Thunderous Thursday Reads: Bolton From The Blue

Good Morning!!

John Bolton’s book is scheduled for release next Tuesday, but you don’t have to buy it. The best parts are already being published everywhere, despite Trump’s and Barr’s efforts to stop publication.

Bolton was interviewed by ABC’s Martha Raddatz, and the interview will be shown on Sunday in an hour-long special beginning at 9PM. ABC News: Bolton: Trump’s not ‘fit for office,’ doesn’t have ‘competence to carry out the job’

President Donald Trump is not “fit for office” and doesn’t have “the competence to carry out the job,” his former national security adviser John Bolton told ABC News in an exclusive interview.

In an explosive new book about his 17 months at the White House, Bolton characterizes Trump as “stunningly uninformed,” ignorant of basic facts and easily manipulated by foreign adversaries.

But his assessment that Trump is not “fit” to be president is among the most stunning indictments of a sitting president by one of their own top advisers in American history.

“There really isn’t any guiding principle that I was able to discern other than what’s good for Donald Trump’s reelection,” Bolton told ABC News chief global affairs correspondent Martha Raddatz.

“He was so focused on the reelection that longer-term considerations fell by the wayside,” he added.

The New York Times: Bolton Says Trump Impeachment Inquiry Missed Other Troubling Episodes.

John R. Bolton, the former national security adviser, says in his new book that the House in its impeachment inquiry should have investigated President Trump not just for pressuring Ukraine but for a variety of instances when he sought to use trade negotiations and criminal investigations to further his political interests.

Mr. Bolton describes several episodes where the president expressed a willingness to halt criminal investigations “to, in effect, give personal favors to dictators he liked,” citing cases involving major firms in China and Turkey. “The pattern looked like obstruction of justice as a way of life, which we couldn’t accept,” Mr. Bolton writes, saying that he reported his concerns to Attorney General William P. Barr.

Mr. Bolton also adds a striking new accusation by describing how Mr. Trump overtly linked tariff talks with China to his own political fortunes by asking President Xi Jinping to buy American agricultural products to help him win farm states in this year’s election. Mr. Trump, he writes, was “pleading with Xi to ensure he’d win.” Mr. Bolton said that Mr. Trump “stressed the importance of farmers, and increased Chinese purchases of soybeans and wheat in the electoral outcome.”

A bit more:

Mr. Bolton’s volume is the first tell-all memoir by such a high-ranking official who participated in major foreign policy events and has a lifetime of conservative credentials. It is a withering portrait of a president ignorant of even basic facts about the world, susceptible to transparent flattery by authoritarian leaders manipulating him and prone to false statements, foul-mouthed eruptions and snap decisions that aides try to manage or reverse.

Mr. Trump did not seem to know, for example, that Britain was a nuclear power and asked if Finland was a part of Russia, Mr. Bolton writes. The president never tired of assailing allied leaders and came closer to withdrawing the United States from NATO than previously known. He said it would be “cool” to invade Venezuela.

At times, Mr. Trump seemed to almost mimic the authoritarian leaders he appeared to admire. “These people should be executed,” Mr. Trump once said of journalists. “They are scumbags.” When Mr. Xi explained why he was building concentration camps in China, the book says, Mr. Trump “said that Xi should go ahead with building the camps, which he thought was exactly the right thing to do.” He repeatedly badgered Mr. Barr to prosecute former Secretary of State John F. Kerry for talking with Iran in what he insisted was a violation of the Logan Act.

There’s plenty more at the NYT link.

The Guardian: Trump was willing to halt criminal investigations as ‘favor’ to dictators, Bolton book says.

Donald Trump was willing to halt criminal investigations to “give personal favors to dictators he liked”, according to a new book written by his former national security adviser John Bolton….

Bolton alleges that Trump pleaded with China’s President Xi Jinping to help him get re-elected by buying more US agricultural products, according to accounts of his forthcoming memoir.

In his pursuit of a good personal relationship with Xi, Trump is described as brushing aside human rights issues, even providing encouragement to the communist leader to continue to build concentration camps for China’s Muslim Uighur population….

According to excerpts published by the Wall Street Journal, New York Times and the Washington Post, Bolton describes a pattern of corruption in which Trump routinely attempts to use the leverage of US power on other countries to his own personal ends.

“The pattern looked like obstruction of justice as a way of life, which we couldn’t accept,” Bolton writes, adding that he took his concerns to the attorney general, William Barr.

Axios: Bolton’s Revenge.

Highlights from a copy obtained by the N.Y. Times’ Peter Baker:

Impeachment: Bolton says Democrats failed by focusing the probe on Ukraine rather than on other cases involving China and Turkey.

Gossip: Bolton alleges Secretary of State Mike Pompeo slipped him a note calling Trump “full of shit” during a 2018 meeting with Kim Jong-un.

Trump gaffes: Bolton alleges Trump didn’t know the U.K. was a nuclear power and claims Trump asked if Finland was part of Russia.

Journalists: Bolton alleges Trump privately told him reporters deserve prison. “These people should be executed. They are scumbags.”

Bolton’s own words, via an excerpt published in the WSJ:

“Trump then, stunningly, turned the conversation to the coming U.S. presidential election, alluding to China’s economic capability and pleading with Xi to ensure he’d win. He stressed the importance of farmers and increased Chinese purchases of soybeans and wheat in the electoral outcome.”

“I would print Trump’s exact words, but the government’s prepublication review process has decided otherwise.”

“At the opening dinner of the Osaka G-20 meeting in June 2019, with only interpreters present, Xi had explained to Trump why he was basically building concentration camps in Xinjiang.

According to our interpreter, Trump said that Xi should go ahead with building the camps, which Trump thought was exactly the right thing to do.”

“One of Trump’s favorite comparisons was to point to the tip of one of his Sharpies and say, ‘This is Taiwan,’ then point to the historic Resolute desk in the Oval Office and say, ‘This is China.’”

CNN has a list of stunning revelations from the book, including this one:

Trump wanted Attorney General Bill Barr to make CNN reporters ‘serve time in jail.’

When news leaked about a hush-hush meeting on Afghanistan at Trump’s Bedminster resort, Trump complained that CNN had reported the summit was taking place, Bolton writes. The President told White House counsel Pat Cipollone to call Attorney General Bill Barr about his desire to “arrest the reporters, force them to serve time in jail, and then demand they disclose their sources.”

More highlights from the book:

The Guardian: John Bolton’s bombshell Trump book: eight of its most stunning claims.

The New York Times: Five Takeaways From John Bolton’s Memoir.

