Wednesday Reads: Me worry?

And good morning to you…

Some hard hits there…as usual, the political comics bringing the point home.

First tweet I saw when I started to write this post:

This is one of my favorite pictures…please click on that link and read more about Raymond Cauchetier.

Now for some news updates:

And one last thing…

#FuckBernieSanders

( And #FuckJoeManchin too!)

Ugh…

Try and stay safe today…


Tuesday Reads

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Good Morning!!

Just 22 more days until Biden’s inauguration, and one more week until Congress counts the electoral votes on January 6. There’s still plenty of time for Trump to throw tantrums and pardon more war criminals, but his time in the White House is almost over. Unfortunately, it looks like January will be nightmarish.

Justin Hendrix at Substack: January will be one of the worst months in American history.

Simply put, the COVID-19 pandemic is raging across the country, and the record number of new cases since Thanksgiving is about to produce tens of thousands of additional hospitalizations, pushing health systems beyond the limit and likely driving daily death counts well beyond where they are today. Consider just a few data points:

  • The IHME model now predicts more than 100,000 Americans will die in January alone, taking the total known pandemic death toll over 450,000.https___bucketeer-e05bbc84-baa3-437e-9518-adb32be77984.s3.amazonaws.com_public_images_047bc437-c95c-4ae4-b66d-c1ff5d1c5f01_846x620
  • Hospitalizations, now at record highs, will likely explode. Last night the Covid Tracking Project reported a record number of hospitalized Americans, at 118,720, despite a number of states not reporting new figures due to the holiday. If that number seems enormous, consider that California’s model suggests that the state, which just crested 20,000 current hospitalizations, may itself reach 100,000 in January.

Imagine- nearly double the American death toll of the Vietnam War- across its nine years- in a single month. A quarter the number of all American losses in the roughly four years it fought in World War II- in a single month. In the face of this mounting disaster, the President is golfing in Florida. The Vice President and Head of the White House Coronavirus Task Force is vacationing in Vail, Colorado. The nation is effectively without leadership as we approach an event horizon of a black hole of death and anguish more acute than anything we’ve seen for generations.

Click the link to read the whole thing.

December was already bad enough. Eyewitness News Los Angeles: December deadliest month in US since COVID-19 pandemic began; January projections ‘nightmarish,’ expert says.

December has been the nation’s deadliest month since the COVID-19 pandemic’s start — with more than 63,000 Americans lost to the virus in the past 26 days.

In comparison, the entire month of November saw about 36,964 deaths, CNN reported.

download (4)The grim death toll comes on the heels of several brutal months for the US, with COVID-19 ravaging communities from coast to coast, crippling hospital systems and prompting new widespread restrictions.

The authorization of two COVID-19 vaccines earlier in December offered some hope of a light at the end of the tunnel. But experts continue to warn that while the end is in sight, the pandemic is not over and another surge stemming from the Christmas holiday could be on its way.

“We very well might see a post-seasonal — in the sense of Christmas, New Years — surge,” Dr. Anthony Fauci said on CNN’s “State of the Union” Sunday morning, pointing to holiday travel and private gatherings taking place despite the advice of health experts.

The nation’s top infectious disease expert described the potential rise in cases as a “surge upon a surge,” telling CNN’s Dana Bash, “If you look at the slope, the incline of cases that we’ve experienced as we’ve gone into the late fall and soon to be early winter, it is really quite troubling.”

NBC News: Biden adviser warns of ‘worst’ January ever from post-Christmas Covid surge.

Despite the rollout of two new vaccines, the pandemic is accelerating and the United States should brace itself for “one of the worst months in this nation’s history in January,” one of President-elect Joe Biden’s top Covid-19 advisers warned Monday.

“There is no doubt about that,” the expert, Dr. Celine Gounder, said on CNBC. “That cake is in the oven already, with the travel that has happened over the holidays.”

download (5)That dire warning came as the number of Covid-19 infections rose past 19.2 million after Christmas and the number of deaths from coronavirus neared 334,000, the latest NBC News data showed.

Gounder, a member of the Biden’s Covid-19 advisory board, described a nightmarish scenario in which local health officials are forced to erect field hospitals because hallways and even some parking lots are already packed with sick patients.

And an even bigger crisis, Gounder said, will be finding enough doctors and nurses to treat everybody.

“You can’t stand up new doctors and nurses the way you can field hospitals,” Gounder said. “You can’t just create them out of thin air.”

Yesterday the House voted to increase the stimulus checks from $600 to $2,000, as Trump demanded. The Washington Post reports: House votes to boost stimulus checks to $2,000 with bipartisan support.

The House on Monday voted to beef up stimulus checks set to go out to American households in the coming weeks from $600 to $2,000. The chamber acted swiftly after President Trump demanded the larger payments last week, but passage of the measure is uncertain because Senate Republicans have not unified behind the idea.

On Sunday, Trump signed into law a $900 billion emergency relief package that included $600 checks. His advisers had advocated for those payments, but Trump later called the check size “measly” and demanded it be increased. After he signed the law, he pledged to continue pushing for the larger payments, something many Democrats also support.

Forty-four Republicans joined the vast majority of Democrats on Monday in approving the bill on a 275-to-134 vote — narrowly clearing the two-thirds threshold it needed to pass. The measure’s fate is much less certain in the Senate, which is controlled by Republicans.

According to Axios, GOP Senators are beginning to waver: Senate tide begins to shift toward $2,000 checks after Trump’s push.

