acts independently of Trump in blistering opening statement: Barr calls Russia scandal ‘bogus,’ says he acts independently of Trump in blistering opening statement.

In Barr’s prepared remarks, which were provided to CNN by the Justice Department on Monday, the attorney general says he has acted independently of President Donald Trump in the decisions he’s made in several criminal cases he’s handled.

“Ever since I made it clear that I was going to do everything I could to get to the bottom of the grave abuses involved in the bogus ‘Russiagate’ scandal, many of the Democrats on this Committee have attempted to discredit me by conjuring up a narrative that I am simply the President’s factotum who disposes of criminal cases according to his instructions. Judging from the letter inviting me to this hearing, that appears to be your agenda today,” Barr says in his written remarks.

Barr’s testimony on Tuesday is his first before the House Judiciary Committee, where Democrats have accused him of committing numerous abuses. It comes after he did not appear at a hearing before the panel last year and a March date was postponed. Democrats plan to push Barr on his intervention into the prosecutions of two Trump allies, his move last month to oust a prominent and powerful US attorney, and the Justice Department’s use of force against protesters to Barr’s threats to state and local officials over their handling of coronavirus. A Democratic committee counsel told reporters Monday that Democratic lawmakers will seek to paint Barr as repeatedly overruling career staff to serve the President’s interests first.

Barr will also face questions on his role in the administration’s crackdown on the protests across the country that followed George Floyd’s killing in May, including the decision to forcibly disperse a peaceful demonstration at Lafayette Square in June and the dispatching of federal officers to Portland, Oregon, where rioters have clashed with authorities nightly outside a complex of federal buildings.

In his opening statement, Barr said the President “has not attempted to interfere” in the criminal decisions he’s made, which would include lessening the sentencing recommendation for Trump’s longtime friend Roger Stone and to move to dismiss charges against Trump’s first national security adviser Michael Flynn.

He’s lying, of course. Just Security: “He’s Lying.” New Book Reveals Havoc Bill Barr Wrought Inside Congress.

On Tuesday morning, when Attorney General William Barr finally appears before the House Judiciary Committee, a book will be released covering one of Barr’s most controversial and most consequential actions to date: the attorney general’s grossly misleading summary of the Mueller Report.

The book’s author is Ambassador Norman Eisen, who served as special counsel to the Judiciary Committee during the impeachment hearings of Donald J. Trump. His was not simply a ringside seat; Eisen was a key player. That’s why this behind-the-scenes account sheds new light on the history-shaping impact of Barr’s actions.

“He’s lying.” Chairman of the House Judiciary Committee Jerrold Nadler privately told Eisen and other staff as they tried to make sense of Barr’s 4-page summary without the benefit of the Mueller Report itself. The Chairman “saw right through Barr’s fabrications and was blunt about it,” writes Eisen in the book.

Not everyone else did. Former FBI Director James Comey said in a CNN interview at the time that “Bill Barr, our attorney general, deserves the benefit of the doubt.”

Nadler would be proven correct once the Mueller Report was released, but that would be more than three weeks later—a lifetime in American politics. And it would be almost an exact year before a federal court would weigh in. Judge Reggie B. Walton used part of his opinion in March of this year to call out Barr for the attorney general’s “misleading” and “distorted” account of Mueller’s findings.

That was a harsh assessment with added weight due to its legal significance. As Lisa Gilbert observed at Just Security, “To underscore the significance of Judge Walton’s findings: Barr’s summary of the Mueller Report was not simply a lie told to the media or public. It was a statement Barr submitted to Congress.”

More books about Trump’s and Barr’s corrupt behavior are coming. Andrew Weissmann, one of the top prosecutors in the Mueller investigation has a book coming out on September 29. And now a book by Trump FBI nemesis Peter Strzok has been announced. AP: Ex-FBI agent Strzok due out with book about Trump, Russia.

Former FBI counterintelligence agent Peter Strzok, who played a key role in the Russia investigation but whose pejorative text messages about Donald Trump during the 2016 campaign made him a target of the president’s wrath, is releasing a book on his concerns the president could be compromised.

