Lazy Caturday Reads

Good Morning!!

NOTE: Today’s illustrations are from the Baroque Bohemian Cats Tarot Deck.

Have you heard the news?

Trump “aced” a cognitive “test” that is typically given to people who may have dementia or other cognitive deficits. He is very proud of his performance and claims the doctors couldn’t believe how well he did.

Maggie Haberman at The New York Times: Trump Says He ‘Aced’ Cognitive Test, but White House Won’t Release Details.

President Trump on Thursday volunteered to Sean Hannity, the Fox News host, that he “very recently” took a test at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center measuring his mental acuity and “aced” it, but the White House would not say when he took it or why.

Mr. Trump boasted that his success on the test surprised his doctors as he continued his attempt to make a campaign issue of whether his presumptive Democratic opponent, former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr., was mentally fit.

“I actually took one when I — very recently, when I — when I was — the radical left were saying, is he all there? Is he all there? And I proved I was all there, because I got — I aced it. I aced the test,” Mr. Trump, 74, said in his interview with Mr. Hannity.

He went on to say that Mr. Biden should also take the test.

“And he should take the same exact test, a very standard test. I took it at Walter Reed Medical Center in front of doctors,” Mr. Trump said. “And they were very surprised. They said, that’s an unbelievable thing. Rarely does anybody do what you just did. But he should take that same test.”

Mr. Trump described taking the test after Mr. Hannity mentioned that Mr. Biden had said he had taken several cognitive tests. The president insisted that Mr. Biden must have meant tests he took for the coronavirus and that his rival “couldn’t pass” a cognitive test.

What kind of “test” did Trump take? Mediaite: What’s on the Cognitive Test That Trump Brags He ‘Aced?’ Drawing a Cube, Correctly Identifying a Camel, and More!

[T]he Montreal Cognitive Assessment (MOCA), the test that Trump first took as president in 2018 according to then-White House physician Dr. Ronny Jackson.

At a now-infamous press conference, Dr. Jackson told reporters that Trump had scored a “30 over 30” on the MOCA, and that the test was not “clinically indicated,” but Trump insisted on taking it.

The test is used to screen for mild cognitive issues, and consists of 8 sections with a total of 12 tasks, successful completion of which are awarded points. Those tasks are:

— Connecting lettered and numbered dots in order– Drawing a cube

— Drawing a clock (These tasks are worth up to five points)

— Correctly identifying pictures of a lion, a rhinoceros, and a camel (up to 3 points)

— Recalling a list of five words (no points)

— Reading a list of numbers (2 points)

— Reading a list of letters (1 point)

— Counting backwards from 100 by sevens (3 points)

— Repeating the phrases “I only know that John is the one to help today” and “The cat always
hid under the couch when dogs were in the room. (2 points)

— Explaining the similarities between objects like “train – bicycle” and “watch – ruler”
(2 points)

— Recalling the five words from earlier in the test, in any order (5 points)

— Knowing where you are, and what the date, time, and day of the week are. (6 points!)

According to Dr. Jackson, Trump is the first president to take the MOCA test, which means there’s no way of knowing whether President Barack Obama could play connect-the-dots or recognize a camel. But according to Trump, he’s done it at least twice now.

Sample page:

One more bit of humiliating news for Trump from NBC News:

Concern over turnout was factor in postponing Trump rally, GOP advisers say.

Well before the call was made to postpone President Donald Trump’s Saturday re-election rally in New Hampshire, the warning lights were flashing red.

There were no signs of the typical throngs of supporters camped out days in advance for a good spot; the Republican governor said he would skip it, advising anyone at high risk to stay home over coronavirus concerns; fears of a repeat of Tulsa’s disappointing turnout weighed heavily; and then came the stormy weather reports, which could have further stifled attendance.

By the time the campaign announced that the Portsmouth event was off, citing “safety concerns” over a tropical storm barreling toward the Northeast on Friday afternoon, people close to the campaign said fears over low turnout also motivated the decision to scrap the event.

The coastal town is not currently expected to be hit directly by the storm, but the decision to reschedule over bad weather is a “convenient excuse” for the Trump 2020 team, one outside adviser told NBC News.

Unfortunately there actually is some serious news and comment to check out today.

The Washington Post Editorial Board: Trump’s commutation of Roger Stone’s sentence is an unforgivable betrayal of his office.

THERE ARE no doubt thousands of people in federal prison who deserved a presidential commutation more than Roger Stone. But after President Trump’s intervention on Friday, Mr. Stone will serve none of his prison sentence. The president may have had the power to help his longtime friend. But that does not make it any less a perversion of justice — indeed, it is one of the most nauseating instances of corrupt government favoritism the United States has ever seen.

There is no doubt about Mr. Stone’s guilt. During the 2016 presidential campaign, he tried to play intermediary between WikiLeaks, which had become a front for the Kremlin, and the Trump campaign, which reaped the benefits of WikiLeaks’s publication of stolen Democratic emails. A jury concluded that Mr. Stone obstructed Congress, lied to investigators and tampered with a witness in the investigations that followed the 2016 race — “covering up for the president,” as the judge in his case noted.

