This morning Trump appeared on Fox and Friends and rambled on for 47 minutes. At the end of the interview, Steve Doocy expressed some surprising hostility toward the fake “president.”
Wow! Doocy’s getting a little fed up with Trump’s word salad, I guess. He even offered equal time to Joe Biden.
In another headline-grabbing moment, Trump told his Fox and Friends pals that he wanted to assassinate Syria’s Bashar al-Assad awhile back.
The Washington Post: Trump confirms he wanted to assassinate Assad. In 2018, he denied it was even considered.
In the Fox interview, Trump criticized former defense secretary Jim Mattis, who has in recent months warned the country strongly against reelecting Trump. But in the course of making that case, Trump offered an odd claim: He said Mattis had effectively stood in the way of his efforts to assassinate Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
“I would’ve rather taken him out,” Trump said. “I had him all set. Mattis didn’t want to do it. Mattis was a highly overrated general.”
When asked whether he regretted not taking Assad out, Trump added: “No, I don’t regret that. … I had a shot to take him out if I wanted. Mattis was against it.”
The first problem with this argument is that Trump is disparaging Mattis for opposing something that Trump doesn’t even say he regrets. The second is that the commander in chief makes these decisions, full stop. If Trump wanted to do it, Mattis couldn’t block him.
In 2018, Woodward published “Fear.” In the book, he reported that Trump had considered assassinating Assad. Trump, on Sept. 5, 2018, flatly denied it.
“I heard somewhere where they said the assassination of President Assad by the United States. Never even discussed,” Trump said, adding: “No, that was never even contemplated, nor would it be contemplated.”
He even held it up as evidence that the book shouldn’t have been published.
Breaking news: Trump is a pathological liar.
Lets see . . . what else is happening in the United States of crazy?
As Dakinikat wrote yesterday, Trump seems determined to continue holding super-spreader rallies that threaten the lives of his own supporters and staff. The Washington Post suggests that Trump is using these events to “rebuke” Democratic governors and mayors who have established restrictions on public behavior in order to protect their citizens.
President Trump’s first indoor rally in months was staged as a rebuke to Democrats he accuses of using coronavirus restrictions against him, but the campaign event in Nevada also prompted sharp denunciations from critics on Monday as a symbol of the president’s failure to effectively confront the deadly covid-19 crisis.
The Sunday night gathering came as the pandemic has caused at least 190,000 deaths in the United States, with the number expected to pass 200,000 sometime before Trump holds his next official campaign events on Friday. The Nov. 3 election had already become a referendum on the president’s often dismissive approach to the pandemic before revelations last week that he had told Washington Post journalist Bob Woodward he knew the severity of the virus but preferred to play it down in public….
On Monday, Trump held another indoor campaign event at a luxury hotel in Phoenix that was billed as a roundtable with Latino supporters. The White House pool reporter traveling with Trump described the scene as looking much like a rally, with more than 100 people crowded closely together inside a ballroom. Television footage showed mask-free supporters waving campaign signs.
“I know this was supposed to be, you know the fake news, they said that this is supposed to be a roundtable, but it looks like a rally,” Trump said. “But it is a rally because we love each other.” He then added that “it is a roundtable.”
President Donald Trump is running as the “law and order” candidate. But that hasn’t stopped him and his campaign from openly defying state emergency orders and flouting his own administration’s coronavirus guidelines as he holds ever-growing rallies in battleground states.
Democratic governors and local leaders have urged the president to reconsider the events, warning that he’s putting lives at risk. But they have largely not tried to block the gatherings of thousands of people, which Trump and his team deem “peaceful protests” protected by the First Amendment.
“If you can join tens of thousands of people protesting in the streets, gamble in a casino, or burn down small businesses in riots, you can gather peacefully under the 1st Amendment to hear from the President of the United States,” Tim Murtaugh, a Trump campaign spokesperson, said in a statement….
Trump’s campaign insisted that it takes appropriate health precautions, including handing out masks and hand sanitizer and checking the temperatures of rallygoers.
But images of thousands of maskless supporters standing shoulder to shoulder remain jarring in a country where sports are still played in empty arenas and concerts have been largely banned. That’s especially true for those who have lost loved ones or spent months isolating at home and worry that rallies will further spread infection, undermining hard-fought progress. An indoor rally that Trump held in Tulsa, Oklahoma, in June was blamed for a surge of virus infections there.
In an interview yesterday, Trump demonstrated that he couldn’t care less about threatening the health of his supporters, as long as he himself is protected. The New York Times: Trump Defends Indoor Rally, but Aides Express Concern.
President Trump and his campaign are defending his right to rally indoors, despite the private unease of aides who called it a game of political Russian roulette and growing concern that such gatherings could prolong the coronavirus pandemic.