Book Reviews

Jennifer Szalai at The New York Times: In ‘The Room Where It Happened,’ John Bolton Dumps His Notes and Smites His Enemies.

David Ignatius at The Washington Post: John Bolton’s book is full of startling revelations he should have told us sooner.

More Reactions

A powerful commentary by Michael Tomasky at The Daily Beast: John Bolton Shows That All the President’s Men Are Cowards.

The book is 592 pages, and it’s already #1 on Amazon even before it’s out next week. Trump sued to block publication, with Bill Barr inevitably doing his hopeless dirty work there. He will lose. The book will be published. And the news is already here.

Americans will read or at least hear about how Trump has given the law the finger virtually every day of his presidency, didn’t know that England is a nuclear power, thought invading Venezuela would be “cool” and that Finland was part of Russia. And that Trump was, in Mike Pompeo’s eyes, “so full of shit.” And it’s great that we’re learning this now, five months before the American people render their verdict on this fraud.

On the other hand… why are we just learning this now?

Because John Bolton didn’t have the guts to stand up and say these things when it might have mattered more. Or maybe it was less a matter of guts than cash. His agent and publisher surely leaned on him to save it for the book, and well, it’s #1, so in that sense they were right, but what is that sense, exactly?

It’s the sense in which, in a contest between market and polity, the race isn’t even close. The market will win that race every time in today’s America. The president of the United States has been destroying this country, eroding its decent values every single day of his presidency, until matters have finally reached the point that, through his malevolence and stupidity and lack of empathy, he is actually and literally responsible for the deaths of tens of thousands of Americans.

Bolton had a chance to speak up before all those people died from Trump’s selfish incompetence. Of course he couldn’t have known that was coming. But with Trump, something bad was coming. It was inevitable. Maybe with a different roll of the dice, war with Iran. The man is a lunatic, completely in over his head in this job, mentally unstable, and an instrument of national grief just waiting to happen every day. It’s been obvious to everyone for years.

Bill Kristol at The Bulwark: John Bolton Tells the Truth.

I’m not particularly surprised by John Bolton’s revelations. (I should make clear that neither of the individuals described above was Bolton.)

But whether or not one is surprised by what Bolton reports, no one should really doubt the truth of it. I have no doubt that Bolton is telling the truth. Not simply because of my two, as it were, generally corroborating sources. But because I’ve known John Bolton a long time, and John Bolton is an honest man. He tells the truth.

Full stop.

John Bolton is neither a liar nor a fantasist. John Bolton may not be the epitome of warmth, humor, or even kindness. But he is honest.

Nor is he the type to get confused. He is a meticulous note-taker. When we read Bolton’s book, we will almost certainly be reading the nearest thing to the truth about the Trump administration that we’re likely to get before historians have a chance to get inside the administration’s archives.

Here is what is relevant for Republican elites going forward: They have known John Bolton for a long time, too. Almost every Republican elected official, every influential Washington conservative, and many Republican donors know John Bolton. And they, too, know he’s honest.

So what do they have to say about a president who blesses Chinese concentration camps, pleads for re-election help from an enemy dictator, and routinely subordinates the national interest to personal and political considerations?

How can they continue to support this president?

I’m sure they will find ways. But those who continue to support Trump need to accept that they’re supporting a man who has done what Bolton says Trump has done. And those who support a Trump second term need to accept that they are supporting four more years in office for a president who has done what Bolton says Trump has done.

And those who continue to keep silent are keeping silent from us, their fellow citizens, their judgment of a president who has done what Bolton says Trump has done.

Enough. Bolton has spoken. Surely there are others who will now dare to disturb the sound of silence.

We’ll have to wait and see if Bolton’s revelations will hurt Trump in the run-up to the election. What do you think? What other stories are on your radar today?


Tuesday Reads: Coronavirus Deaths Mount as Evidence of Trump’s Pandemic Cover-up Emerges

Good Morning!!

U.S. deaths from Covid-19 in the past few months will soon surpass our casualties from the Vietnam war. Now Trump has upped his prediction of the total death toll to 70,000.

Real Clear Politics: Reporter to Trump: If A President Loses More Americans To Coronavirus Than Vietnam War, Do They Deserve To Be Reelected?

QUESTION: If an American president loses more Americans over the course of six weeks than died in the entirety of the Vietnam war does he deserve to be reelected?

TRUMP: So, yeah, we have lost a lot of people but if you look at what original projections were 2.2 million we are probably heading to 60,000, 70,000–it’s far too many. One person is too many for this and I think we made a lot of really good decisions. The big decision was closing the border or doing the band people coming in from China obviously other than American citizens which had to come in, can’t say you can’t come in, you can’t come back to your country. I think we have made a lot of good decisions. I think that Mike Pence and the task force have done a fantastic job. I think that everybody working on the ventilators you see what we have done there, have done unbelievable. The press doesn’t talk about ventilators anymore. They just don’t want to talk about them and that’s okay but they reason they don’t want to talk–that was the subject that nobody would get off of. They don’t want to talk about them.

We are in the same position on testing. We are lapping the world on testing and the world is coming to us as I said they are coming to us saying what are you doing, how do you do it and we are helping them. So, no, I think we have done a great job and one person I will say this, one person is too many. Thank you all very much. Thank you. Thank you.

As you can see, Trump didn’t answer the question, but he did increase his prediction for total deaths. Of course we’ll probably pass 70,000 in a couple more weeks, and then he’ll make excuses for that.

Michael Tomasky at The Daily Beast: America Is About to Blow Past the 60,000 Coronavirus Deaths Trump Said Would Be a Win.

As for where we may be headed, Michael Osterholm, an infectious disease expert who’s been warning about pandemics for more than a decade, told CNN’s Peter Bergen that he thinks the ultimate tally in the United States over the next 18 months or so will be around 800,000. You’re thinking, “Ah, no way”? Go read his reasoning and see what you think then.

Meanwhile, the Congressional Budget Office released a report last week making a few predictions on the economy. CBO sees a real GDP of -39.6 percent in the second quarter of this year (April, May, and June). Then it forecasts a good rebound, 23.5 percent in Q3 and 10.5 percent in Q4, but that still leaves us at -5.6 percent for the year. At the worst of the Great Recession, in 2009, it was -2.5 percent. Unemployment will be above 15 percent into the fall and above 10 percent all of this year—and next.

We’re in deep trouble, and the idiot President of the United States is telling people to drink Lysol, and idiot politicians like Brian Kemp and other governors are trying to make sure that Osterholm becomes a prophet, and idiot protesters are out there acting like common-sense public safety is a conspiracy against liberty, and idiot reactionaries like the Dorr brothers of Iowa are financing these protests because, well, you know, the libs suck. These Dorrs have launched Facebook pages in at least five states that abcnews.com calls a “hotbed of misinformation.”