Though Attorney General William P. Barr moved to reduce Mr. Stone’s sentencing recommendation after conviction, even he called the case against Mr. Stone a “righteous” prosecution. He was sentenced to 40 months in prison and was due to surrender on Tuesday — thus prompting Mr. Trump’s Friday night action.

As Mr. Trump discussed granting clemency to his criminal friend, Mr. Barr publicly defended the sentence, perhaps to prevent a mutiny among Justice Department staff who signed up because they believe in the rule of law, not the arbitrary rule of an unusually petty man in the White House.

Now, the department’s career investigators and prosecutors must absorb yet another insult to their profession from political leaders who abuse their trust. We can only sympathize with their impossible position.

The Washington Post: Coronavirus update: U.S. death toll rises as new infections reach record levels.

The daily coronavirus death toll in the United States increased this week after months of decline, as new infections soared to record levels and hospitals in the South and West faced a crush of patients.

More than 4,200 deaths were reported nationally in the past seven days, and experts warn that the trend could continue to get worse. Texas, Arizona and South Carolina have all seen their death toll rise by more than 100 percent in the past four weeks. Four more states — Mississippi, Tennessee, California and Louisiana — have seen at least a 20 percent jump in that time span.

Here are some significant developments:

The United States reported its largest single-day caseload increase — more than 67,000 new infections — on Friday.

More than 131,000 people have died of coronavirus in the United States since the pandemic began, and at more than 3.1 million confirmed cases have been reported.

Republican governors who have opposed or even blocked orders mandating mask-wearing are watching from the sidelines as local officials impose strict measures to contain the spread.

More details at the link.

In Texas, Gov. Abbot is finally coming around to taking the virus seriously, not that it’s too late. The Texas Tribune: Gov. Greg Abbott warns if spread of COVID-19 doesn’t slow, “the next step would have to be a lockdown”

With Texas continuing to break records for new coronavirus deaths and hospitalizations this week, Gov. Greg Abbott reiterated Friday afternoon that things will continue to get worse. And if people keep flouting his new statewide mask mandate, he said, the next step could be another economic lockdown.

“Things will get worse, and let me explain why,” he told KLBK TV in Lubbock. “The deaths that we’re seeing announced today and yesterday — which are now over 100 — those are people who likely contracted COVID-19 in late May.

“The worst is yet to come as we work our way through that massive increase in people testing positive.”

Texans will also likely see an increase in cases next week, Abbott said, and people abiding by his face mask requirement might be the only thing standing between businesses remaining open and another shutdown.

“The public needs to understand this was a very tough decision for me to make,” Abbott told KLBK of his face mask mandate. “I made clear that I made this tough decision for one reason: It was our last best effort to slow the spread of COVID-19. If we do not slow the spread of COVID-19 … the next step would have to be a lockdown.”

Trump won’t like what Angela Merkel had to say about the pandemic. CNN: ‘You cannot fight the pandemic with lies’ — Angela Merkel knows how to insert a dagger.

Angela Merkel may not scream down the phone at President Donald Trump — but she knows how to insert a dagger.

Trump, as well as Brazil’s Jair Bolsonaro and Russia’s Vladimir Putin, must have felt his ears burning when the German Chancellor demolished their approaches to the coronavirus in a speech Thursday. “As we are experiencing firsthand, you cannot fight the pandemic with lies and disinformation any more than you can fight it with hate or incitement to hatred,” Merkel said. “The limits of populism and denial of basic truths are being laid bare.”

Merkel and Trump were destined to clash. A former scientist, she is cool, cautious, self-contained, fact-oriented and quiet despite her toughness. Trump is … none of those things. Late in 2016, the outgoing US President, who Merkel sometimes referred to as “Liebe (dear) Barack,” flew to Berlin on a mission — to convince her to run for another term. Once Trump was in the Oval Office, Obama reasoned, Merkel would need to lead the liberal international order.

One more from investigative journalist and novelist Jonathan Greenberg at The Washington Post: Twelve signs Trump would try to run a fascist dictatorship in a second term.

I first reported on Trump in 1982, when he conned me into putting him on the Forbes 400 rich list. That Trump was just a younger version of this Trump, and now I worry that what happened in June was a mere prelude; he’s certainly capable of a far worse Reichstag-fire-like event that would allow him to steal the 2020 election. And if he does win a second term, legitimately or not, his words and actions of the past four years provide 12 indicators that he would seek to replace our democracy with a fascist dictatorship.

Here are the twelve signs–head over to the WaPo to read more details.

1. Trump uses military power and federal law enforcement to suppress peaceful political protest.

2. Trump persistently lies about voter fraud, setting the stage for him to use emergency powers to seize control of the election or challenge the results if he loses.

3. Trump has repeatedly suggested that he might remain in office after a second term and has offered reason to doubt he’d leave peacefully after this first term.

4. Trump appears to believe he has the power to outlaw speech critical of him, and he calls the free press “the enemy of the people.”

5. With Fox News promoting Trump’s lies as truth, the president controls one of the most powerful propaganda machines ever created.

6. Trump believes that he has the power to do what he wants, regardless of Congress or the courts.

7. Trump acts as if he owns our government and can fire any official who defends the law.

8. Trump uses federal prosecutorial powers to investigate his opponents and anyone who dares scrutinize him or his allies for the many crimes they may have committed.

