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?


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.


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!


Independence Weekend Reads

Rick Beerhorst Into Her Book

Good Afternoon!!

I’m filling in for Dakinikat. She is having serious computer problems and it looks hopeless. She will have to find a way to buy a new computer. If anyone can help, she could really use some donations.

I’m getting a very late start–so this will be brief. Tomorrow is Independence Day, but this year it is being celebrated on July 3–today. The annual 4th of July concert and fireworks display on Boston Common was cancelled, and there will be a “virtual concert” tomorrow night. I assume other cities have also called such huge gatherings because of the coronavirus pandemic.

But Trump has to have his childish events so he can fill up the empty whole inside him with narcissistic supply. His last mass rally in Tulsa bombed and I hope his events today and tomorrow will also be massive failures.

Tonight he’ll be in South Dakota for a super-spreader event at Mount Rushmore.

CNN: Trump set for another massive event during national pandemic.

President Donald Trump and first lady Melania Trump head to Mount Rushmore National Memorial on Friday to celebrate an early Fourth of July at a gathering of an estimated 7,500 people during a global pandemic.

No social distancing is planned for the event despite the record-high new coronavirus cases in the United States. And the event takes place amid environmental concerns over the use of fireworks in the dry land and as the country engages in a reckoning over its own monuments and racist history.

“We told those folks that have concerns that they can stay home, but those who want to come and join us, we’ll be giving out free face masks if they choose to wear one. But we won’t be social distancing,” Republican Gov. Kristi Noem said during a Monday appearance on Fox News.

There may be health screening for ticketed guests in one area, according to recreation.gov. A recording on the park’s main telephone line Monday said: “There are no social distancing requirements in place at this time.”

Native Americans are not happy about the Trump event.

The Yellow Books, 1887, Vincent Van Gogh

The Independent: ‘It’s going to cause an uproar’: Sioux president says Trump not welcome to visit Mount Rushmore.

The president of the Oglala Sioux tribal council has said that Donald Trump should not attend Mount Rushmore’s fourth of July fireworks celebration in South Dakota on Friday.

President Julian Bear Runner cited health fears over the coronavirus and also said that Mr Trump’s attendance is an insult to Native Americans on whose stolen land it was built.

“Trump coming here is a safety concern not just for my people inside and outside the reservation, but for people in the Great Plains. We have such limited resources in Black Hills, and we’re already seeing infections rising,” Mr Bear Runner said in an interview with The Guardian.

Several Native American groups are planning to stage protests over the president’s scheduled appearance, the newspaper reported.

“It’s going to cause an uproar if he comes here. People are going to want to exercise their first amendment rights to protest and we do not want to see anyone get hurt or the lands be destroyed,” Mr Bear Runner added.

Politico: ‘Complete disaster’: Trump’s fraught ties with Native Americans on display at Mount Rushmore.

Trump is planning to visit Mount Rushmore on Friday to kick off Independence Day weekend with a glitzy fireworks display and a military flyover — and has run into strife and contention over his decision to celebrate at a national landmark built on land stolen from Native Americans at the same time the country is reassessing the offensiveness of such monuments.

LÜBECK ORPHANAGE (1894) Gotthardt Kuehl

In the days before his visit, some Native American leaders called for destruction of the massive sculpture — built in the Black Hills on land taken from the Lakota tribe to honor several presidents they say were hostile to Indigenous people.

And protesters are expected to greet Trump on his trip and express Native Americans’ broader grievances. Tribal leaders have criticized the president for what they describe as harmful policies, delayed and watered-down measures to help their community and his offensive language.

“Symbolically, he’s been a complete disaster for most people who follow Indian affairs,” said Matthew Fletcher, a member of the Grand Traverse Band of Ottawa and Chippewa Indians and director of the Indigenous Law and Policy Center at Michigan State University.

Tomorrow Trump will put on a tasteless military display in Washington DC, with flyovers in some cities. I heard we’re getting one in Boston. Instead of supporting and protecting our troops, Trump uses them as pawns in his endless desire for attention while refusing to condemn his pal Putin for putting bounties on the heads of American soldiers in Afghanistan.