It’s idiocy top to bottom, but it’s more than that, and it’s important that we understand this and never lose sight of this. It’s ideology.

Tomasky writes that Trump’s non-stop lying is not an anomaly among Republicans.

With a few laudable exceptions, Republicans lie about virtually everything. They have to—to advance their goals, which are both insanely unpopular (more tax cuts for rich people!) and completely fantastical (those tax cuts will lift all boats), they have to try to create a reality that is the opposite of real reality and then spend billions getting people to believe it.

They’ve been doing it for decades. That’s why Trump isn’t some accident. It was inevitable that eventually they’d nominate and fawn over someone who lies every time he opens his mouth.

Trump, though, it’s gotten to a scale I never thought we’d see in the United States. Trumpism is an ideology in which the only thing that matters, the only thing that is true, is what the leader believes and says at any given moment. Which is surreal, of course, because virtually everything he says is untrue. But objective truth is a lib trap. And the vast majority of Republicans endorse this.

Read more at the The Daily Beast.

More stories are coming out about Trump ignoring or covering up the seriousness of the building pandemic.

The Washington Post: President’s intelligence briefing book repeatedly cited virus threat.

U.S. intelligence agencies issued warnings about the novel coronavirus in more than a dozen classified briefings prepared for President Trump in January and February, months during which he continued to play down the threat, according to current and former U.S. officials.

The repeated warnings were conveyed in issues of the President’s Daily Brief, a sensitive report that is produced before dawn each day and designed to call the president’s attention to the most significant global developments and security threats.

For weeks, the PDB — as the report is known — traced the virus’s spread around the globe, made clear that China was suppressing information about the contagion’s transmissibility and lethal toll, and raised the prospect of dire political and economic consequences.

But the alarms appear to have failed to register with the president, who routinely skips reading the PDB and has at times shown little patience for even the oral summary he takes two or three times per week, according to the officials, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss classified material.

The advisories being relayed by U.S. spy agencies were part of a broader collection of worrisome signals that came during a period now regarded by many public health officials and other experts as a squandered opportunity to contain the outbreak.

Ryan Goodman and How Trump and His Team Covered Up the Coronavirus in Five Days.

…Over the last five days of February, President Trump and senior officials….engaged in a cover-up.

A look at this window of time gives insight into how several members of the president’s team were willing to manipulate Americans even when so many lives were at stake.

The recent reports that the president wanted to fire the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s top expert on viral respiratory diseases, Dr. Nancy Messonnier, during this period helps put the pieces of the puzzle together….

In a conference call with reporters on the final Tuesday of the month, Dr. Messonnier spoke frankly. “We want to make sure the American public is prepared,” she said, then put it in personal terms by saying what she told her children that morning: “We as a family ought to be preparing for significant disruption to our lives.”

At the time, senior officials knew the coronavirus was an extreme threat to Americans. Thanks to information streaming in from U.S. intelligence agencies for months, officials reportedly believed that a “cataclysmic” disease could infect 100 million Americans and discussed lockdown plans. The warnings were given to Mr. Trump in his daily brief by the intelligence community; in calls from Alex Azar, the secretary of health; and in memos from his economic adviser Peter Navarro.

The same day that Dr. Messonnier spoke, the military’s National Center for Medical Intelligence raised the warning level inside the government to WATCHCON1, concluding that the coronavirus was imminently likely to develop into a full-blown pandemic.

But the White House did not want the American public to know.

Read the rest at the NYT.

Trump has dominated his so-called “coronavirus briefings” and given experts minimal time to speak. Now he is reportedly planning to silence them even further, according Eric Lutz at Vanity Fair: Trump In Talks to Sideline Fauci, Birx During Coronavirus Briefings.

With the coronavirus crisis still spinning out of control in the United States, Donald Trump appears to be training the White House’s focus away from public health and toward reigniting the economy. According to Axios, Trump is expected to sideline public health officials Anthony Fauci and Deborah Birx, shifting attention to business “success stories” and to governors and local leaders who heed the president’s calls to reopen their states. “[Fauci and Birx] will continue,” a White House official told the outlet, “but will take a back seat to the forward-looking, ‘what’s next’ message.”

Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany acknowledged Monday on Fox News that briefings later this week “may have a different look,” though declined to outline specific changes. Fauci and other public health experts have cautioned against attempting a premature return to normal, warning that social distancing guidelines cannot safely be lifted without increased testing that the Trump administration has so far failed to adequately provide. “You don’t make the timeline,” Fauci said late last month, as Trump first began floating plans to reopen the country. “The virus makes the timeline.” But the president, concerned the plunging economy and escalating unemployment due to the pandemic could stand in the way of his reelection, has insisted that the government has provided states with sufficient resources to combat the deadly virus and openly grown impatient with the social distancing measures that have only just begun to show promise in slowing its spread. “Remember,” Trump tweeted Saturday, “the Cure can’t be worse than the problem itself.”

Having wasted months downplaying the COVID threat, he has desperately grasped for a miracle cure that could make the problem go away without him needing to do any real work—first by promoting the unproven off-label use of an anti-malarial to treat the disease, then by ludicrously suggesting toxic cleaning products and/or “very powerful” light could be injected into the human body as a possible cure. Those bizarre remarks drew widespread mockery, condemnation, and disbelief, as well as warnings from supporters that his rambling performances at the daily coronavirus briefings are hurting him politically. “It’s not helping him,” one adviser said recently.

Evidence is also emerging that deaths from the coronavirus may be far more than the official totals.

The Washington Post: U.S. deaths soared in early weeks of pandemic, far exceeding number attributed to covid-19.

In the early weeks of the coronavirus epidemic, the United States recorded an estimated 15,400 excess deaths, nearly two times as many as were publicly attributed to covid-19 at the time, according to an analysis of federal data conducted for The Washington Post by a research team led by the Yale School of Public Health.

The excess deaths — the number beyond what would normally be expected for that time of year — occurred during March and through April 4, a time when 8,128 coronavirus deaths were reported.

The excess deaths are not necessarily attributable directly to covid-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus. They could include people who died because of the epidemic but not from the disease, such as those who were afraid to seek medical treatment for unrelated illnesses, as well as some number of deaths that are part of the ordinary variation in the death rate. The count is also affected by increases or decreases in other categories of deaths, such as suicides, homicides and motor vehicle accidents.

But in any pandemic, higher-than-normal mortality is a starting point for scientists seeking to understand the full impact of the disease.