9. Trump viciously attacks his critics and has publicly implied that the Ukraine whistleblower should be hanged for treason.

10. Trump has messianic delusions that are supported with religious fervor by millions of his supporters.

11. Trump subscribes to a doctrine of genetic superiority and incites racial hatred to scapegoat immigrants and gain power.

12. Trump finds common ground with the world’s most ruthless dictators while denigrating America’s democratic allies.

Have a great weekend, Sky Dancers! What stories have you been following?


TGIF Reads

Image

Charles Burchfield, “July Sunlight Pouring Down”, 1952, Watercolor on paper

Good Day

Sky Dancers!

Today’s art is from Charles Burchfield whose ethereal water colors of nature have always had a calming effect on me.  Water color is my favorite medium and I love painting landscapes and old buildings.  I always find his play of light to be fascinating. That’s hard to do with water color. You get one chance at it.

According to Burchfield’s friend and colleague Edward Hopper, “The work of Charles Burchfield is most decidedly founded, not on art, but on life, and the life that he knows and loves best.”

Those times were not simpler for most folks. There are always plagues and famines and wars.  However, this is the first time we look at Americana from the viewpoint of living through a nightmare of a leader who is not the least bit suited for the job a minority of the population shove him into.  I cannot wait to be rid of him one way or another and whatever gets him out of our lives quickly.

Polls continue to show the displeasure is not limited to us.  This is from Politico: “Poll shows Trump’s coronavirus approval at all-time low. The president remains reluctant to acknowledge the disease’s threat as he keeps pushing to restart the U.S. economy.”

Support for President Donald Trump’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic has hit an all-time low, according to a new survey, with a similarly substantial majority of Americans also disapproving of his response to widespread racial unrest.

An ABC News/Ipsos poll released Friday reports that a record 67 percent of respondents now disapprove of “the way Donald Trump is handling the response to the coronavirus,” while only 33 percent approve — the widest gulf in public sentiment since ABC News and Ipsos started surveying on the pandemic in March.

Dawn of Spring, ca. 1960s. Watercolor, charcoal, and white chalk on joined paper mounted on board,

It’s still disheartening that fully 1/3 of those respondents appear to be adherents to the kind of white christian nationalism that brands the Trumpist regime and supporters into the KKK corner of life.   What’s also disheartening is that the kind of blatantly fictional conspiracy theories and fairy tales embraced by these people seems to be still selling in some corners that send representatives to Congress.  This is from Media Matters: “QAnon may be coming to Congress, and journalists need to be ready”. This article describes the odd views of ““Gun-toting” restaurateur Lauren Boebert who beat an incumbent Republican in the Colorado primary.

In many ways,  Boebert and other QAnon-following candidates have been normalized in the press. FiveThirtyEight published an article about the likelihood that Republican women will increase their representation in Congress with the November elections, and used a photo of Boebert. Her fringe beliefs are not mentioned anywhere in the article or accompanying tweet.

When The New York Times wrote about Boebert’s victory, it made a passing reference to her support of QAnon, saying in the lead that she’d “spoken approvingly of the pro-Trump conspiracy theory QAnon.” It wasn’t until the 11th paragraph that the movement got mentioned again, and even that was framed in the context of how “Democrats immediately went on the attack” for her support of QAnon.

Media Matters’ Alex Kaplan has reported extensively on the QAnon movement, and he has identified two concepts that journalists need to understand when reporting on this movement. The first has to do with QAnon-supporting candidates and the need to probe their actual beliefs. “Some of these candidates seem to see QAnon and its supporters as an explicit political constituency to appeal to for support, and are trying to use existing QAnon infrastructure to do so, such as using QAnon hashtags (particularly #WWG1WGA) and going on QAnon YouTube channels,” he says. “So they seem to be treating a far-right conspiracy theory group tied to violence and flagged by the FBI as some normal voting block when it’s clearly not.”

The second issue is that reporters often seem unaware of, or aren’t reporting on, the actual number of QAnon-supporting candidates who are progressing in their races. Kaplan says, “I keep seeing just a few specific candidates mentioned over and over regarding those who made it out of primaries or to primary runoffs (Lauren Boebert, Marjorie Taylor Greene, Jo Rae Perkins), when it’s way more than that; it’s at least 14 candidates that made it out of primaries to the ballot in November or to primary runoffs (and that’s leaving out independent/write-in candidates).”

 

Image

Charles Burchfield, “Purple Vetch and Buttercups”, 1959, Watercolor over charcoal,

 

This shows you exactly how far Trump thinks he can go unchecked.  Via CNN: “Trump implies he’s ready to grant clemency to Roger Stone”. 

Trump is widely expected to pardon or commute Stone’s sentence, according to at least half a dozen sources close to the President.

>Asked by Fox News host Sean Hannity whether he’s considered a pardon or commutation for Stone, Trump said during a phone interview, “I am always thinking.”

“You’ll be watching like everyone else in this case,” he said.

In another interview, with radio host Howie Carr, Trump decried Stone’s treatment at the hands of law enforcement and said he may grant his clemency plea.