A couple of days ago,it looked impossible that $2,000 COVID relief checks — up from the $600 checks for individuals in the package President Trump signed Sunday — could pass the Senate. That has changed with Trump’s final-hours advocacy for bigger checks, Republican sources tell Axios.

20201228edsuc-aThe state of play: It’s still an uphill battle. But Republican senators are feeling more pressure from constituents — pumped by Trump — to do more.

  • It could be too politically risky for some Republican senators to vote “no.”
  • If Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell “brings it to the floor, it might get 60. Then Trump can claim victory,” said a Republican source who provided a breakdown of how the vote could go.

Driving the news: “I am concerned about the debt, but working families have been hurt badly by the pandemic,” Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) tweeted Monday. “This is why I supported $600 direct payments to working families & if given the chance will vote to increase the amount.”

Senators to watch: Rand Paul of Kentucky and Ron Johnson of Wisconsin — with one or two other spending hardliners needed.

I’ll believe it when I see it. Besides, Bernie Sanders is doing his best to keep it from happening. He wants to put a hold on the NDAA bill, which could shift the argument from “Republicans want people to starve” to Democrats want to block pay raises for the troops.”

Politico: Bernie Sanders to delay defense veto override in bid for $2,000 checks.

Sen. Bernie Sanders will filibuster an override of President Donald Trump’s defense bill veto unless the Senate holds a vote on providing $2,000 direct payments to Americans.

“McConnell and the Senate want to expedite the override vote and I understand that. But I’m not going to allow that to happen unless there is a vote, no matter how long that takes, on the $2,000 direct payment,” Sanders said in an interview on Monday night. The Vermont independent can’t ultimately stop the veto override vote, but he can delay it until New Year’s Day and make things more difficult for the GOP.

IMHO, this will make it more difficult for Democrats in the long run.

More information is coming out about the Nashville bomber Anthony Warner.

Here’s some ancient history from The Daily Beast: Alleged Nashville Bomber Anthony Quinn Warner ‘Hated Cops’ and Loved Weed: Former Co-Worker.

Tom Lundborg was a teenager in the late 1970s when he worked under accused Nashville bomber Anthony Quinn Warner, who was a technician for an alarm company.

Back then, Lundborg’s father owned A.C.E. Alarms, a firm providing commercial and residential burglar systems, but was incapacitated in a car wreck. That left a young Lundborg and 20-something “Tony” Warner to run the business, and they drove to different sites to do burglar alarm installations and service calls.

ANthony-Warner-FBI

The FBI released this photo of Anthony Q. Warner.

“I worked with Tony as his helper. I kind of looked up to him. He was kind of a hippie. Had long hair, a Magnum, P.I. mustache,” Lundborg told The Daily Beast. “He was a smart cocky kind of guy. I rode around with him all day every day—during the summers, at least for a couple years.”

Lundborg said Warner disliked authority, loved smoking weed and claimed he’d just gotten out of the Navy. (It’s unclear whether Warner was ever in the U.S. Armed Forces, but records show he was arrested for marijuana possession in 1978.)

They drove around listening to 103 KDF, previously Nashville’s main rock station, and if Warner spotted a police officer, he’d break his silence to lecture the teenage Lundborg.

“I hate cops. They’re all corrupt,” Warner would say. “Never trust a cop.”

Lundborg said he spoke to the FBI about Warner, as authorities try to piece together a motive for the Christmas Day explosion which injured eight people and destroyed multiple buildings.

From the AP: Bomber to neighbor: The world is ‘never going to forget me.’

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — It seemed like a friendly chat between neighbors. Only after a bomb exploded in downtown Nashville on Christmas morning could Rick Laude grasp the sinister meaning behind his neighbor’s smiling remark that the city and the rest of the world would never forget him.

Laude told The Associated Press on Monday that he was speechless when he learned that authorities identified his 63-year-old neighbor, Anthony Quinn Warner, as the man suspected of detonating a bomb that killed himself, injured three other people and damaged dozens of buildings.

Laude said he saw Warner standing at his mailbox less than a week before Christmas and pulled over in his car to talk. After asking how Warner’s elderly mother was doing, Laude said he casually asked, “Is Santa going to bring you anything good for Christmas?”

Warner smiled and said, “Oh, yeah, Nashville and the world is never going to forget me,” Laude recalled.

Laude said he didn’t think much of the remark and thought Warner only meant that “something good” was going to happen for him financially.

"First the gloves, then the masks, now the tinfoil hats."

“First the gloves, then the masks, now the tinfoil hats.”

From The Daily Mail, so take it with a grain of salt: REVEALED: Nashville bomber Anthony Warner ‘targeted AT&T after his father who worked for subsidiary died of dementia – fueling his conspiracy theory that 5G is killing people.’

Nashville bomber Anthony Quinn Warner hoped he would be ‘hailed a hero’ for targeting AT&T because he believed 5G cellular technology was killing people, DailyMail.com can exclusively reveal.

The 63-year-old computer tech – who died in the suspected suicide blast but was identified Sunday from DNA found in his mangled RV – was ‘heavily into conspiracy theories’, according to a source close to the investigation.

Various baseless theories have circulated since the lightning-fast 5G network was introduced, some claiming it’s a tool to spy on Americans, others speculating that it has fueled the spread of COVID-19….

Electronic devices seized from Warner’s former home in Antioch, a suburb of Nashville, have been sent to a digital forensics laboratory to unlock his online activity and find out where he discussed his warped views.