The Yale analysis for the first time estimates excess deaths, both nationally and in each state, in those five weeks. Relying on data that the National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS) released Friday, the analysis paints a picture of unusually high mortality that will come into sharper view as more data becomes available.

Keep on staying home as much as possible and take care of yourselves physically, emotionally, and spiritually. We will get through this together Sky Dancers!


Tuesday Reads: Living In A Failed State

Good Morning

More than 40,000 Americans have died of Covid-19, but the so-called “president” is doing nothing to stop the carnage. He refuses to help states with desperately need medical equipment and tests to identify carriers. He has made it abundantly clear that we are on our own. Money and supplies are being doled out selectively–red states get the most and blue states the least. He is using FEMA and the FBI to try to stop shipments of equipment to hospitals in blue states. It actually looks like Trump is hoping those of us who did not and won’t vote for him just get sick and die.

The U.S. is no longer the country I grew up in. We are looking more like post-Soviet Russia. George Packer describes the situation we find ourselves in: We Are Living in a Failed State. The coronavirus didn’t break America. It revealed what was already broken.

When the virus came here, it found a country with serious underlying conditions, and it exploited them ruthlessly. Chronic ills—a corrupt political class, a sclerotic bureaucracy, a heartless economy, a divided and distracted public—had gone untreated for years. We had learned to live, uncomfortably, with the symptoms. It took the scale and intimacy of a pandemic to expose their severity—to shock Americans with the recognition that we are in the high-risk category.

The crisis demanded a response that was swift, rational, and collective. The United States reacted instead like Pakistan or Belarus—like a country with shoddy infrastructure and a dysfunctional government whose leaders were too corrupt or stupid to head off mass suffering. The administration squandered two irretrievable months to prepare. From the president came willful blindness, scapegoating, boasts, and lies. From his mouthpieces, conspiracy theories and miracle cures. A few senators and corporate executives acted quickly—not to prevent the coming disaster, but to profit from it. When a government doctor tried to warn the public of the danger, the White House took the mic and politicized the message.

Every morning in the endless month of March, Americans woke up to find themselves citizens of a failed state. With no national plan—no coherent instructions at all—families, schools, and offices were left to decide on their own whether to shut down and take shelter. When test kits, masks, gowns, and ventilators were found to be in desperately short supply, governors pleaded for them from the White House, which stalled, then called on private enterprise, which couldn’t deliver. States and cities were forced into bidding wars that left them prey to price gouging and corporate profiteering. Civilians took out their sewing machines to try to keep ill-equipped hospital workers healthy and their patients alive. Russia, Taiwan, and the United Nations sent humanitarian aid to the world’s richest power—a beggar nation in utter chaos.

Donald Trump saw the crisis almost entirely in personal and political terms. Fearing for his reelection, he declared the coronavirus pandemic a war, and himself a wartime president. But the leader he brings to mind is Marshal Philippe Pétain, the French general who, in 1940, signed an armistice with Germany after its rout of French defenses, then formed the pro-Nazi Vichy regime. Like Pétain, Trump collaborated with the invader and abandoned his country to a prolonged disaster. And, like France in 1940, America in 2020 has stunned itself with a collapse that’s larger and deeper than one miserable leader. Some future autopsy of the pandemic might be called Strange Defeat, after the historian and Resistance fighter Marc Bloch’s contemporaneous study of the fall of France. Despite countless examples around the U.S. of individual courage and sacrifice, the failure is national. And it should force a question that most Americans have never had to ask: Do we trust our leaders and one another enough to summon a collective response to a mortal threat? Are we still capable of self-government?

Head on over to The Atlantic to read the rest.

What’s next for this country? Can we survive the ravages of this pandemic? Over the weekend, The New York Times published an important piece by Donald G. McNeil Jr.: The Coronavirus in America: The Year Ahead.

In truth, it is not clear to anyone where this crisis is leading us. More than 20 experts in public health, medicine, epidemiology and history shared their thoughts on the future during in-depth interviews. When can we emerge from our homes? How long, realistically, before we have a treatment or vaccine? How will we keep the virus at bay?

Some felt that American ingenuity, once fully engaged, might well produce advances to ease the burdens. The path forward depends on factors that are certainly difficult but doable, they said: a carefully staggered approach to reopening, widespread testing and surveillance, a treatment that works, adequate resources for health care providers — and eventually an effective vaccine.

Still, it was impossible to avoid gloomy forecasts for the next year. The scenario that Mr. Trump has been unrolling at his daily press briefings — that the lockdowns will end soon, that a protective pill is almost at hand, that football stadiums and restaurants will soon be full — is a fantasy, most experts said.

“We face a doleful future,” said Dr. Harvey V. Fineberg, a former president of the National Academy of Medicine.

He and others foresaw an unhappy population trapped indoors for months, with the most vulnerable possibly quarantined for far longer. They worried that a vaccine would initially elude scientists, that weary citizens would abandon restrictions despite the risks, that the virus would be with us from now on.

“My optimistic side says the virus will ease off in the summer and a vaccine will arrive like the cavalry,” said Dr. William Schaffner, a preventive medicine specialist at Vanderbilt University medical school. “But I’m learning to guard against my essentially optimistic nature.”

Most experts believed that once the crisis was over, the nation and its economy would revive quickly. But there would be no escaping a period of intense pain.

Exactly how the pandemic will end depends in part on medical advances still to come. It will also depend on how individual Americans behave in the interim. If we scrupulously protect ourselves and our loved ones, more of us will live. If we underestimate the virus, it will find us.

Read more about what the experts had to say at the NYT link.

Jonathan Chait on Trump’s abandonment of the states: Trump Wants to Starve the States Into Opening Before It’s Safe.

President Trump’s current pandemic strategy — emphasize current; like the cliché about the weather, if you don’t like it, wait a few hours — is a baffling knot of contradictions. He is hurling all responsibility to state governments, leaving it to them to devise effective tests and to decide when to relax social distancing.

At the same time, he is starving them of the resources to handle the job. And even as Trump hides behind a policy of deference to governors, he is goading right-wing protesters to force their hand. Trump is “saying things that seem contradictory,” as the New York Times puts it, “like pledging to work with governors and then urging people to ‘liberate’ their states, and leaving it to his audiences to hear what they want to hear in his words.”

Yet there does appear to be a strategy here. The Wall Street Journal reported Friday afternoon that Trump has “asked White House aides for economic response plans that would allow him to take credit for successes while offering enough flexibility to assign fault for any failures to others.” Trump’s seemingly paradoxical stance is an attempt to hoard credit and shirk risk, straddling the demands of his business allies with the pleas of his public-health advisers. On the surface, he is deferring responsibility and blame to the governors. Just below the surface, he is coercing them to resume economic activity as fast as possible, regardless of what public-health officials say.