“He was framed. He was treated horrible. He was treated so badly,” Trump said.

Probably the most heinous thing Trump is doing right now is turning America’s school children into political props for his culture war.  This is an Op Ed by Michelle Goldberg writing at the NYT: “Trump Threatens to Turn Pandemic Schooling Into a Culture War. The president might sabotage parents’ best hopes for getting their kids back to school.”

Instead, Donald Trump has approached the extraordinarily complex challenge of educating children during a pandemic just as he’s approached most other matters of governing: with bullying, bluster and propaganda.

While doing nothing to curb the wildfire spread of the coronavirus, he has demanded that schools reopen and threatened to cut off funding for those that don’t. On Wednesday, he tweeted that the guidelines for reopening schools from his own Centers for Disease Control and Prevention were “very tough & expensive,” adding, “I will be meeting with them!!!” Mike Pence then suggested that the guidelines would be revised. On Thursday the agency’s director, Dr. Robert Redfield, said they wouldn’t be, but later, seeming to give into pressure, said the guidelines should be seen as recommendations, not requirements.

Also on Thursday, Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos gestured toward a plan of coronavirus-inspired school choice that would punish public schools that don’t fully reopen. Without offering details, she said families could take the federal money spent at these schools and use it elsewhere. She’s long wanted to give public money to private schools; perhaps she thinks this coronavirus has given her the chance.

 

 

 

Check out New York Magazine’s Olivia Nuzzi’s piece “The Unburdened Believer”.  There’s a lot of creepy here.

Trump’s central case for reelection — the strong economy — has evaporated faster than the tear gas the administration sprayed on peaceful demonstrators outside the White House in the aftermath of the killing of George Floyd, an unarmed Black man, by a white police officer in Minneapolis on Memorial Day. The coronavirus pandemic has killed more than 130,000 Americans and counting, and the shutdowns have left millions out of work. Trump publicly worked through his grief in phases: denial, semi-acceptance, promotion of bad medical advice, denial once again, then promotion of overly rosy recovery projections. Meanwhile, he has responded to the nationwide civil unrest that erupted after Floyd’s killing by circulating far-right conspiracies, calling for more violence, defending iconic losers of the Confederacy, sharing a video in which one of his supporters shouted “White power!,” and attempting halfheartedly to cast Biden as a far-left extremist.

Trump has struggled to offer his campaign a message behind which to organize. For Trump, this would never mean formulating a case to prove that voters are better off now than they were four years ago or something similarly normal. It would mean coming up with an effective way to bully his opponent. In the 2016 Republican primary, this meant Lyin’ Ted and Little Marco and Low Energy Jeb(!). In the general, it meant Crooked Hillary and the Fake News media vs. the Deplorables. In 2020, “Sleepy Joe” hasn’t quite caught on. Sean Spicer, the former White House press secretary who now hosts some kind of low-rent faux Fox News program on a D-list far-right cable channel, recently talked about this with Dick Morris. The issue with Trump’s “sleepy” message is that sleepy might sound pretty appealing to some voters right now, fatigued by the chaos of the Trump years. On Fox News, Ari Fleischer, a White House spokesman under George W. Bush, and Matt Schlapp, a Trump-campaign surrogate, had a conversation about the issue, too. They agreed that “sleepy” wasn’t working, that the president needed to go back to the drawing board and focus on something else. Kellyanne Conway has suggested that the campaign’s focus on Biden as senile and losing it might put off older voters. These allies of the president are offering campaign-strategy notes in public, on television, because that’s how you get through to him.

And so in walks Hogan Gidley, the new spokesman for the reelection effort — a job that recently belonged to Kayleigh McEnany, who in April became Gidley’s boss when she was named White House press secretary. In a normal White House, the position would’ve gone to Gidley. The ambition of any deputy, after all, is to replace the principal under which the deputy serves. Gidley has served under three press secretaries: Sarah Huckabee Sanders, Stephanie Grisham, and now McEnany. (So much for the patriarchy!)

Gidley, now 43, arrived at the White House as a supporting character in the volatile second season. A onetime broadcast-journalism major at Ole Miss and a student of political media, he ended up reporting on Mike Huckabee for a TV station in Little Rock, Arkansas, before defecting to the dark side to join the then-governor’s staff. “He’s got professional integrity. He will never do something that is wrong or immoral,” Huckabee told New York. “But, at the same time, he’s a person that, if he takes a check from someone in a job, he’s gonna be loyal to that person.” In the next breath, Huckabee addressed the question that hangs over any human shield for this president. “If it ever gets to where he can’t, then maybe he’ll find something else. But he’s not gonna go out and burn his bridges.”

When Mike’s daughter, Sarah Huckabee Sanders, replaced Sean Spicer as press secretary, she brought along her “big brother” Hogan as a special assistant to the president. In the very West Wing that inspired a tell-all book called Team of Vipers, he’s distinguished himself as “a golden retriever,” “a great teammate,” and “a really sweet person,” in terms that were repeated by more than half a dozen current and former White House staffers who spoke to New York. Across the board, but never on the record, Gidley’s colleagues described him as a nonthreatening force for good, for making things run a tiny bit smoother in what can charitably be described as the very definition of a hostile work environment — a happy-to-be-here functionary who keeps things light and in perspective. However, these qualities can sometimes read more like haplessness than virtue.