‘We are waiting on the digital footprint that should finally provide us with some answers,’ the source explained.

‘The unofficial motive thus far is the suspect believed 5G was the root of all deaths in the region and he’d be hailed a hero.’

I hope all you Sky Dancers are doing well and staying safe. I hope you’ll stop by here today if you have the time and inclination. We will get through the next 22 days together and then sane people take charge again.


Tuesday Reads: Six Primaries Today, But Coronavirus Still Tops the News

The 2020 presidential contenders

Good Morning!!

Today there will be primaries in 6 states with 352 delegates up for grabs: Michigan, Washington, Missouri, Mississippi, Idaho, and North Dakota. What to watch for in each state, according to Buzzfeed News:

The 2020 Democratic primary radically changed last Tuesday, when Joe Biden surpassed even the highest expectations to build a delegate lead over Bernie Sanders. This Tuesday, the race could effectively lock into place.

Six states with a total of 352 delegates vote in the Democratic presidential primary today, which isn’t really a second Super Tuesday, even though many are calling it that (California, which voted last week, had 415 delegates on its own). But with Biden already up just about 80 delegates over Sanders going into Tuesday, a strong performance in these states could give him a lead that will be tough for Sanders to overcome. And alternatively, a surprising result for Sanders could make the primary more competitive than some assume it is right now, leading into states later this month that on paper look strong for Biden.

The biggest haul of delegates will come from Michigan, followed by Washington.

Michigan…is the big state tonight, with 125 delegates. Sanders won the primary here in 2016 over Hillary Clinton in a surprise, helping to revive his campaign even as the two basically split delegates evenly (67 for Sanders and 63 for Clinton).

Sanders and Biden have both spent much of the last week focused on winning the state. A win for Biden, especially one by a decisive margin, could be brutal for Sanders. A win for Sanders could prove that his promised coalition of young people — including young people of color — and the white working class still has life. Recent polls have shown a double-digit lead for Biden, but they showed one for Clinton ahead of the 2016 primary, too….

Washington…is tonight’s second-biggest state, with 89 delegates. Sanders won the state in a blowout in 2016 and is hoping to win by a decent margin again this year.

But Sanders has a disadvantage this year relative to 2016: The state will no longer hold caucuses, where he performed well with hyper-engaged, organized supporters. Washington this year is conducting its primary entirely by mail. About 22% of ballots were returned before Super Tuesday, which could limit a Biden bounce. Voting by mail has also reduced fears about the state’s coronavirus outbreak limiting turnout. But the result here isn’t necessarily certain: There’s been limited recent polling, and neither candidate has campaigned here in the last week.

NBC News: Democrats vote: What the polls show for Biden and Sanders in Michigan, other states.

A Detroit Free Press poll released Monday found that Biden has a 24-point lead over Sanders, with the former vice president drawing 51 percent of Democratic voters’ support to Sanders’ 27 percent. A Monmouth University poll, also released Monday, saw Biden with 51 percent of likely Democratic primary voters, while 36 percent supported Sanders. The RealClearPolitics polling average puts Biden up by 22.6 points.

Still, the Free Press noted, Sanders overcame a similar polling margin to win the state four years ago: The paper’s 2016 survey by the same pollsters gave Hillary Clinton a 25-point lead, but Sanders eventually won by 1.4 percentage points thanks to an unexpected surge of younger voters….

Biden has a narrow lead in Washington after eroding Sanders’ early lead with his Super Tuesday momentum. According to the RealClearPolitics polling average, Biden’s up by 2 points over Sanders.

The progressive-leaning state has 89 delegates — it’s the second-biggest trove of the day after Michigan — and Sanders won it handily in 2016….

Biden is also leading the polls in Missouri and Mississippi. Results in the tiny states of Idaho and North Dakota are anyone’s guess.

Obviously, the coronavirus is is leading the news today, despite the importance of the primaries. Here’s the latest.

Is what’s happening in Italy a preview for the U.S.? CBS News: Coronavirus brings Italy’s “darkest hour,” and takes a mounting toll in the U.S.

As Italians woke up to the most severe restrictions on their every-day lives since World War II, China said it was easing virus-control measures in the province where the COVID-19 disease emerged late last year. The contrasting conditions on two of the biggest battlefronts against the virus showed its severity, and the feasibility of corralling and controlling it.

AlJazeera: Italy in nationwide lockdown to prevent spread of coronavirus.

Italy has imposed unprecedented travel restrictions on its 60 million people to control the deadly coronavirus outbreak in the country.

“I am going to sign a decree that can be summarised as follows: I stay at home,” Conte said on television, announcing that the entire country would effectively be placed on lockdown from Tuesday.

“Travel must be avoided across the entire peninsula unless it is justified by professional reasons, by cases of need or for health reasons,” Conte said.

These measures extend a quarantine zone that Italy had imposed on its northern heartland around Milan and the greater Lombardy region, Venice, and Pesaro Urbino on Sunday.

The restrictions will run until April 3.

All schools and universities will immediately close. Serie A football matches and all other sporting events are also being suspended for the coming month.

All ski resorts are out of action and cinemas, museums, nightclubs and similar venues must remain shut after being ordered to close their doors over the weekend, the decree said.

While religious institutions will stay open, as long as people can stay a metre from one another, ceremonies such as marriages, baptisms and funerals are banned.

Read more at the link.

The Trump administration’s coronavirus strategy is still gaslighting and covering up.