Trump’s plan to coerce the states into reopening has at least three discernible elements. The first is, or was, the formation of a task force to reopen the country. The purpose of the council was to give Trump cover. The council would prod governors to reopen businesses, and because it would be seen as coming from the business community, Trump himself would not bear the blame for future outbreaks that might result. As the Washington Post reported last week, “Trump’s advisers are trying to shield the president from political accountability should his move to reopen the economy prove premature and result in lost lives, and so they are trying to mobilize business executives, economists and other prominent figures to buy into the eventual White House plan, so that if it does not work, the blame can be shared broadly, according to two former administration officials familiar with the efforts.” (In part because its purpose was so naked, the task force seems to have collapsed.)

The second element is the mobilization of protests. The appearance of flag-waving and sometimes gun-toting demonstrators in a handful of state capitols this weekend seems to have come as a shock to the news media, but Trump’s allies signaled this was coming. Last Monday, Stephen Moore, a right-wing pseudo-economist and close Trump ally who has spent weeks pushing back on public-health guidelines, was quoted in the press saying, “In the next two weeks, you’ll see protests in the streets of conservatives; you’ll see a big pushback against the lockdown in some states.”

Click the link to read the rest at New York Magazine.

At The Washington Post, Paul Waldman on Trump’s “war against the states”:

President Trump and congressional Republicans are going to war with the states.

It’s bizarre, it’s self-defeating, it will do enormous harm to Americans in every corner of the country, and it can be fully explained only by understanding the president’s pettiest and most narcissistic motives. In other words, it’s the kind of thing we’ve come to expect in the Trump era.

Last week, the $349 billion allotted for small businesses in the CARES Act rescue package ran out, with only a portion of the American businesses that have suffered in this pandemic-driven recession getting the help they need. While everyone seemed ready to provide more money, we found ourselves in a familiar situation, with Democrats saying we need to be swift and aggressive in saving Americans suffering from this economic catastrophe, and Republicans saying that we shouldn’t spend too much or help too many people.

When negotiations began, Republicans wanted to add about $250 billion to the small business fund — and do nothing else. Now it appears that Democrats have pressured them into accepting a package that sends $370 billion to small businesses, gives $75 billion to hospitals, and spends $25 billion to beef up coronavirus testing.

What isn’t included in the package, however, is the desperately needed aid to states and cities Democrats sought. Republicans absolutely refused to even consider it.

Why? The need is urgent. State and local budgets are suddenly facing all kinds of new costs related to the pandemic, while at the same time tax revenues have fallen off a cliff. If they don’t get help, they’ll have to start laying people off and slashing state services, which will only make the recession deeper and longer. By some estimates, states and cities will need $500 billion in federal aid to make up the shortfall.

Read more at the WaPo.

So far Trump’s strategy isn’t convincing most Americans. The Washington Post: Most rate Trump’s coronavirus response negatively and expect crowds will be unsafe until summer, Post-U. Md. poll finds.

Most Americans expect no immediate easing of the health risks associated with the coronavirus pandemic, despite calls by President Trump and others to begin reopening the economy quickly. A majority say it could be June or later before it will be safe for larger gatherings to take place again, according to a Washington Post-University of Maryland poll.

Most Americans — 54 percent — give the president negative marks for his handling of the outbreak in this country and offer mixed reviews for the federal government as a whole. By contrast, 72 percent of Americans give positive ratings to the governors of their states for the way they have dealt with the crisis, with workers also rating their employers positively.

Partisan allegiances shape perceptions of when it will be safe to have gatherings of 10 or more people and of the president’s performance during the pandemic. But governors win praise across the political spectrum for their leadership, which has sometimes put them sharply at odds with Trump and his administration.

Personal health concerns are widespread, with 57 percent saying they are “very” or “somewhat” worried about becoming infected and seriously ill from the coronavirus, including at least 40 percent of people in every major demographic and political group. For those most concerned, the fear was enough to override partisanship when it comes to the safety of public gatherings, particularly for Republicans.

Today we face another day in the time of coronavirus. There will be more reports of deaths and infections, more horror stories, and more lies and propaganda from the Trump gang, and another insane briefing airing of grievances by Trump. We have to steel ourselves to protect ourselves from the virus and save our sanity in these crazy times.

Have courage Sky Dancers! What’s on your mind today?


Lazy Caturday Reads: A Little Good News And More Bad News

Okazaki Cat Demon, by Utagawa Kuniyoshi, 1850

Good Morning!!

Yesterday, Dakinikat wrote about the Trump death cult. In the past couple of days we’ve been seeing ominous signs that Trump and his zombie followers are going to make the coronavirus epidemic in the U.S. even worse than it already is by fomenting unrest over restrictions governors and mayors have imposed in order to slow the spread of infections. But before I get to that, I want to highlight something positive that is happening here in Massachusetts.

The New York Times: An Army of Tracers Takes Shape in Massachusetts.

Alexandra Cross, a newly minted state public health worker, dialed a stranger’s telephone number on Monday, her heart racing.

It was Ms. Cross’s first day as part of Massachusetts’s fleet of contact tracers, responsible for tracking down people who have been exposed to the coronavirus, as soon as possible, and warning them. On her screen was the name of a woman from Lowell.

“One person who has recently been diagnosed has been in contact with you,” the script told her to say. “Do you have a few minutes to discuss what that exposure might mean for you?” Forty-five minutes later, Ms. Cross hung up the phone. They had giggled and commiserated. Her file was crammed with information.

She was taking her first steps up a Mount Everest of cases.

Dancing Cats by Utagawa Kuniyoshi

Massachusetts is the first state to invest in an ambitious contact-tracing program, budgeting $44 million to hire 1,000 people like Ms. Cross. The program represents a bet on the part of Gov. Charlie Baker that the state will be able to identify pockets of infection as they emerge, and prevent infected people from spreading the virus further.

This could help Massachusetts in the coming weeks and months, as it seeks to relax strict social-distancing measures and reopen its economy.

Contact tracing has helped Asian countries like South Korea and Singapore contain the spread of the virus, but their systems rely on digital surveillance, using patients’ digital footprints to alert potential contacts, an intrusion that many Americans would not accept.

Massachusetts is building its response around an old-school, labor-intensive method: people. Lots of them.

Read the rest at the NYT.

So that’s the good news. The bad news is that Trump himself is egging on public protests by his craziest supporters that could lead to more infections and quite possibly violence.

Axios: Trump accelerates the unrest.