Sun and Rocks, 1918-50. Watercolor and gouache on paper,

I would really like a nice quiet weekend but I imagine I’m going to start hearing the sound of perpetual sirens.  Any one who knows me heard me say I am not going anywhere until at least two weeks after 4th of July because I want to see what Memorial Day and the 4th drag into town with all this reopening stupidity.  Well,  it reignited our Covid -19 upward trend.  So, ask me again when we get a few weeks after Labor Day.  I’m staying my fat ass home.

This is from NPR News Baton Rouge.

Louisiana is now one of the leading states in the nation for most new coronavirus cases.

It ranks third in the U.S. this week for most new cases per capita on a rolling seven-day average, according to new data from Harvard’s T.H. Chan School of Public Health. It’s a trajectory that could spark another shutdown.

Louisiana’s jump to the top of the list for most new coronavirus cases cannot be explained by increased testing. Hospitalizations grew by more than 50 percent over the last two weeks, and the percentage of positive tests in the state has also been rising. On Thursday the latter rate hit 12 percent positive — over the 10 percent threshold set by the state for safe opening in Phase 2. The 7-day rolling average is 8.7 percent, according to AH Datalyitcs.

But that could already be too high. The World Health Organization’s recommended goal is 5 percent. A high positivity rate indicates that the virus’s spread is too great for contact tracing to work — and that’s assuming contact tracing is actually being broadly embraced by the public, which hasn’t been the case in Louisiana.

Dr. Vin Gupta, an assistant professor of pulmonary and critical care medicine at the University of Washington, is among the medical experts warning that contact tracing is now useless across much of the U.S. because the virus has already spread too widely.

On Wednesday, Gov. John Bel Edwards said the state has “lost all the gains made in June” and is “now seeing some numbers that rival our peak back in April.”

And while Texas, Florida and Arizona are seeing higher increases in hospitalizations, Dr. Thomas Tsai, a surgeon and assistant professor at Harvard’s School of Public Health, said it could be a matter of time.

“My worry is that Louisiana may just be a few weeks behind Texas and Arizona and Florida, unless more concerted efforts are taken,” he said.

It’s unclear whether there’s public appetite for that — or even to abide by the guidelines already in place. Health officials say that as the state reopened — too many people have ignored public health guidelines, particularly around wearing masks and keeping distance. Bars in particular have become a key source of outbreaks.

“Frankly, it’s been really, really frustrating. Because just a few weeks ago, we were in a really, pretty good place,” said Suan Hassig, an infectious disease epidemiologist at Tulane University.

“The curve is going to bounce back up if we don’t keep jumping on it and stomping it down.”

I’m no epidemiologist but frankly,  I knew opening the damned bars would send us into a spike.  The mayor backed off a little and put some size limits but we still have indoor eating,  Short term Rentals, and open bars although you can’t drink at the bar.  They’ve put them outside which is highly unpleasant in a neighbor even at the best of times.

And we have this too look forward to!  Climate change hoax again … right?

 

So, I hope it’s going better where you are.  Keep letting us know you’re safe!  If you’d like to see the Whitney Showing of Burchfield: Heat Waves in a Swamp please go to this page and enjoy  a teaching led tour!.

What’s on your reading and blogging list today?

 

 


Thursday Open Thread: SCOTUS Decisions on Trump Financial Records and Other News

Claude Monet, “Cliff Walk at Pourville,” 1882

Good Morning!!

BREAKING News: As I write this, we are waiting for a momentous decision from the Supreme Court on whether Trump must reveal his tax returns and business financees. MSNBC just announced that the court has decided by a 7-2 vote that Trump is not immune from a subpoena for his records from the grand jury in New York City. According to Pete Williams, the effect of this is that the fight goes back to the state court where Trump can continue to fight the release of the information. Williams says that in both cases–the one in New York and the one from Congress–Trump has no immunity from these subpoenas. Trump’s taxes must be turned over to the grand jury immediately, but that doesn’t necessarily mean we’ll get to see them. Now Trump has to go back to court and make the same kinds of arguments that any regular person could make. Read the full decision here.

Pete Williams now reporting on the second decision. SCOTUS again sends it back to lower courts with guidance on how Congress can get the financial records. It would require a specific legislative purpose. The upshot is that Congress won’t be getting the tax returns any time soon. Williams says neither case will be resolved before the election.

Brace for a Trump tantrum on Twitter.

Now back to my original post.

Another day dawns in an American in crisis. Yesterday the U.S. reported 60,000 new confirmed cases of Covid-19 and passed a new milestone of 3,000,000 total diagnosed cases. Of course the numbers are actually much higher, because of our inadequate testing and contact tracing. PPE shortages are popping up again and the federal government is doing nothing about it. Unemployment is still shockingly high and about a third of U.S. households missed rent or mortgage payments in July.

Edward Henry Potthast, Brighton Beach

It didn’t have to be this way and the reason for all these failures is Donald Trump. At USA Today, Ira Shapiro writes: As COVID cases top 3 million, it’s past time to end the catastrophic Trump presidency.