Time Magazine: The Trump Administration Is Stalling an Intel Report That Warns the U.S. Isn’t Ready for a Global Pandemic.

The office of the Director of National Intelligence (DNI) was scheduled to deliver the Worldwide Threat Assessment to the House Intelligence Committee on Feb. 12 and the hearing has not been rescheduled, according to staffers and members of the House and Senate intelligence committees. The DNI’s office declined requests for a comment on the status of the report. Democratic staffers say they do not expect the report to be released any time soon.

The final draft of the report remains classified but the two officials who have read it say it contains warnings similar to those in the last installment, which was published on January 29, 2019. The 2019 report warns on page 29 that, “The United States will remain vulnerable to the next flu pandemic or large-scale outbreak of a contagious disease that could lead to massive rates of death and disability, severely affect the world economy, strain international resources, and increase calls on the United States for support.”

The 2019 warning was the third time in as many years that the nation’s intelligence experts said that a new strain of influenza could lead to a pandemic, and that the U.S. and the world were unprepared. “Although the international community has made tenuous improvements to global health security, these gains may be inadequate to address the challenge of what we anticipate will be more frequent outbreaks of infectious diseases because of rapid unplanned urbanization, prolonged humanitarian crises, human incursion into previously unsettled land, expansion of international travel and trade, and regional climate change,” the 2019 threat assessment warned.

Rather than acting on these recurrent warnings and bolstering America’s ability to respond to an outbreak, the Trump administration has instead cut back money and personnel from pandemic preparedness.

Click the link to read the rest.

Apparently, Trump doesn’t want immigrants to know how to protect themselves from the virusThe Miami Herald : Trump administration orders immigration courts to immediately remove coronavirus posters.

Immigration court staff nationwide have been ordered by the Trump administration to take down all coronavirus posters from courtrooms and waiting areas.

The Executive Office for Immigration Review, which falls under the Department of Justice, told all judges and staff members in an email Monday that all coronavirus posters, which explain in English and Spanish how to prevent catching and spreading the virus, had to be removed immediately.

“This is just a reminder that immigration judges do not have the authority to post, or ask you to post, signage for their individual courtrooms or the waiting areas,” wrote Christopher A. Santoro, the country’s acting chief immigration judge in a mass email to immigration court administrators nationwide.

“Per our leadership, the CDC flyer is not authorized for posting in the immigration courts. If you see one (attached), please remove it. Thank you.”

The information in the flyers came from the CDC. Why doesn’t the Trump administration want people in these courts to have the information?

Will the Republicans change their attitudes now that some GOP lawmakers–and maybe even Trump and Pence–have been exposed to the virus?

The Daily Beast: CPAC Attendees Want to Know Who the Mystery Coronavirus Patient Is.

Revelations that a man infected with the novel coronavirus hobnobbed with top Republicans at the annual Conservative Public Action Conference last month has prompted a wave of fright among Republican operatives who attended the conference and fear they may have been exposed, too. And as the fear has mounted so too have complaints that the conference’s planners have been too secretive about the man’s identity.

“If you’re not rich and important, you don’t get to know if you were exposed to someone with Coronavirus at CPAC,” Breitbart reporter Brandon Darby tweeted Monday….

The American Conservative Union, which organizes the annual event in National Harbor, Maryland, announced Saturday afternoon that a man who was infected with the coronavirus attended CPAC. Since then, four prominent Republicans—Sen. Ted Cruz (TX), Rep. Paul Gosar (AZ), Rep. Doug Collins (GA), and Rep. Matt Gaetz (FL)—have announced that they’re self-quarantining after interacting with the man.

Gaetz has undergone a test for the virus. In contrast, Rep. Louie Gohmert (R-TX), who also had contact with the infected man, said he won’t self-quarantine.

Gaetz flew on Air Force One with Trump yesterday and rode with him in the presidential limosine. Doug Collins was seen shaking hands and talking with Trump after the conference. For unknown reasons, Trump has not been tested for the virus.

Politico: ‘My phone’s been blowing up’: CPAC attendees rip the group’s virus messaging.

A CPAC attendee infected with coronavirus attended multiple days of the conference on a gold-level VIP ticket as well as a Friday night Shabbat dinner associated with the event, according to people familiar with the situation.

The infected attendee was a CPAC regular who made a hobby of meeting high-profile conference speakers and taking photographs with them. His gold-level ticket gave him access to a private lounge directly outside the green room for speakers on the conference’s main stage.

As of early Monday evening, event organizers have contacted “just over a dozen” people who they have identified as having direct contact with the infected attendee, according to Ian Walters, spokesman for the American Conservative Union, which organizes the annual Conservative Political Action Conference.

The ACU’s handling of the case has led to grumbling from some conferencegoers, who have complained of a two-tiered system: VIPs have been notified directly even to be told they did not interact with the infected man, while ordinary rank-and-file attendees have by and large been left to wonder, receiving only vaguer information in mass emails. Meanwhile, critics have noted the irony of prominent officials downplaying the outbreak even as the disease may silently have been spreading among the Trump administration’s own members and supporters.

More stories to check out today:

The Atlantic: COVID-19 Has Dangerously Inverted the Long-Standing White House Theme.

Jennifer Senior at The New York Times: President Trump Is Unfit for This Crisis. Period.

Brian Klass at The Washington Post: The coronavirus is Trump’s Chernobyl.

The Atlantic: The Dangerous Delays in U.S. Coronavirus Testing Continue.

Tom Bossert at The Washington Post: It’s now or never for the U.S. if it hopes to keep coronavirus from burning out of control.