What he’s saying: “LIBERATE MICHIGAN! … LIBERATE MINNESOTA! … LIBERATE VIRGINIA, and save your great 2nd Amendment. It is under siege!”

Why it matters: Governors have in place strong public health restrictions and are likely to want to continue to hold the line for some time to come. This was a position Trump publicly supported as recently as Thursday.

  • Michigan in particular has a bad coronavirus outbreak, with a lockdown from Gov. Gretchen Whitmer that’s among the most severe nationwide.

Japanese Cat by Utagawa Kuniyoshi

The ingredients for mayhem, via Axios’ Jonathan Swan:

  • Deepening economic desperation: 22 million have filed for jobless benefits, with a second wave of layoffs already underway. More help appears to be coming for small businesses, but Congress is still haggling.
  • Conservative TV and talk radio influencers encouraging protests: “People instinctively know now that however bad this is, it isn’t as bad as they all told us,” Rush Limbaugh told listeners on Thursday.
  • Early signs of big conservative donor money getting behind the protests: In Michigan, one protest was planned by the political adviser to the family of Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, WashPost reports.
  • Police departments are stressed: Hundreds of police officers have been quarantined for coronavirus exposure, with some dying. Multiple departments nationwide have reported issues getting PPE.

Between the lines: As we reported in yesterday’s PM, public support is strongly on the side of social distancing.

  • 66% of Americans are concerned state governments will lift restrictions too quickly.
  • 73% say the worst is yet to come from the outbreak.

The bottom line: It surely can’t be helping individuals and businesses to have the yo-yo effect created by federal and state officials openly arguing about timelines that involve life and death.

NBC News: In Trump’s ‘LIBERATE’ tweets, extremists see a call to arms.

When President Donald Trump tweeted “LIBERATE MINNESOTA!” on Friday morning, some of his most fervent supporters in far-right communities — including those who have agitated for violent insurrection — heard a call to arms.

Cats Practicing Their Music, Utagawa Kuniyoshi

The tweet was one of three sent from the president’s account, along with “LIBERATE MICHIGAN!” and “LIBERATE VIRGINIA, and save your great 2nd Amendment. It is under siege!”

Trump’s tweets came after small protests by Trump supporters broke out in a handful of states, many of which were fueled by anti-vaccination and anti-government groups. Anti-government sentiment has percolated among far-right extremists in recent weeks over the stay-at-home orders governors have issued to prevent the spread of the coronavirus.

Trump’s tweets, however, pushed many online extremist communities to speculate whether the president was advocating for armed conflict, an event they’ve termed “the boogaloo,” for which many far-right activists have been gearing up and advocating since last year.

There were sharp increases on Twitter in terms associated with conspiracies such as QAnon and the “boogaloo” term immediately following the president’s tweets, according to the Network Contagion Research Institute, an independent nonprofit group of scientists and engineers that tracks and reports on misinformation and hate speech across social media.

Posts about the “boogaloo” on Twitter skyrocketed in the hours after the president’s tweets, with more than 1,000 tweets featuring the term, some of which received hundreds of retweets.

“We the people should open up America with civil disobedience and lots of BOOGALOO. Who’s with me?” one QAnon conspiracy theorist on Twitter with over 50,000 followers asked.

“Boogaloo” is a term used by extremists to refer to armed insurrection, a shortened version of “Civil War 2: Electric Boogaloo,” which was coined on the extremist message board 4chan.

Falling Cat, Utakawa Kuniyoshi

Washington Governor Jay Inslee released a statement in response to Trump’s twitter taunts.

“The president’s statements this morning encourage illegal and dangerous acts. He is putting millions of people in danger of contracting COVID-19. His unhinged rantings and calls for people to “liberate” states could also lead to violence. We’ve seen it before.

“The president is fomenting domestic rebellion and spreading lies even while his own administration says the virus is real and is deadly, and that we have a long way to go before restrictions can be lifted.

“Just yesterday, the president stood alongside White House officials and public health experts and said science would guide his plan for easing restrictions. The White House released a sensible plan laying out many of the guidelines that I agree are essential to follow, as we work to resume economic activity. Trump slowly read his script and said the plan was based on ‘hard, verifiable data’ and was done ‘in consultation with scientists, experts and medical professionals across government.’

“Less than 24 hours later, the president is off the rails. He’s not quoting scientists and doctors but spewing dangerous, anti-democratic rhetoric.

“We appreciate our continued communication with the vice president, Dr. Birx, Admiral Polowczyk, Admiral Giroir and others in the federal government, but their work is undermined by the president’s irresponsible statements.

“I hope someday we can look at today’s meltdown as something to be pitied, rather than condemned. But we don’t have that luxury today. There is too much at stake.

Three cats at an indoor party by Utagawa Kuniyoshi

“The president’s call to action today threatens to undermine his own goal of recovery by further delaying the ability of states to amend current interventions in a safe, evidence-based way. His words are likely to cause COVID-19 infections to spike in places where social distancing is working — and if infections are increasing in those places, that will further postpone the 14 days of decline that his own guidance says is necessary before modifying any interventions.

“I hope political leaders of all sorts will speak out firmly against the president’s calls for rebellion. Americans need to work together to protect each other. It’s the only way to slow the spread of this deadly virus and get us on the road to recovery.”

But some Republicans are singing a different tune. The Washington Post: GOP’s growing ‘open it up’ caucus urges fewer virus restrictions amid warnings from fellow Republicans.

A growing number of Republican lawmakers across the country are pushing for a more rapid reboot of the American economy amid the coronavirus pandemic, arguing that the risk of spreading more sickness — and even death — is outweighed by the broader economic damage that widespread stay-at-home orders have wrought.

They are taking cues from and breathing energy into a grass-roots conservative movement of resistance against government-ordered quarantine measures — one that President Trump appeared to back in several tweets Friday — but are facing defiance within their own party from Republican congressional leaders, governors and fellow lawmakers who warn that a rash reopening could reinvigorate the virus’s spread.

The emerging “open it up” caucus has spoken out on key conservative media platforms, including some of Trump’s favorite programs. In a prime-time Fox News Channel appearance Wednesday, for instance, Sen. John Neely Kennedy (R-La.) said that balancing the health of Americans with a functioning economy amid the pandemic was “like choosing between cancer and a heart attack.”

Read more at the WaPo.

By Utagawa Kuniyoshi

Politico: Trump allies press administration to unleash lawsuits against lockdowns.

As President Donald Trump uses the bully pulpit to press state and local governments to ease their virus-related lockdowns, conservative activists and religious leaders are urging his administration to go further by unleashing a wave of lawsuits arguing that the measures are intruding on Americans’ legally protected rights to worship, protest and buy guns.