“Compromised: Counterintelligence and the Threat of Donald J. Trump” is due out Sept. 8, publisher Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Books & Media said in a statement to The Associated Press.

The book will offer an insider’s view on some of the most sensational and politically freighted investigations in modern American history, including into whether the 2016 Trump campaign coordinated with Russia to sway the presidential election. Due out two months before the November election, the book adds to the list of first-person accounts from other senior FBI and Justice Department officials during the Trump era.

“Russia has long regarded the United States as its ‘Main Enemy,’ and I spent decades trying to protect our country from their efforts to weaken and undermine us,” Strzok said Tuesday in a statement accompanying the book announcement.

“In this book,” he added, “I use that background to explain how the elevation by President Trump and his collaborators of Trump’s own personal interests over the interests of the country allowed Putin to succeed beyond Stalin’s wildest dreams, and how the national security implications of Putin’s triumph will persist through our next election and beyond.”

Remember when Trump claimed he was invited to throw out the first pitch at a NY Yankees game and later cancelled the appearance because he supposedly is working so hard to defeat the coronavirus pandemic? It turns out the Yankees never actually invited him. The New York Times: Trump Announced, Then Canceled, a Yankees Pitch. Both Came as a Surprise.

An hour before Dr. Anthony S. Fauci threw the first pitch at the season opener between the New York Yankees and the Washington Nationals, President Trump stood on the briefing room stage at the White House and declared that he, too, had been invited to throw out his own opening pitch.

“Randy Levine is a great friend of mine from the Yankees,” Mr. Trump, referring to the president of the baseball team, told reporters on Thursday as Dr. Fauci was preparing to take the mound. “And he asked me to throw out the first pitch, and I think I’m doing that on Aug. 15 at Yankee Stadium.”

There was one problem: Mr. Trump had not actually been invited on that day by the Yankees, according to one person with knowledge of Mr. Trump’s schedule. His announcement surprised both Yankees officials and the White House staff.

But Mr. Trump had been so annoyed by Dr. Fauci’s turn in the limelight, an official familiar with his reaction said, that he had directed his aides to call Yankees officials and make good on a longtime standing offer from Mr. Levine to throw out an opening pitch. No date was ever finalized.

Trump just can’t stand it when he isn’t the center of attention. He took a break last night from his “hard work” to retweet vile conspiracy theories that were removed by both Facebookand

The Washington Post: Facebook deleted a viral video full of false coronavirus claims. Then Trump shared it on Twitter.

On Monday evening, Facebook scrubbed from its site a viral video showing a group of doctors making misleading and false claims about the coronavirus pandemic after more than 14 million people had watched it. Hours later, President Trump tweeted out multiple clips of the same video to his 84.2 million followers.

Trump shared the video — which claims that face masks and lockdowns are not needed to stop the disease — as he shared 14 tweets over a half-hour span defending the use of hydroxychloroquine, an antimalarial drug that the president has repeatedly promoted, and attacking Anthony S. Fauci, the nation’s top infectious-diseases expert.

Twitter soon followed Facebook and YouTube in removing the videos, deleting several of the tweets that Trump shared, and even adding a note to its trending topics warning about the potential risks of hydroxychloroquine use….

The video Trump shared Monday night showed a collection of doctors speaking in favor of treating covid-19 patients with the antimalarial drug. The clip focused on the testimony of a woman named Stella Immanuel, who received a medical license in Texas last November, according to state records. The doctor did not return a request for comment.

NBC News: Twitter removes tweet highlighted by Trump falsely claiming COVID-19 ‘cure.’

Twitter removed a tweet that had been retweeted by President Donald Trump that falsely said that there was a cure for the coronavirus.

Late Monday night, Trump retweeted the tweet from an account with the handle “@stella_immanuel” that said: “Covid has cure. America wake up.”

Twitter soon after removed the tweet and replaced it with a gray box that says, “This Tweet is no longer available.”

A cure for COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus, doesn’t exist and scientists have been working on developing both a range of treatments as well as vaccines. They and the Trump administration are racing to have a vaccine ready by the end of the year….

Trump also retweeted tweets defending the use of the drug hydroxychloroquine, including one that accused Dr. Anthony Fauci, a member of the White House coronavirus task force, of misleading the public by dismissing the drug.