ABC News: Despite pandemic, Trump promoting July 4th fireworks in DC over mayor’s objections.

President Donald Trump is promoting a big July Fourth celebration and fireworks display in the nation’s capital this weekend, with administration officials expecting large crowds on the National Mall and nearby, despite the mayor’s objections the event may spread the coronavirus.

The dispute comes amid spikes in coronavirus cases around the country – with over 50,000 COVID-19 cases reported in just one day this week.

Madame de Pompadour (1756) Francois Boucher

“We’ve communicated to them that we do not think this is in keeping with the best CDC and Department of Health guidance. But this event will take place entirely on federal property,” D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser said in a news conference.

The city is currently in phase two of its reopening plan, which encourages its residents to continue to engage in social distancing, keep wearing a mask, and to avoid congregating in confined space with more than 50 people.

But Bowser said since she does not have jurisdiction over federal land, she could only urge D.C. residents to exercise caution this weekend, advising people to stay home if they don’t think they can remain physically distanced from others.

The Washington Post: Trump to hold Fourth of July gathering at Mount Rushmore as coronavirus surges.

The Washington Post: Fourth of July in Washington includes fireworks, military flyovers and protests.

Even as local officials are discouraging people from joining the traditional Fourth of July festivities on the Mall out of fear that crowds could spread the novel coronavirus, President Trump has decided the tradition will continue and, come Saturday, fireworks will light up the skies of the nation’s capital, the Interior Department said Wednesday.

The year’s festivities also will include flyovers by the Air Force’s Thunderbirds and the Navy’s Blue Angels, and a showing of World War II aircraft such as the P-51 Mustang fighter and the B-29 bomber.

It’s unclear how many people will show up for America’s freedom celebration, but those who do will be joined downtown by scores of protesters.

The protests spurred by George Floyd’s death at the hands of Minneapolis police in May are expected to continue this weekend and draw large crowds. As many as 20 protests are scheduled for Saturday, and they could extend through the night.

Anyone who goes to either of these event is nuts IMHO.

More reads to peruse today:

READING (CLARA) (CIRCA 1865) FEDERICO FARUFFINI

The Hollywood Reporter: ‘Awards Chatter’ Podcast — Hillary Rodham Clinton (‘Hillary’)

The New York Times: Splitting 5-4, Supreme Court Grants Alabama’s Request to Restore Voting Restrictions. Not good.

Politico: Supreme Court blocks judge’s order loosening Alabama voting requirements due to virus

Newsweek: How Trump Could Lose the Election—And Still Remain President | Opinion

The Daily Beast: Mary Trump: You Can’t Gag Me Because Settlement Was a ‘Fraud’

HuffPost: America Spends Billions To Get The Best Intel In The World But Can’t Make Trump Read It.

The Daily Beast: Trump Whines He’s Not Getting Praised for a Recovery With 25 Million People Still Out of Work

David Rothkopf at New York Review Daily:

Politico: The week that shook the Trump campaign

The New York Times: Why June Was Such a Terrible Month for Trump<

The New York Times: Federal Officials Turn to a New Testing Strategy as Infections Surge.

Paul Krugman: Trump’s Virus Is Spreading, and His Economy Is Stalling

The Atlantic: The Week America Lost Control of the Pandemic

Robin Wright at The New Yorker: To the World, We’re Now America the Racist and Pitiful

Have a great weekend and stay safe!


Thursday Reads

Good Morning!!

If feels as if the long weekend has already begun. The Fourth of July is traditionally a time when the Boston area empties out as people head to the Cape or New Hampshire. I just hope that people will be careful about crowding the beaches. Fortunately, bars won’t be opened here until phase 4, so that is one advantage we have. Yesterday, Gov. Charlie Baker warned Massachusetts residents: ‘No Victory Laps From COVID-19′: Gov. Baker Urges Social Distancing Over July 4 Weekend. NBC10:

Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker on Wednesday urged residents to practice social distancing over the Fourth of July weekend, saying people should continue to take the coronavirus pandemic seriously to prevent a resurgence of cases.