AP: Trump talks down virus as his properties face possible hit.

The Daily Beast: Trump Chatted With Taliban Leaders on Secret U.S. Kill-or-Capture List.


Tuesday Reads: The Corona Virus and Finally Vetting Bernie

Good Morning!!

I had a flu shot in January, and since then I’ve had a week-long bout a stomach flu and now I have a full-blown case of the flu. I came down with it on Saturday morning and since then I’ve had a low grade fever that comes and goes along with a hacking cough, headaches, ear pain, and muscle aches. I felt better yesterday, and my temperature was normal until late last night. Now it’s already over 100 again.

I’m really not looking forward to catching the corona virus, but according to James Hamblin at The Atlantic, we are all likely to get it eventually: You’re Likely to Get the Coronavirus. Most cases are not life-threatening, which is also what makes the virus a historic challenge to contain.

Coronaviruses are similar to influenza viruses in that they are both single strands of RNA. Four coronaviruses commonly infect humans, causing colds. These are believed to have evolved in humans to maximize their own spread—which means sickening, but not killing, people. By contrast, the two prior novel coronavirus outbreaks—SARS (severe acute respiratory syndrome) and MERS (Middle East respiratory syndrome, named for where the first outbreak occurred)—were picked up from animals, as was H5N1. These diseases were highly fatal to humans. If there were mild or asymptomatic cases, they were extremely few. Had there been more of them, the disease would have spread widely. Ultimately, SARS and MERS each killed fewer than 1,000 people.

COVID-19 is already reported to have killed more than twice that number. With its potent mix of characteristics, this virus is unlike most that capture popular attention: It is deadly, but not too deadly. It makes people sick, but not in predictable, uniquely identifiable ways. Last week, 14 Americans tested positive on a cruise ship in Japan despite feeling fine—the new virus may be most dangerous because, it seems, it may sometimes cause no symptoms at all.

Hamblin explains that this COVID-19 is likely to spread and then keep coming back every year, because it is contagious even when people have no symptoms and it doesn’t kill off most of the people who get it.

The Harvard epidemiology professor Marc Lipsitch is exacting in his diction, even for an epidemiologist. Twice in our conversation he started to say something, then paused and said, “Actually, let me start again.” So it’s striking when one of the points he wanted to get exactly right was this: “I think the likely outcome is that it will ultimately not be containable.”

Containment is the first step in responding to any outbreak. In the case of COVID-19, the possibility (however implausible) of preventing a pandemic seemed to play out in a matter of days. Starting in January, China began cordoning off progressively larger areas, radiating outward from Wuhan City and eventually encapsulating some 100 million people. People were barred from leaving home, and lectured by drones if they were caught outside. Nonetheless, the virus has now been found in 24 countries….

Lipsitch predicts that, within the coming year, some 40 to 70 percent of people around the world will be infected with the virus that causes COVID-19. But, he clarifies emphatically, this does not mean that all will have severe illnesses. “It’s likely that many will have mild disease, or may be asymptomatic,” he said. As with influenza, which is often life-threatening to people with chronic health conditions and of older age, most cases pass without medical care. (Overall, around 14 percent of people with influenza have no symptoms.)

Lipsitch is far from alone in his belief that this virus will continue to spread widely. The emerging consensus among epidemiologists is that the most likely outcome of this outbreak is a new seasonal disease—a fifth “endemic” coronavirus. With the other four, people are not known to develop long-lasting immunity. If this one follows suit, and if the disease continues to be as severe as it is now, “cold and flu season” could become “cold and flu and COVID-19 season.”

The New York Times: ‘Recipe for a Massive Viral Outbreak’: Iran Emerges as a Worldwide Threat.

Religious pilgrims, migrant workers, businessmen, soldiers and clerics all flow constantly across Iran’s frontiers, often crossing into countries with few border controls, weak and ineffective governments and fragile health systems.

Now, as it struggles to contain the spread of the coronavirus, Iran is also emerging as the second focal point after China for the spread of the disease. Cases in Iraq, Afghanistan, Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Lebanon, the United Arab Emirates — even one in Canada — have all been traced to Iran, sending tremors of fear rippling out from Kabul to Beirut.

The Middle East is in many ways the perfect place to spawn a pandemic, experts say, with the constant circulation of both Muslim pilgrims and itinerant workers who might carry the virus. Iran’s economy has been strangled by sanctions, its people have lost trust in their government and its leaders are isolated from much of the world, providing little clarity about the extent of the epidemic.

Civil wars or years of unrest have shattered the health systems of several neighboring countries, like Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan and Yemen. And most of the region is governed largely by authoritarians with poor track records at providing public transparency, accountability and health services.

“It is a recipe for a massive viral outbreak,” said Peter Piot, director of the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine and the former founding executive director of the Joint United Nations Program on H.I.V./AIDS.

An even more immediate threat is the rise of Bernie Sanders. Over the weekend Sanders used his 60 Minutes interview to defend his past support of Fidel Castro’s Cuba.

The reaction in Florida-home was swift and angry.

Marc Caputo at Politico: Florida Dems in uproar after Sanders’ Cuba comments.

Florida Democrats insist he‘s the worst-equipped [to defeat Donald Trump] after Sanders’ refusal Sunday night to thoroughly condemn the Cuban revolution. His comments on 60 Minutes sent shock waves through the nation’s biggest battleground state, where Democratic members of Congress, state legislators and party leaders warned that his nomination — and Sanders’ self-described “Democratic socialism” — will cost them the biggest battleground state of them all.