“Doctor” Immanuel has quite a resume. The Daily Beast: Trump’s New Favorite COVID Doctor Believes in Alien DNA, Demon Sperm, and Hydroxychloroquine.

A Houston doctor who praises hydroxychloroquine and says that face masks aren’t necessary to stop transmission of the highly contagious coronavirus has become a star on the right-wing internet, garnering tens of millions of views on Facebook on Monday alone. Donald Trump Jr. declared the video of Stella Immanuel a “must watch,” while Donald Trump himself retweeted the video.

Before Trump and his supporters embrace Immanuel’s medical expertise, though, they should consider other medical claims Immanuel has made—including those about alien DNA and the physical effects of having sex with witches and demons in your dreams.

Immanuel, a pediatrician and a religious minister, has a history of making bizarre claims about medical topics and other issues. She has often claimed that gynecological problems like cysts and endometriosis are in fact caused by people having sex in their dreams with demons and witches.

She alleges alien DNA is currently used in medical treatments, and that scientists are cooking up a vaccine to prevent people from being religious. And, despite appearing in Washington, D.C. to lobby Congress on Monday, she has said that the government is run in part not by humans but by “reptilians” and other aliens.

Immanuel gave her viral speech on the steps of the Supreme Court at the “White Coat Summit,” a gathering of a handful of doctors who call themselves America’s Frontline Doctors and dispute the medical consensus on the novel coronavirus. The event was organized by the right-wing group Tea Party Patriots, which is backed by wealthy Republican donors.

Read more at the link.

That’s all from me today. What stories are you following?


Lazy Caturday Reads: Person. Woman. Man. Camera. TV.

Stressed out cat

Good Afternoon!!

The images in today’s post are from Art Pro Cats at Tumblr.com.

I know I shouldn’t be distracted by Trump’s insistent bragging about his cognitive ability, but I just can’t help it. Humor is one of the only ways I can stay sane these days. In my last post, which I mistakenly titled “Tuesday Reads,” I posted a video of Trump describing how well he did on the “test” (it’s not really a test). I don’t know if you watched it, but it’s truly bizarre how messed up this man is and how hard the Fox News interviewer works to hide his incredulity. Here’s Sarah Cooper’s take on it:

Yes, this is a distraction from Trump’s attempt to install an authoritarian dictatorship in the U.S., and his failure to protect us from the coronavirus pandemic, but I think I’m still “cognitively there” enough to both question his mental health and keep up with his authoritarian activities and his bumbling on the virus response. And shouldn’t journalists also be dealing with all of these issues? Susan Glasser at The New Yorker:

The fact that Trump is so manifestly, obviously unfit for office may be one of the most striking aspects of his Presidency, but it is one of the hardest things for journalists to write about—or would be, except that he himself keeps bringing it up. That Trump even took the cognitive test suggests that he, or his doctor, was concerned about his mental decline, as the neurologist who created it, Dr. Ziad Nasreddine, told the Washington Post this week. It’s hard to imagine a candidate in full command of his faculties who would make a point of publicly inviting comment on his mental capacity to do the job. Trump, meanwhile, is doing so in the midst of a campaign that he is already losing, at a time when polls show that a majority of voters do not think he has the “mental sharpness” to be President, as a recent ABC News/Washington Post survey put it. (It is notable in and of itself that the pollsters are even asking this question, which is hardly a routine query. Can you imagine a survey asking voters this question about Barack Obama and Mitt Romney? Or Bill Clinton or Al Gore or the George Bushes?)

Trump’s niece, Mary Trump, is out with a best-selling new book, which claims that, in addition to whatever age-related impairment he may be suffering from, the President has an undiagnosed learning disability that hampers his processing and absorption of information—another elephant in the room that is impossible to ignore when Trump visibly struggles to read written remarks, as he did several times this week. “I don’t think he’s fit for office,” Trump’s former national-security adviser, John Bolton, said while on book tour last month. “I don’t think he has the competence to carry out the job.”