“We have a big weekend coming up, it’s the Fourth of July, and I really hope people continue to take things seriously,” Baker said during a press conference at the Greater Boston YMCA.

“There are no victory laps from COVID… It’s not going to take the summer off,” he said, urging people to continue wearing masks and practicing social distancing and hygiene….

The governor said key metrics in the state’s efforts to contain the virus were continuing to trend downward. The state on Tuesday reported no new coronavirus deaths, the first time that’s happened in months.

“The continued fight against the virus depends almost completely and exclusively on all of us maintaining our vigilance and continuing to do the things that have made such a big difference in Massachusetts.”

Yesterday, the U.S. exceeded 50,000 new cases of Covid-19 for the first time. The Washington Post:

The United States reported 52,789 new coronavirus cases on Wednesday, the largest single-day total since the start of the pandemic. President Trump speculated in a Fox Business interview that the virus was “going to sort of just disappear” at some point.

Experts say that is unlikely, unless an overwhelming majority of people are infected and develop immunity, which could lead to millions of deaths, or through the successful development and deployment of a vaccine. There is a chance the coronavirus will never go away, some experts have warned.

Anthony Fauci, the country’s top infectious disease expert, attributed rising case numbers in the United States at least partially to the fact lockdown measures were more lenient than those in some European countries that have since managed to turn the tide on the virus.

More than 800,000 new coronavirus cases were detected in the United States in June. At least 125,602 deaths have been reported since the start of the pandemic.

CNBC reports on an alarming study of coronavirus deaths from Yale researchers: Official U.S. coronavirus death toll is ‘a substantial undercount’ of actual tally, Yale study finds.

The number of confirmed U.S. deaths due to the coronavirus is substantially lower than the true tally, according to a study published Wednesday in JAMA Internal Medicine.

Using National Center for Health Statistics data, researchers at Yale University compared the number of excess U.S. deaths from any causes with the reported number of weekly U.S. Covid-19 deaths from March 1 through May 30. The numbers were then compared with deaths from the same period in previous years.

Researchers found that the excess number of deaths over normal levels also exceeded those attributed to Covid-19, leading them to conclude that many of those fatalities were likely caused by the coronavirus but not confirmed. State reporting discrepancies and a sharp increase in U.S. deaths amid a pandemic suggest the number of Covid-19 fatalities is undercounted, they said.

“Our analyses suggest that the official tally of deaths due to Covid-19 represent a substantial undercount of the true burden,” Dan Weinberger, an epidemiologist at Yale School of Public Health and a lead author of the study, told CNBC. Weinberger said other factors could contribute to the increase in deaths, such as people avoiding emergency treatment for things like heart attacks. However, he doesn’t think that is the main driver….

The 781,000 total deaths in the United States in the three months through May 30 were about 122,300, or nearly 19% higher, than what would normally be expected, according to the researchers. Of the 122,300 excess deaths, 95,235 were attributed to Covid-19, they said. Most of the rest of the excess deaths, researchers said, were likely related to or directly caused by the coronavirus.

Meanwhile, Trump claimed yesterday that the virus will magically disappear. CNN: Trump’s aides debate a new virus approach as President claims it will ‘disappear.’

A divide has emerged inside President Donald Trump’s inner circle over whether he should turn his attention back to the coronavirus pandemic or continue to focus on reopening the economy, sources familiar with the matter tell CNN.

As cases surge in dozens of states, Trump has remained mostly silent on the matter, focusing instead on protecting statues and stoking racial and cultural divisions. While others in his administration — including Vice President Mike Pence — make appeals for Americans to continue socially distancing and wear masks, Trump again suggested Wednesday the virus would “disappear.”
That has led to concerns, even among some of his own aides, that Trump appears disengaged from a deadly crisis that continues to grip the nation.

Gee, no kidding.

Several of Trump’s top aides, including chief of staff Mark Meadows and son-in-law Jared Kushner, have begun to worry about the President’s chances to win reelection, advisers familiar with the matter said — fears borne out by a steady stream of public polls showing Trump trailing his election rival, Joe Biden, by double digits. Both Meadows and Kushner have urged a focus on the economy over the public health emergency.