In a letter sent to Attorney General Bill Barr on Friday, the Conservative Action Project, a group of conservative leaders including Matt Schlapp of the American Conservative Union, Tom Fitton of Judicial Watch and Jenny Beth Martin of Tea Party Patriots, called governors and local leaders “petty, would-be dictators” who had committed “rampant abuses of constitutional rights and civil liberties” as part of their response to the coronavirus.

Among the examples they include are “arresting pro-life counselors for peacefully standing outside an abortion clinic while maintaining social distance,” “arresting a man for surfing,” ticketing people attending drive-in church services, and “prohibitions on citizens’ rights to purchase firearms.”

The letter comes as Trump put pressure on Michigan, Minnesota, and Virginia to ease up on social distancing measures a day after the White House released federal guidelines to reopen the economy. Protests, many led by Trump supporters, have cropped up across the country demanding state leaders reel in restrictions designed to stop the spread of the virus.

Meanwhile, Trump’s so-called “plan” to reopen the economy is complete bullshit. The Guardian: Operation reopen America: are we about to witness a second historic failure of leadership from Trump?

Unveiling new guidelines for the loosening of the lockdown, [Trump] committed his administration to a “science-based reopening”. “We are starting our life again, we are starting rejuvenation of our economy again, in a safe and structured and very responsible fashion.”

Woman with a cat, by Utagawa Kuniyoshi

Beyond the cloistered confines of the White House an alternative interpretation of events was gathering force. On a day in which the US suffered its highest death toll from Covid-19, with a total of more than 680,000 confirmed cases and 34,000 deaths, public health experts were scrutinising the president’s new guidelines and coming to rather different conclusions.

“This isn’t a plan, it’s barely a powerpoint,” spluttered Ron Klain on Twitter. Klain, the US government’s Ebola tsar during the last health crisis to test the White House, in 2014, said the proposals contained “no provision to ramp up testing, no standard on levels of disease before opening, no protections for workers or customers”.

On 28 March the Guardian exposed the missing six weeks lost as a result of Trump’s dithering and downplaying of the crisis when the virus first struck. Jeremy Konyndyk, another central figure in the US battle against Ebola, told the Guardian that the Trump administration’s initial response was “one of the greatest failures of basic governance and leadership in modern times”.

Now that the US is contemplating a shift into the second phase of the crisis – tentative reopening of the economy – scientists and public health officials are agreed that three pillars need to be put into place to manage the transition safely. They are: mass testing to identify those who are infected, contact tracing to isolate other people who may have caught Covid-19 from them, and personal protective equipment (PPE) to shield frontline healthcare workers from any flare-up.

A chorus of expert voices has also begun to be heard warning that those three essential pillars remain in critically short supply throughout the US. Less than a month after the Guardian’s exploration of the missing six weeks, the chilling recognition is dawning that the country is heading for a second massive failure of governance under Trump, this time on an even bigger scale.

Unless testing capability is dramatically ramped up and a giant army of health workers assembled to trace the contacts of those infected – right now – the consequences could be devastating.

We are in big trouble. That last thing we need is another tea party-style uprising in the midst of a deadly global pandemic. Somehow, some way, Trump has to go.

What stories are you following today?


Tuesday Reads: Follow the Money

Marguerite Thompson Zoorach, 1887-1968, The Picnic, 1920s

Good Morning!!

Just as I suspected, Trump has financial motives for pushing an unproven drug with dangerous side effects during a global pandemic.

The New York Times reported yesterday:

If hydroxychloroquine becomes an accepted treatment, several pharmaceutical companies stand to profit, including shareholders and senior executives with connections to the president. Mr. Trump himself has a small personal financial interest in Sanofi, the French drugmaker that makes Plaquenil, the brand-name version of hydroxychloroquine….

Some associates of Mr. Trump’s have financial interests in the issue. Sanofi’s largest shareholders include Fisher Asset Management, the investment company run by Ken Fisher, a major donor to Republicans, including Mr. Trump. A spokesman for Mr. Fisher declined to comment.

Claude Monet. Luncheon on the Grass

Another investor in both Sanofi and Mylan, another pharmaceutical firm, is Invesco, the fund previously run by Wilbur Ross, the commerce secretary. Mr. Ross said in a statement Monday that he “was not aware that Invesco has any investments in companies producing” the drug, “nor do I have any involvement in the decision to explore this as a treatment.”

As of last year, Mr. Trump reported that his three family trusts each had investments in a Dodge & Cox mutual fund, whose largest holding was in Sanofi.

Ashleigh Koss, a Sanofi spokeswoman, said the company no longer sells or distributes Plaquenil in the United States, although it does sell it internationally.

And of course Jared is involved. I wonder if he stands to gain financial from this drug pushing?

Several generic drugmakers are gearing up to produce hydroxychloroquine pills, including Amneal Pharmaceuticals, whose co-founder Chirag Patel is a member of Trump National Golf Course Bedminster in New Jersey and has golfed with Mr. Trump at least twice since he became president, according to a person who saw them.

Mr. Patel, whose company is based in Bridgewater, N.J., did not respond to a request for comment. Amneal announced last month that it would increase production of the drug and donate millions of pills to New York and other states. Other generic drugmakers are ramping up production, including Mylan and Teva Pharmaceutical Industries.

Roberto Mignone, a Teva board member, reached out to the team of Jared Kushner, the president’s son-in-law and senior adviser, through Nitin Saigal, who used to work for Mr. Mignone and is a friend of Mr. Kushner’s, according to people informed about the discussions.

Luncheon on the Grass, Pablo Picasso

Mr. Kushner’s team referred him to the White House task force and Mr. Mignone asked for help getting India to ease export restrictions, which have since been relaxed, allowing Teva to bring more pills into the United States. Mr. Mignone, who is also a vice chairman of NYU Langone Health, which is running a clinical study of hydroxychloroquine, confirmed on Monday that he has spoken with the administration about getting more medicine into the country.

Yesterday we also learned that Peter Navarro, Trump’s wacky trade adviser was warning about a pandemic back in January. Axios: Navarro memos warning of mass coronavirus death circulated in January.

In late January, President Trump’s economic adviser Peter Navarro warned his White House colleagues the novel coronavirus could take more than half a million American lives and cost close to $6 trillion, according to memos obtained by Axios.
The state of play: By late February, Navarro was even more alarmed, and he warned his colleagues, in another memo, that up to two million Americans could die of the virus.

Navarro’s grim estimates are set out in two memos — one dated Jan. 29 and addressed to the National Security Council, the other dated Feb. 23 and addressed to the president. The NSC circulated both memos around the White House and multiple agencies.