Beyond these ever-harder-to-ignore questions about Trump’s basic fitness to handle the complexities of the Presidency, there is an entire public debate over his mental health. A preening narcissist in the best of times, Trump’s lifelong self-absorption, lack of empathy, chronic untruthfulness, and apparent inability to distinguish right from wrong have led hundreds of psychiatrists to break with their profession’s rule against diagnosis without examination and call Trump mentally ill.

More about Trump’s obsession with proving he’s not cognitively impaired from Jonathan Lemire at the Associated Press: Cognitive Test. Trump. Biden. Campaign. Flashpoint.

It doesn’t quite have the ring of “Morning in America” and “I Like Ike.”

But the phrase “Person. Woman. Man. Camera. TV.” is getting an unlikely moment in the spotlight as President Donald Trump has taken a detour into the politics of dementia three months before the election.

Trump, 74, attempted to demonstrate his mental fitness by reciting five words — in order, importantly — over and over in a television interview broadcast Wednesday night. The president said that collection of nouns, or ones like them, was part of a cognitive test he had aced while declaring that his likely Democratic opponent, 77-year-old Joe Biden, could not do the same.

Lemire talked to an expert about the test that Trump supposedly “aced.”:

Painting by David Martiashvili

The MoCa “is a screening test,” Galvin said. “It’s not a diagnostic test. And more importantly, it’s not an IQ test. It doesn’t tell how smart someone is. It’s designed to be a relatively easy test because what you want to do is pick up people who have problems or possible problems.”

The last questions are not the hardest for most people, and they are usually naming the day of the week, date, month, year and where the person being tested is, Galvin said. The test does not get harder as it goes along but measures different parts of cognition, like memory, attention, spatial awareness and language. Additionally, the words the president cited would not be grouped together because they are all in some way related to one another, he said.

And the real concern would be if a subject did not do well on the test.

“I think he’s thinking of it like some sort of IQ test or SAT test, something along those lines. But it’s not anything like that. It’s just basic,” said Dr. Raymond Turner, professor of neurology and director of Georgetown University’s Memory Disorders Program. “It’s kind of a low bar to jump over. It’s not necessarily something to brag about unless you are worried about decline or something.”

I don’t know about you, but I think having a “president” who acts like a confused child is a serious issue and I’m glad journalists are finally writing about it. Anyway, on to other news.

Here’s the latest on the pandemic from Reuters: U.S. records 2,600 new coronavirus cases every hour as total surpasses 4 million.

U.S. coronavirus cases topped 4 million on Thursday, with over 2,600 new cases every hour on average, the highest rate in the world, according to a Reuters tally.

Infections in the United States have rapidly accelerated since the first case was detected on Jan. 21. It took the country 98 days to reach 1 million cases. It took another 43 days to reach 2 million and then 27 days to reach 3 million. It has only taken 16 days to reach 4 million at a rate of 43 new cases a minute….

Of the 20 countries with the biggest outbreak, the United States ranks second for cases per capita, at 120 infections per 10,000 people, only exceeded by Chile.

With over 143,000 deaths, or 4.4 fatalities per 10,000 people, the United States ranks sixth globally for the highest deaths per capita. It is exceeded by the United Kingdom, Spain, Italy, Chile and France.

Globally, the rate of new infections shows no sign of slowing, with the disease accelerating the fastest in the United States and South America, according to the Reuters tally, based on official reports.

It’s breathtaking, and Trump is responsible for all this sickness and death. It didn’t have to be this way.

Meanwhile, the rich are getting richer on the backs of sick and dying Americans. The New York Times: Corporate Insiders Pocket $1 Billion in Rush for Coronavirus Vaccine.

On June 26, a small South San Francisco company called Vaxart made a surprise announcement: A coronavirus vaccine it was working on had been selected by the U.S. government to be part of Operation Warp Speed, the flagship federal initiative to quickly develop drugs to combat Covid-19.

Vaxart’s shares soared. Company insiders, who weeks earlier had received stock options worth a few million dollars, saw the value of those awards increase sixfold. And a hedge fund that partly controlled the company walked away with more than $200 million in instant profits.

The race is on to develop a coronavirus vaccine, and some companies and investors are betting that the winners stand to earn vast profits from selling hundreds of millions — or even billions — of doses to a desperate public.