Some of Trump’s political advisers believe he has suffered grave political damage due to the pandemic, which has caused widespread economic hurt and death. Even as Trump and others in the White House project optimism that the economy will surge closer to the election, Trump’s handling of the pandemic has drawn rebukes — particularly as cases begin to spike.

“There is a fair amount of concern,” one adviser said, describing the President as “frustrated” by recent polling indicating Biden could win the November election by a wide margin.

Trump couldn’t possibly care less about the pandemic, about Russia paying to kill American troops or about actually doing the job of POTUS. All he seems to care about is being cheered at rallies, protecting statues of racists, and playing golf. Windsor Mann at The Bulwark: Donald Trump Is All Done Caring. An excerpt:

Trump is not interested in the actual job of the presidency. He’s interested in the attention the presidency affords him.

After his election, he discovered that running for president was easier and more fun than being president. Which is why he continued to hold campaign rallies even after he was elected. He wasn’t campaigning for anything. He just liked hearing crowds screaming his name. Unlike most politicians, who campaign in order to govern, Trump campaigns as a way to avoid governing.

By the same token, his politics are an extension of his ego—which is why, at his rallies, he tells the crowds how big his crowds are and not what his policies are. Trump says he’ll hold rallies after he wins the 2020 election, too—even though he will be ineligible to run for the presidency again.

Instead of holding rallies for the purpose of getting elected, Trump wants to get elected so he can keep having rallies….

Twitter performs for Trump the same function as his rallies. Because he’s the president, he can tweet something mean, false, and/or nonsensical and, instead of cheers, get instantaneous likes and retweets—validation in milliseconds. After tweeting “CHINA!” in May, he got 236,000 retweets and 797,000 likes. Tweeting while you watch Fox & Friends, it turns out, is even more gratifying than shouting at the TV. When you tweet, the whole world listens to you, and some people even applaud….

The problem for Trump is that his presidency has no point. It is as devoid of purpose as his days are of work. He doesn’t want to make America great. He wants America to make him feel great.

Still, the bad news keeps coming for Trump. Every time he claims that the Russian bounty story is a “hoax,” someone in the intel community leaks more details. Now we have the name of a guy who received payments. The latest from The New York Times: Afghan Contractor Handed Out Russian Cash to Kill Americans, Officials Say.

KABUL, Afghanistan — He was a lowly drug smuggler, neighbors and relatives say, then ventured into contracting, seeking a slice of the billions of dollars the U.S.-led coalition was funneling into construction projects in Afghanistan.

But he really began to show off his wealth in recent years, after establishing a base in Russia, though how he earned those riches remained mysterious. On his regular trips home to northern Afghanistan, he drove the latest model cars, protected by bodyguards, and his house was recently upgraded to a four-story villa.

Now Rahmatullah Azizi stands as a central piece of a puzzle rocking Washington, named in American intelligence reports and confirmed by Afghan officials as a key middleman who for years handed out money from a Russian military intelligence unit to reward Taliban-linked fighters for targeting American troops in Afghanistan, according to American and Afghan officials.

As security agencies connected the dots of the bounty scheme and narrowed in on him, they carried out sweeping raids to arrest dozens of his relatives and associates about six months ago, but discovered that Mr. Azizi had sneaked out of Afghanistan and was likely back in Russia. What they did find in one of his homes, in Kabul, was about half a million dollars in cash.

Click the link to read the rest.

More bad news for Trump:

NBC New York: Jeffrey Epstein Confidante Ghislaine Maxwell Arrested, Sources Say.

The Washington Post: New York court sides with publisher of explosive book by President Trump’s niece.

The New York Times: Biden Outraises Trump for Second Straight Month, With $141 Million June Haul.

Stanley Greenberg at The Atlantic: Believe the Polls This Time. These aren’t Hillary Clinton’s numbers. Biden has a wide lead because the landscape has changed.

I hope all you Sky Dancers have a great Independence Day weekend. Please stay safe!