In the first memo, which the New York Times was first to report on, Navarro makes his case for “an immediate travel ban on China.”

The second lays the groundwork for supplemental requests from Congress, with the warning: “This is NOT a time for penny-pinching or horse trading on the Hill.”

Why it matters: The president quickly restricted travel from China, moved to delay re-entry of American travelers who could be infected, and dispatched his team to work with Congress on stimulus funds.

But Trump was far slower to publicly acknowledge the sort of scenarios Navarro had put in writing.

A couple of interesting psychological analyses of Trump catastrophic performance:

At the New York Times, Jennifer Senior writes: This Is What Happens When a Narcissist Runs a Crisis.

Picnic (1989), Fernando Botero

Since the early days of the Trump administration, an impassioned group of mental health professionals have warned the public about the president’s cramped and disordered mind, a darkened attic of fluttering bats. Their assessments have been controversial. The American Psychiatric Association’s code of ethics expressly forbids its members from diagnosing a public figure from afar.

Enough is enough. As I’ve argued before, an in-person analysis of Donald J. Trump would not reveal any hidden depths — his internal sonar could barely fathom the bottom of a sink — and these are exceptional, urgent times. Back in October, George T. Conway III, the conservative lawyer and husband of Kellyanne, wrote a long, devastating essay for The Atlantic, noting that Trump has all the hallmarks of narcissistic personality disorder. That disorder was dangerous enough during times of prosperity, jeopardizing the moral and institutional foundations of our country.

But now we’re in the midst of a global pandemic. The president’s pathology is endangering not just institutions, but lives.

Head over to the NYT to read the rest.

Alternet: Leading psychologists explain how Trump’s self-delusions and narcissism make him uniquely effective at predatory deception.

In practicing the art of lying while retaining a hold on the allegiance of his base, Trump utilizes a propaganda principle—the Big Lie—best explained by Hitler.  Now, please note that we are not equating Trump and Hitler; they are very different people.  However, like Hitler, Trump is involved in the business of selling himself as an angry, righteous savior to the masses, resulting in a growing number of cultic devotees.  So, it may behoove us to consider Hitler’s explanation of why the Big Lie is more successful than mere untruths. Here’s his explanation of the principle in Mein Kampf:

Francisco de Goya’s Picnic En La Ribera Del Manzanares (Picnic on the Banks of the Manzanares), 1776

[I]n the big lie there is always a certain force of credibility; because the broad masses of a nation are always more easily corrupted in the deeper strata of their emotional nature than consciously or voluntarily; and thus in the primitive simplicity of their minds they more readily fall victims to the big lie than the small lie, since they themselves often tell small lies in little matters but would be ashamed to resort to large-scale falsehoods. It would never come into their heads to fabricate colossal untruths, and they would not believe that others could have the impudence to distort the truth so infamously. Even though the facts which prove this to be so may be brought clearly to their minds, they will still doubt and waver and will continue to think that there may be some other explanation.

Consider just two of many possible examples of the Big Lie:  Trump’s bizarre claim that the military was out of ammunition when he took office and his equally bizarre claim that the father of Ted Cruz was involved with the assassination of Lee Harvey Oswald, adding, “It’s horrible.”  It is the outrageousness of the Big Lie that a listener normally expects would create self-conscious awkwardness in the liar.  In turn, this results in a need for a great liar to hide any nervousness that might give away the fact that he is attempting to deceive his audience.  In poker, the failure to hide completely the lie inherent in a bluff is called a “tell,” the subtle behavior unwittingly exhibited when bluffing.

Click the link to read the rest. It’s a really interesting piece.

Republicans in Wisconsin have been working overtime to undermine democracy, and yesterday the Supreme Court gave them a big assist.

Slate: By a 5–4 Vote, SCOTUS L.ets Wisconsin Throw Out Tens of Thousands of Ballots.

On Monday, by a 5–4 vote, the U.S. Supreme Court approved one of the most brazen acts of voter suppression in modern history. The court will nullify the votes of citizens who mailed in their ballots late—not because they forgot, but because they did not receive ballots until after Election Day due to the coronavirus pandemic. As Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg wrote in dissent, the court’s order “will result in massive disenfranchisement.” The conservative majority claimed that its decision would help protect “the integrity of the election process.” In reality, it calls into question the legitimacy of the election itself.

Still Life with Peonies and Seven Lovely Ladies by David Elsea – 2018

Wisconsin has long been scheduled to hold an election on April 7. There are more than 3,800 seats on the ballot, and a crucial state Supreme Court race. But the state’s ability to conduct in-person voting is imperiled by COVID-19. Thousands of poll workers have dropped out for fear of contracting the virus, forcing cities to shutter dozens of polling places. Milwaukee, for example, consolidated its polling locations from 182 to five, while Green Bay consolidated its polling locations from 31 to two. Gov. Tony Evers asked the Republican-controlled legislature to postpone the election, but it refused. So he tried to delay it himself in an executive order on Monday. But the Republican-dominated state Supreme Court reinstated the election, thereby forcing voters to choose between protecting their health and exercising their right to vote.

Because voters are rightfully afraid of COVID-19, Wisconsin has been caught off guard by a surge in requests for absentee ballots. Election officials simply do not have time, resources, or staff to process all those requests. As a result, a large number of voters—at least tens of thousands—won’t get their ballot until after Election Day. And Wisconsin law disqualifies ballots received after that date. In response, last Thursday, a federal district court ordered the state to extend the absentee ballot deadline. It directed officials to count votes mailed after Election Day so long as they were returned by April 13. A conservative appeals court upheld his decision.

Now the Supreme Court has reversed that order. It allowed Wisconsin to throw out ballots postmarked and received after Election Day, even if voters were entirely blameless for the delay. (Thankfully, ballots postmarked by Election Day but received by April 13 still count, because the legislature didn’t challenge that extension.) In an unsigned opinion, the majority cited the Purcell principle, which cautions courts against altering voting laws shortly before an election. It criticized the district court for “fundamentally alter[ing] the nature of the election by permitting voting for six additional days after the election.” And it insisted that the plaintiffs did not actually request that relief—which, as Ginsburg notes in her dissent, is simply false.

Read more:

Vox: The Supreme Court’s disturbing order to effectively disenfranchise thousands of Wisconsin voters.

PoliticusUSA: Brett Kavanaugh Leads Conservative SCOTUS Majority In Blocking Extended Voting In Wisconsin.

According to the Roberts court, voters should have to choose between voting and possibly dying and protecting their health. And of course the Republican primary is meaningless, so only Democrats have to worry about that.

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