Our country is living through a tragedy of unthinkable magnitude.

COVID-19 has hammered the world, but America — with 4.25% of the world’s population — has suffered a quarter of its cases and fatalities….

It is no secret why. America’s tragedy results from the largest failure of presidential leadership in our history. Donald Trump threw out the pandemic response playbooks left by his predecessors; weakened the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention; refused to acknowledge the seriousness of the virus; promised its early disappearance; fantasized about miracle cures; and then, after a series of uninformed television briefings, chose to declare victory and pronounce the problem over.

He defied the warnings of public health experts and showed contempt for social distancing and wearing masks. He has created misunderstandings and sowed division by encouraging Americans to rebel against the reasonable public health measures put in place by their governors and mayors. He’s trying to end insurance coverage for millions, and on Tuesday, as America set a record for new daily cases, he began to officially withdraw the United States from the World Health Organization.

Shapiro says we can’t wait six months to be rid of “an increasingly unhinged” Trump. It’s obvious that Republicans in the Senate will do nothing to inhibit Trump’s insanity, so he argues that Americas governors should call for Trump to resign, though he admits this is unlikely.

How much worse does it have to get before those with the power to do something about this tragedy decide to act?

Of course it’s not just Trump’s response to the virus that is damaging our country. His kowtowing to Russia is horrifying. Just Security has the latest: Trump Pushed CIA to Give Intelligence to Kremlin, While Taking No Action Against Russia Arming Taliban.

President Trump’s actions in the face of the Russia-Taliban arms program likely signaled weak US resolve in the eyes of Putin and Russian military intelligence.

Three dimensions of Trump’s response are described in detail in this article, based on interviews with several former Trump administration officials who spoke to Just Security on the record.

First, President Trump decided not to confront Putin about supplying arms to the terrorist group. Second, during the very times in which U.S. military officials publicly raised concerns about the program’s threat to U.S. forces, Trump undercut them. He embraced Putin, overtly and repeatedly, including at the historic summit in Helsinki. Third, behind the scenes, Trump directed the CIA to share intelligence information on counterterrorism with the Kremlin despite no discernible reward, former intelligence officials who served in the Trump administration told Just Security….

The failure to push back on the weapons program signaled to Putin that he could press further, said Michael Carpenter, Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense with responsibility for Russia in the Obama administration. “When Western powers fail to push back, the Kremlin keeps prodding and probing — until it meets resistance, or until the costs for President Putin and his regime exceed the perceived benefits,” Carpenter wrote in Just Security on Friday.

What we now know is that President Trump not only failed to push back against Russia’s arming the terrorist group. That extraordinary act of omission was coupled with the president’s effort to push the CIA to cooperate with Russia by providing U.S. intelligence to the Kremlin on counterterrorism operations despite getting nothing in return, according to former officials.

Read the rest at the Just Security.

Pablo Picasso – Two Women Running on the Beach

More from The Daily Beast: CIA Kept Giving Intel to Russia, Got Nothing Back.

It is not unusual for the agency to share intelligence, particularly intelligence on imminent threats, even with hostile intelligence agencies. Intelligence agencies maintain liaison relationships in part to ensure their operations don’t escalate into open conflict. Pompeo, as well as his predecessor in the Obama administration, John Brennan, have both acknowledged working with Russia on shared counterterrorism goals.

But after the Russians’ 2016 election interference, and then the 2018 Sergei Skripal poisoning, the counterterrorism-sharing effort appeared egregious to some in the intelligence community. That’s a renewed concern given recent and unconfirmed intelligence that the Russians paid Taliban elements to kill U.S. troops in Afghanistan.

The order to share intelligence was a standing directive, Polymeropoulos said, encouraging the intelligence agencies to share whenever possible. “You roll your eyes, you shrug, but you gotta do this,” he said. He did not believe the intelligence-sharing harmed U.S. interests; instead, it appeared naive. Pushing back on it would not have been appropriate: “It would feed into the ‘Deep State’ narrative” of security services going rogue to shank Trump, he said.

But agency leaders, both Pompeo and his successor, current CIA Director Gina Haspel, knew of internal dissatisfaction. “Leadership was well aware of the unanimity in view that this was a waste of time,” Polymeropoulos said, “but it doesn’t matter, because it’s [administration] policy. We had to still go through with it.”

Click the link for more details.

I’m going to post this right now for anyone who wants to discuss the SCOTUS decisions. I’ll add more stories on this as they become available.


Sunday Reads: Draft dodgers don’t get to salute!

This is such an important statement.

With that in mind…

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So overwhelmed with grief who is in the fucking mood? Reposted from @ashleighchubbybunny @jacenopenny ⁣ ⁣ ⁣ [Image description: Tweet saying, “Everybody’s different, but personally, I’d be EMBARRASSED to celebrate America two days after the body of a US soldier was found dismembered and bludgeoned for speaking up about being sexually assaulted & not to mention the literal other human remains found in the process????”]