“Donald Trump wins Florida if Bernie is our nominee,” said state Rep. Javier Fernandez, a Democratic candidate in a majority-Hispanic state Senate district….

As a state with an influential cross-section of Latinos whose families fled leftist Latin American regimes and violence, Sanders embrace of far-left leaders and his past refusals to wholeheartedly condemn Latin American strongmen and the Soviet Union have long been seen as fatal flaws.

Sanders on Sunday did nothing to allay those concerns in a 60 Minutes interview in which he was asked about his 1985 comments stating that the Cuban people didn’t “rise up in rebellion against Fidel Castro” because “he educated their kids, gave their kids health care, totally transformed society.”

There was no mention of the firing squads, political purges and mass arrests that accompanied the 1959 revolution.

There’s much more at the link.

At least Sanders is finally getting vetted by the media. For example, Griffe Witte at The Washington Post: In Cold War travels, Bernie Sanders found much to admire behind enemy lines. Now that’s a problem for his campaign.

The mayor of tiny Burlington, Vt., was back from Nicaragua and eager to share the good news.

The country’s Soviet-backed government — forged via armed rebellion — was cutting infant mortality, reducing illiteracy and redistributing land to peasant farmers. Its Sandinista leaders, branded terrorists by the U.S. government, impressed him with “their intelligence and their sincerity.”

Three years later, Bernie Sanders was fresh off the plane from Moscow, reveling in the beauty of the land and the contentedness of the people.

And a year after that, he returned from Cuba having tapped into a revolutionary spirit “far deeper and more profound than I understood it to be.”

With Sanders now surging to the top of the Democratic presidential field, those three-decade-old impressions introduced a volatile new element in the race Monday as rivals reacted to Sanders’s decision to defend his remarks, not disclaim them….

The fact that Sanders’s long-ago travels in the communist world have become an issue in the 2020 campaign reflects how unorthodox a choice he would be to lead the Democratic Party….

Returning home from visits to some of the United States’ most avowed enemies, Sanders offered some criticism but also plenty of praise in Vermont community television recordings. Many of the videos were kept in storage for decades — including during his 2016 campaign — and, even after being posted online, have remained relatively unknown.

Now, Sanders’s comments are coming back to life as opponents say his warm feelings toward his hosts decades ago make him vulnerable to attack and reveal a soft spot for left-wing despots.

Read the rest at the WaPo. More Bernie critiques:

Jonathan Chait: If Democrats Aren’t Terrified of Bernie, They’re Not Paying Attention.

William Saletan at Slate: The Great Socialism Gap. Socialism doesn’t freak out Democratic voters the way it freaks out other Americans. That’s a problem.

Never Trumper Michael Gerson at The Washington Post: A Trump-Sanders election would destroy our politics.

The South Carolina primary is coming up on Saturday, followed three days later by Super Tuesday. There’s another debate tonight, and I hope Elizabeth Warren will finally get up the nerve to address Sanders’ many weaknesses instead continuing to focus on Mike Bloomberg. I’m pretty sure the other candidates won’t hesitate to attack Bernie.

Natasha Korecki at Politico: Sanders under fire in South Carolina from all directions.

Joe Biden’s campaign is airing a new digital ad in South Carolina accusing Bernie Sanders of trying to undermine Barack Obama’s 2012 reelection by threatening to primary him. Pete Buttigieg was on TV in South Carolina hitting Sanders over health care and Mike Bloomberg targeted Sanders’ past gun votes.

“When it comes to building on Barack Obama’s legacy, Bernie Sanders just can’t be trusted,” the Biden ad, first obtained by POLITICO, warns.

The fusillade targeting Sanders on the eve of a Democratic debate in the fourth early state of South Carolina marked the latest turn in a Democratic primary that now has a decisive frontrunner. Each of the candidates, competing for a fraction of the moderate vote, are attempting to blunt the Vermont senator’s momentum coming off a landslide win in Nevada.

“When we rallied together to defend our president and all the progress he made they had his back,” the narrator says. Panning to then-Vice President Biden, the voice-over continues, “He had his back,” and moving to images of African American supporters at an Obama rally, says: “And you had his back.”

“But back in Washington, there was one guy with another plan,” the narrator says before an audio clip is heard of Sanders saying, “I think it would be a good idea if President Obama faced some primary opposition.”

More at the WaPo.

Are you going to watch the debate? I might give it a try. The last one was pretty entertaining, and it would be fun to see Bernie get his ass kicked. As always, this is an open thread.


Lazy Caturday Reads

Good Morning!!

The Nevada Caucuses will wrap up this afternoon, but thousands of people have already voted. Political pundits have already crowned Bernie Sanders the winner, but that may not be a sure thing.

David Byler at The Washington Post: We lack the data to predict Nevada’s outcome. Be wary of pundits’ gut instincts.

Nobody really knows what’s going on in the upcoming Nevada Democratic caucuses. Sure, we have a little bit of polling to go on — the RealClearPolitics average includes three recent polls, and it shows Bernie Sanders leading the pack at 30 percent, with Joe Biden, Elizabeth Warren, Pete Buttigieg, Tom Steyer and Amy Klobuchar all clustered between 16 percent and 10 percent of the vote. But it’s hard to nail down the electorate in a caucus state, and Nevada is flush with the sort of young, Hispanic voters that pollsters often have trouble contacting. So all we really know is that Sanders has a lead, but that he’s not invincible.