“Hello” Acrylic painting on Canvas by Victoria Coleman

Across the pharmaceutical and medical industries, senior executives and board members are capitalizing on that dynamic.

They are making millions of dollars after announcing positive developments, including support from the government, in their efforts to fight Covid-19. After such announcements, insiders from at least 11 companies — most of them smaller firms whose fortunes often hinge on the success or failure of a single drug — have sold shares worth well over $1 billion since March, according to figures compiled for The New York Times by Equilar, a data provider.

In some cases, company insiders are profiting from regularly scheduled compensation or automatic stock trades. But in other situations, senior officials appear to be pouncing on opportunities to cash out while their stock prices are sky high. And some companies have awarded stock options to executives shortly before market-moving announcements about their vaccine progress.

Read more at the NYT link.

The battle between Federal agents and protesters continues in Portland. The New York Times: Federal Agents Push Into Portland Streets, Stretching Limits of Their Authority.

PORTLAND, Ore. — After flooding the streets around the federal courthouse in Portland with tear gas during Friday’s early morning hours, dozens of federal officers in camouflage and tactical gear stood in formation around the front of the building.

Then, as one protester blared a soundtrack of “The Imperial March,” the officers started advancing. Through the acrid haze, they continued to fire flash grenades and welt-inducing marble-size balls filled with caustic chemicals. They moved down Main Street and continued up the hill, where one of the agents announced over a loudspeaker: “This is an unlawful assembly.”

By the time the security forces halted their advance, the federal courthouse they had been sent to protect was out of sight — two blocks behind them.

The aggressive incursion of federal officers into Portland has been stretching the legal limits of federal law enforcement, as agents with batons and riot gear range deep into the streets of a city whose leadership has made it clear they are not welcome.

“I think it’s absolutely improper,” Oregon’s attorney general, Ellen Rosenblum, said in an interview on Friday. “It’s absolutely beyond their authority.”

The state lost its bid on Friday for a restraining order against four federal agencies on the grounds that the state attorney general lacked standing, but several other challenges are still making their way through the courts.

I’ll end with this sobering piece from opinion columnist Roger Cohen at The New York Times: American Catastrophe Through German Eyes.

PARIS — No people has found the American lurch toward authoritarianism under President Trump more alarming than the Germans. For postwar Germany, the United States was savior, protector and liberal democratic model. Now, Germans, in shock, speak of the “American catastrophe.”

A recent cover of the weekly magazine Der Spiegel portrays Trump in the Oval Office holding a lighted match, with a country ablaze visible through his window. The headline: “Der Feuerteufel,” or, literally, “the Fire Devil.”

Germans have a particular relationship to fire. The Reichstag fire of 1933 enabled Hitler and the Nazis to scrap the fragile Weimar democracy that had brought them to power. Hitler’s murderous fantasies could now become reality. War, Auschwitz and the German catastrophe followed….

Michael Steinberg, a professor of history at Brown University and the former president of the American Academy in Berlin, wrote to me this week:

“The American catastrophe seems to get worse every day, but the events in Portland have particularly alarmed me as a kind of strategic experiment for fascism. The playbook from the German fall of democracy in 1933 seems well in place, including rogue military factions, the destabilization of cities, etc.”

Steinberg continued, “The basic comparison involves racism as a political strategy: a racist imaginary of a pure homeland, with cities demonized as places of decadence.”

Trump provokes outrage in a cascade designed to blunt alarm. He deadens reactions through volume and repetition. But something about the recent use of unmarked cars and camouflage-clad federal agents without clear identifying insignia detaining protesters shattered any inclination to shrug.

From the deployment of those federal units in Portland, Oregon’s largest city, where protesters have been demanding racial justice and police accountability, it’s not a huge leap to the use of paramilitaries (like the German Freikorps in the 1920s) to buttress a “Law and Order” campaign. The Freikorps battled communists. Today, Trump claims to battle “anarchists,” “terrorists” and violent leftists. It’s the leitmotif of his quest for a second term.

Take care of yourselves Sky Dancers, and enjoy the weekend as best you can.