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“L.A. Liberty” (1992) by Pacita Abad. Abad's ‘Immigrant Experience’ series was produced in the early 1990s when the artist was living in Washington D.C. These works combined Abad's Social Realist inclinations with a new trapunto technique that she was developing – presenting complex and kaleidoscopic depictions of the immigrant experience. Every stitch and painted surface evokes the overwhelming strangeness of a new place. Within Abad's paintings are narratives of personal aspiration, shared suffering and common humanity that have gained renewed poignancy. Presented by @SilverlensGalleries as part of the Woven section at Frieze London 2019. #PacitaAbad #FriezeLondon

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Today we’re reflecting on what true reproductive freedom means. It means committing to addressing systemic racism. It means dismantling oppressive systems. And it means eradicating racial disparities in healthcare. We won’t have freedom for 𝘢𝘯𝘺 body until there’s freedom for 𝗲𝘃𝗲𝗿𝘆 body. None of us can be free until all of us are free.

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If You Know You Know… Art by #AyandaMabulu #BlackMadonna #art #artistsoninstagram #blm #blacklivesmatter

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Damn it. Now I want bagels of truth.

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At the same time that the United States declared “liberty” as an inalienable right, hundreds of thousands of enslaved people were being denied that right. Racial hierarchy (e.g. white supremacy) has existed in this country since before its inception and remains deeply ingrained in our society. Today, take the time to realize the depth of this racial oppression. Instead of celebrating our history, learn about it and reflect on actions you can take to dismantle systemic racism

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Did y’all see Shaun King try and take credit for that image…

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Today we remember the mission that piqued our curiosities and drove our perseverance to pursue further exploration of the Red Planet. 🚀 Our Sojourner rover landed on July 4, 1997, after hitching a ride aboard the Mars Pathfinder mission. Its innovative design became the template for future missions. The rover, named after civil rights pioneer Sojourner Truth, outlived its design life 12 times. This panoramic view of Pathfinder's Ares Vallis landing site shows Sojourner rover in the distance. Image Credit: NASA/JPL #countdowntomars #perseverance #pathfinder #curiosityrover #opportunityrover #marsrover #theredplanet #NASA

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And, this draft dodging bone spurs asshole needs to stop acting like he’s a war hero or some other kind of tiny prick wannabe big shot:

What an insult to service men and women…the same military he allows Putin to put a bounty on…it is disgusting.


Lazy Caturday Reads

Betty Grable 1933

Good Morning!!

Trump gave a horrifying hate- and lie-filled speech last night at his super-spreader party at Mount Rushmore. His face was bright red and he was sweating profusely as he slurred and mispronounced numerous words as he struggled to read the Stephen Miller’s creation from the teleprompter.

The New York Times: Trump Uses Mount Rushmore Speech to Deliver Divisive Culture War Message.

President Trump delivered a dark and divisive speech on Friday that cast his struggling effort to win a second term as a battle against a “new far-left fascism” seeking to wipe out the nation’s values and history.

With the coronavirus pandemic raging and his campaign faltering in the polls, his appearance amounted to a fiery reboot of his re-election effort, using the holiday and an official presidential address to mount a full-on culture war against a straw-man version of the left that he portrayed as inciting mayhem and moving the country toward totalitarianism.

Eartha Kitt 1953

“Our nation is witnessing a merciless campaign to wipe out our history, defame our heroes, erase our values and indoctrinate our children,” Mr. Trump said, addressing a packed crowd of sign-waving supporters, few of whom wore masks. “Angry mobs are trying to tear down statues of our founders, deface our most sacred memorials and unleash a wave of violent crime in our cities.”

Mr. Trump barely mentioned the frightening resurgence of the pandemic, even as the country surpassed 53,000 new cases and health officials across the nation urged Americans to scale back their Fourth of July plans.

Instead, appealing unabashedly to his base with ominous language and imagery, he railed against what he described as a dangerous “cancel culture” intent on toppling monuments and framed himself as a strong leader who would protect the Second Amendment, law enforcement and the country’s heritage.

The scene at Mount Rushmore was the latest sign of how Mr. Trump appears, by design or default, increasingly disconnected from the intense concern among Americans about the health crisis gripping the country. More than just a partisan rally, it underscored the extent to which Mr. Trump is appealing to a subset of Americans to carry him to a second term by changing the subject and appealing to fear and division.

Trump’s weird obsession with saving Confederate statues was front and center in the speech as he made this strange announcement:

During the speech, the president announced he was signing an executive order to establish the National Garden of American Heroes, a vast outdoor park that will feature the statues of the “greatest Americans to ever live.”

I guess that will be the new incarnation of the “beautiful wall” that never gets built.

The Daily Beast: Trump Uses Mount Rushmore Event to Sic Supporters on ‘Evil’ Protesters.

President Donald Trump devoted his Fourth of July weekend speech at Mt. Rushmore in South Dakota on Friday night not to uniting the country for Independence Day, but to trying to own the libs who take issue with the Confederate statues he sees as vital to American culture.

Elizabeth Taylor 1961

“There is a new far-left fascism that demands absolute allegiance,” Trump proclaimed to supporters who came out to see him in spite of the recent surge in coronavirus cases in the United States. “This left-wing cultural revolution is designed to overthrow the American Revolution,” the president said, before repeatedly going on to compare himself and his supporters to Patriots during the American Revolution—and protesters to members of the British Army.