In a normal election, this lack of concrete information wouldn’t be a problem: Nobody ever died because they didn’t see enough Nevada polling. But primaries aren’t normal elections. The trajectory of the race is often influenced by media-created “expectations” and narratives about “momentum.” And in Nevada, many political pros will be setting those crucially important expectations using gut feelings and groupthink rather than real information. That’s a riskier undertaking for them than they might acknowledge — and for the voters who listen to them.

Much more at the link.

Harry Enten at CNN: Why Nevada could surprise us.

There have been just eight polls released publicly over the last three months. Two of those were internal polls. Only five of those have been taken since the primary season began a few weeks ago, and of those, a grand total of zero meet CNN standards for publication….

Put all together, Sanders is something around a seven in 10 favorite to win in Nevada. That’s based off of the prediction markets and how good the polling in Nevada has been since 2008 (the first year in which Nevada was one of the first four states to vote). Biden and former South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg are next with somewhere around a one in 10 chance to win. Everybody has less than a one in 10 shot in Nevada.

Sanders clearly has a better shot than anyone else to win, but a seven in 10 shot is not an overwhelming favorite. It means that there’s a decent chance Sanders won’t win.
The lack of confidence we should have in the Nevada outcome is partially because of the lack of polling data, but also because the polling data has not been particularly predictive in the past.

Since 2008, Nevada has b een a polling wasteland. Looking at all candidates who polled at 10% or better after undecideds were allocated, Nevada polls taken after the Iowa caucuses have had an average error per candidate of 8 points. The 95% confidence interval for each candidate above 10% is something closer to +/- 20 points. That is, to put it mildly, a huge range.

Read the rest at CNN.

Cat Nap – A Pink Chair by the Window, Lara Meintjes

And we can’t forget that early voting has already been going on in many Super Tuesday states. I’ll be voting early here in Massachusetts next week.

Kelly Mena at CNN: Forget Nevada. Almost 2 million votes have already been cast in Super Tuesday states.

Super Tuesday is still more than a week away, but almost 2 million ballots have already been cast — including in delegate-rich California and Texas.

More than 1.3 million vote-by-mail ballots have been returned in California since February 3, according to county data provided by Sam Mahood, a spokesman for Secretary of State Alex Padilla. That’s out of more than 16 million ballots sent out — a flood that allows the vast majority of the state’s more than 20 million registered voters to cast their ballots before March 3.

“The California presidential primary may be on Super Tuesday, but for millions of Californians, it is really Super February,” Padilla said in a news release earlier this month.
California, with 494 delegates at stake — the most of any single state — has taken on new prominence this year after moving its primary date up in the calendar. Democratic candidates need 1,991 to clinch the nomination.

The other big delegate haul up for grabs on Super Tuesday is Texas, with 261 delegates. Almost half a million ballots have already been cast since early and by-mail voting opened on February 18, according to the secretary of state’s office. Texas has more than 16 million registered voters.

Unfortunately, Bernie is also leading in California polls; and he’s so confident of winning Nevada that he has already left to campaign in CA.

Cat on a chair, Diane Hoepner

Two polls released this week in California show Bernie Sanders holding a comfortable lead. The latest poll from The Public Policy Institute of California, released on Tuesday, shows Sanders ahead at 32%, with Joe Biden (14%), Elizabeth Warren (13%), Pete Buttigieg (12%) and Michael Bloomberg (12%) closely knotted in a race for second. Amy Klobuchar stood at 5% in that poll, with Tom Steyer at 3% and Tulsi Gabbard at 1%.

Monmouth University also released a California poll this week. Their poll finds Sanders leading with 24%, Biden at 17%, Bloomberg at 13%, Warren at 10% and Buttigieg at 9%. Behind them, Steyer (5%) and Klobuchar (4%) were about even, with Gabbard at 2%.

Yesterday we learned that Russia is trying to help Bernie win the Democratic nomination. The Washington Post reports:

U.S. officials have told Sen. Bernie Sanders that Russia is attempting to help his presidential campaign as part of an effort to interfere with the Democratic contest, according to people familiar with the matter.

President Trump and lawmakers on Capitol Hill also have been informed about the Russian assistance to the Vermont senator, those people said, speaking on the condition of anonymity to discuss sensitive intelligence.

It is not clear what form that Russian assistance has taken. U.S. prosecutors found a Russian effort in 2016 to use social media to boost Sanders’s campaign against Hillary Clinton, part of a broader effort to hurt Clinton, sow dissension in the American electorate and ultimately help elect Donald Trump.

So Bernie has known this for a month and did and said nothing about it. And he’s not happy with the media for reporting the news. He attacked the Post for reporting the story.

He is also furious with MSNBC for some reason. As far as I can tell, he is getting full support from Chris Hayes, Rachel Maddow and Ali Velshi, but I guess he’s angry with some of the guests on the network. Page Six: Bernie Sanders calls out MSNBC over campaign coverage.

Bernie Sanders went ballistic at NBC and MSNBC execs ahead of the Democratic debate this week — jabbing one top TV exec repeatedly in the face with his finger and accusing the networks of offensive negative coverage.

Surging Sanders stormed through the walk-through for the Las Vegas debate, singling out one top producer at the end and aggressively sticking his finger in his face. One shocked witness said, “Bernie marched right up to NBC and MSNBC’s head of creative production and began jabbing his finger right in his face, yelling, ‘Your coverage of my campaign is not fair . . . Your questions tonight are not going to be fair to me.’ ”

Sanders did not hold back as he continued to rant about MSNBC coverage. According to the witness, “The NBC exec told Sanders he would be treated fairly.”