Speaking as if preparing his political supporters for battle, he said, “Just as patriots did in centuries past, the American people will stand in their way, and we will win, and win quickly.”

“Their goal is not a better America. Their goal is to end America,” he said of the “radical left” who he claimed is intent on “indoctrinating our children.”

“We will not be tyrannized, we will not be demeaned, we will not be intimidated by bad, evil people,” he said.

It was non-stop projection.

Covid-19 is getting closer to Trump. During the event it was revealed that Donald Trump Jr.’s girlfriend has contracted the virus and Done Jr. will self-quarantine. CNN: Kimberly Guilfoyle — Donald Trump Jr.’s girlfriend and top Trump campaign official — tests positive for coronavirus.

Kimberly Guilfoyle — the girlfriend of Donald Trump Jr. and a top fundraiser for the Trump campaign — has tested positive for coronavirus, according to a top official for the committee she leads.

“After testing positive, Kimberly was immediately isolated to limit any exposure,” said Sergio Gor, chief of staff for the Trump Victory Finance Committee. “She’s doing well, and will be retested to ensure the diagnosis is correct since she’s asymptomatic but as a precaution will cancel all upcoming events. Donald Trump Jr was tested negative, but as a precaution is also self isolating and is canceling all public events.” [….]

Mia Farrow 1965

Guilfoyle was not with the President and Donald Trump Jr. has so far tested negative, the person familiar with the matter said. That source said Guilfoyle had not had recent contact with the President, but she was in Tulsa, Oklahoma, and was backstage for his rally there and, was also at his event in Phoenix….Guilfoyle and Trump Jr. had been in the upper Plains region hosting high-dollar fundraisers for several days, people familiar with the matter said.

Guilfoyle has “been with a lot of the campaign donors” in recent days, one source familiar with the matter said.

Billed as a “Mountain West Ranch Retreat,” one event occurred in Gallatin Gateway, Montana, from Tuesday until Thursday, according to one of the people.
Another event was billed as the “Rapid City Roundup Retreat” in Rapid City, South Dakota, from Thursday to Friday.

The people said Guilfoyle was not seen wearing a mask during the events.

Yesterday NBC reported on the latest White House strategy for not dealing with the coronavirus pandemic: ‘We need to live with it’: White House readies new message for the nation on coronavirus.

After several months of mixed messages on the coronavirus pandemic, the White House is settling on a new one: Learn to live with it.

Administration officials are planning to intensify what they hope is a sharper, and less conflicting, message of the pandemic next week, according to senior administration officials, after struggling to offer clear directives amid a crippling surge in cases across the country. On Thursday, the United States reported more than 55,000 new cases of coronavirus and infection rates were hitting new records in multiple states.

Lauren Bacall 1930s

At the crux of the message, officials said, is a recognition by the White House that the virus is not going away any time soon — and will be around through the November election.

As a result, President Donald Trump’s top advisers plan to argue, the country must figure out how to press forward despite it. Therapeutic drugs will be showcased as a key component for doing that and the White House will increasingly emphasize the relatively low risk most Americans have of dying from the virus, officials said.

Low risk of dying? Not for the elderly or people of color. I guess that’s the point though.

Business Insider has more reporting on the administration’s efforts to keep Americans in the dark about the pandemic: The White House repeatedly denied the CDC permission to brief the public on the coronavirus, report says.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) was denied permission by the White House to brief the public about the coronavirus crisis, a source at the agency told Yahoo News.

As the coronavirus swept through the US, it was the White House coronavirus task force led by Vice President Mike Pence, and fronted with increasing frequency by President Donald Trump, that took the lead in briefing the public about the crisis.

Earlier in the year the CDC had given frequent briefings on the pandemic. But then it fell abruptly silent, with no public briefings held between March 9 and June 12.

A CDC spokesperson, speaking anonymously to Yahoo, confirmed that the agency “slowly but surely took a backseat” to the coronavirus task force.

“We continued to ask for approval” from the White House to hold briefings, the CDC spokesperson told Yahoo News. “We were not given approval. Finally, we just stopped asking.”

More stories to check out, links only:

Catherine Deneuve and Françoise Dorléac 1960

CNN: 2 Texas counties urge residents to shelter in place as hospitals reach capacity.

CNN: Coronavirus is surging in Florida — and so is anxiety over Trump’s chances with senior voters.

CBS News: 105 University of Washington students in frat houses test positive for coronavirus.

Tucson.com: As COVID-19 explodes in Arizona, Sonora to close border to nonessential travel.

CNN: At least 8 Secret Service agents stuck in Phoenix with coronavirus after Pence trip.

The New York Times: New Administration Memo Seeks to Foster Doubts About Suspected Russian Bounties.

Foreign Policy: White House to Interview Defense Officials in Perceived Loyalty Test.

USA Today: Trump will host a scaled-back July 4th party at White House as coronavirus cases spike.

The Washington Post: The big factor holding back the U.S. economic recovery: Child care.

The Washington Post: Facebook is working to persuade advertisers to abandon their boycott. So far, they aren’t impressed.

I hope you all enjoy your Independence Day and the rest !f the long weekend!