A separate insider confirmed the confrontation, saying Sanders was so steamed he also sparred with MSNBC boss Phil Griffin outside the green room moments before the debate began. “Sen. Sanders stated, ‘Phil, your network has not been playing a fair role in this campaign. I am upset. Is anything going to change? . . . I hope you will do better.’ ”

The Democratic front-runner has been left seeing red over repeated slights against him by liberal MSNBC pundits and hosts, including Chris Matthews, who suggested the senator might cheer socialist executions in Central Park. And Chuck Todd — a moderator of Wednesday’s debate — even quoted a story that described Sanders supporters as a “digital brownshirt brigade.” Todd was also tackled by seething Sanders onstage after the debate: “I do not appreciate your comment about my supporters,” adding the Holocaust reference was “offensive.”

Sanders’ campaign manager Faiz Shakir has said that even Fox News has been “more fair than MSNBC . . . which . . . is constantly undermining the Bernie Sanders campaign.”

There’s no doubt in my mind that Bernie is just a “socialist” mirror image of Trump. But Trump is actually president right now, and he’s undermining democracy in every way he and his thugs can think of. His latest efforts include a Stalinist-style purge of anyone who crosses him and a hostile takeover of the Intelligence community.

The Washington Post: Trump embarks on expansive search for disloyalty as administration-wide purge escalates.

President Trump has instructed his White House to identify and force out officials across his administration who are not seen as sufficiently loyal, a post-impeachment escalation that administration officials say reflects a new phase of a campaign of retribution and restructuring ahead of the November election.

Maine Coon Cat Sitting On Chair, by Rosanne Olson.

Johnny McEntee, Trump’s former personal aide who now leads the effort as director of presidential personnel, has begun combing through various agencies with a mandate from the president to oust or sideline political appointees who have not proved their loyalty, according to several administration officials and others familiar with the matter who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss internal deliberations.

The push comes in the aftermath of an impeachment process in which several members of Trump’s administration provided damning testimony about his behavior with regard to Ukraine. The stream of officials publicly criticizing Trump’s actions frustrated the president and caused him to fixate on cleaning house after his acquittal this month.

“We want bad people out of our government!” Trump tweeted Feb. 13, kicking off a tumultuous stretch of firings, resignations, controversial appointments and private skirmishes that have since spilled into public view.

The New York Times: Richard Grenell Begins Overhauling Intelligence Office, Prompting Fears of Partisanship.

Richard Grenell’s tenure as the nation’s top intelligence official may be short-lived, but he wasted no time this week starting to shape his team of advisers, ousting his office’s No. 2 official — a longtime intelligence officer — and bringing in an expert on Trump conspiracy theories to help lead the agency, according to officials.

Mr. Grenell has also requested the intelligence behind the classified briefing last week before the House Intelligence Committee where officials told lawmakers that Russia was interfering in November’s presidential election and that President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia favored President Trump’s re-election. The briefing later prompted Mr. Trump’s anger as he complained that Democrats would use it against him.

Joseph Maguire, the former acting director of national intelligence, and his deputy, Andrew P. Hallman, resigned on Friday. Mr. Grenell told Mr. Hallman, popular in the office’s Liberty Crossing headquarters, that his service was no longer needed, according to two officials. Mr. Hallman, who has worked in the office or at the C.I.A. for three decades, expressed confidence in his colleagues in a statement but also referred to the “uncertainties that come with change.”

The ouster of Mr. Hallman and exit of Mr. Maguire, who also oversaw the National Counterterrorism Center, allowed Mr. Grenell to install his own leadership team.

Much more at the WaPo link.

Finally, here’s a deep dive into Trump’s attack on our National Security by Garrett Graff at Wired: How Trump Hollowed Out US National Security.

While vacancies and acting officials have become commonplace in this administration, the moves by President Donald Trump this week represent a troubling and potentially profound new danger to the country. There will soon be no Senate-confirmed director of the National Counterterrorism Center, director of national intelligence, principal deputy director of national intelligence, homeland security secretary, deputy homeland security secretary, nor leaders of any of the three main border security and immigration agencies. Across the government, nearly 100,000 federal law enforcement agents, officers, and personnel are working today without permanent agency leaders, from Customs and Border Protection and Immigrations and Customs Enforcement to the Drug Enforcement Administration and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives.

All the posts, and many more top security jobs, are unfilled or staffed with leaders who have not been confirmed by the Senate. Trump has done an end-around, installing loyalists without subjecting them to legally mandated vetting and approval by Congress.

Trump’s surprise ouster of Maguire, who took over as acting director of national intelligence last summer, came apparently in a tantrum over a congressional briefing that outlined how Russia is already trying to interfere with the 2020 election and help reelect Trump.

But understanding the true cost of Maguire’s firing requires understanding how the role first came to be. The director of national intelligence position was created after 9/11 specifically to coordinate the work of the nation’s 17 intelligence agencies and help “connect the dots” on disparate data and threats, work that wasn’t done before September 11, 2001. DNI is an immensely challenging job that includes serving legally as the president’s top intelligence adviser, and traditionally involves giving the president’s daily briefing on potential threats.

Graff also address Trump’s destruction of the Department of Homeland Security–including FEMA. I hope you’ll read the whole article.

Have a great weekend, Sky Dancers! As always, this is an open thread.