“I’m on a stage, and it’s very far away,” Mr. Trump said in an interview with The Las Vegas Review-Journal on Monday, after thousands of his supporters gathered on Sunday night inside a manufacturing plant in a Las Vegas suburb, flouting a state directive limiting indoor gatherings to fewer than 50 people.
The president did not address health concerns about the rally attendees, a vast majority of whom did not wear masks or practice any social distancing. When it came to his own safety, he said, “I’m not at all concerned.”
He is simply incapable of caring about anyone but himself.
Yesterday afternoon, Trump met with California officials and told them they are clueless about how to deal with wildfires. Forbes: ‘I Don’t Think Science Knows, Actually’: Trump Dismisses Climate Science In California Wildfire Discussion.
After multiple California officials confronted President Donald Trump Monday about ignoring climate change’s role in the raging west coast wildfires, the president dismissed their concerns and raised skepticism about the “science” that has concluded the Earth is warming.
“It’ll start getting cooler,” Trump said in response to California Natural Resource Secretary Wade Crawfoot, who pressed the president to acknowledge the fact untamed vegetation is not solely responsible for the wildfires in the Golden State.
“I wish science agreed with you,” Crawfoot replied back, to which the president replied, “I don’t think science knows, actually.”
Trump’s solution to the wildfire problem:
In other insane news, Trump loyalist Michael Caputo, who “interfered with CDC reports on Covid-19” made wild claims about a conspiracy involving the CDC and “left-wing hit squads.” The New York Times: Trump Health Aide Pushes Bizarre Conspiracies and Warns of Armed Revolt.
The top communications official at the powerful cabinet department in charge of combating the coronavirus made outlandish and false accusations on Sunday that career government scientists were engaging in “sedition” in their handling of the pandemic and that left-wing hit squads were preparing for armed insurrection after the election.
Michael R. Caputo, the assistant secretary of public affairs at the Department of Health and Human Services, accused the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention of harboring a “resistance unit” determined to undermine President Trump, even if that opposition bolsters the Covid-19 death toll.
Mr. Caputo, who has faced intense criticism for leading efforts to warp C.D.C. weekly bulletins to fit Mr. Trump’s pandemic narrative, suggested that he personally could be in danger from opponents of the administration. “If you carry guns, buy ammunition, ladies and gentlemen, because it’s going to be hard to get,” he urged his followers.
“I don’t like being alone in Washington,” Mr. Caputo said, describing “shadows on the ceiling in my apartment, there alone, shadows are so long.” He also said the mounting number of Covid-19 deaths was taking a toll on him, telling his viewers, “You are not waking up every morning and talking about dead Americans.” [….]
To a certain extent, Mr. Caputo’s comments in a video he hosted live on his personal Facebook page were simply an amplified version of remarks that the president himself has made. Both men have singled out government scientists and health officials as disloyal, suggested that the election will not be fairly decided, and insinuated that left-wing groups are secretly plotting to incite violence across the United States.
Read more at the NYT link.
Also at The New York Times, Jamelle Bouie argues that there’s a serious side to these conspiracy theories, even though they make no sense to normal people: Trump’s Perverse Campaign Strategy: If the president’s allies are talking about the moment “shooting will begin” and “martial law,” it’s not by accident.
On Sunday, Michael Caputo, the assistant secretary for public affairs at the Department of Health and Human Services, warned of left-wing insurrectionists and “sedition” within the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention during a video he hosted live on his Facebook page. After predicting victory for President Trump in the upcoming election, Caputo warned that Joe Biden wouldn’t concede. “And when Donald Trump refuses to stand down at the inauguration, the shooting will begin,” he said. “The drills that you’ve seen are nothing.” [….]
…Trump isn’t actually running for re-election — or at least, not running in the traditional manner. He has a campaign, yes, but it is not a campaign to win votes or persuade the public outside of a few, select slivers of the electorate. Instead, it’s a campaign to hold on to power by any means necessary, using every tool available to him as president of the United States. Caputo, in that sense, is only taking cues from his boss.
Of course, Trump would like to obtain a proper victory. But it’s clear he’s not counting on it. That is why the most visible aspect of Trump’s campaign for continued power is his attack on the election itself. If he doesn’t win, he says again and again, then the outcome isn’t legitimate….
Along with this warning comes Trump’s call for supporters to act as “poll watchers” to prevent imaginary fraud at voting locations….
There’s also the president’s rhetoric toward his political opponents. Asked on Fox News about “riots” if he wins re-election, Trump said he would “put them down very quickly,” before adding:
Look, it’s called insurrection. We just send in and we do it, very easy. I mean, it’s very easy. I’d rather not do that because there’s no reason for it, but if we had to we’d do that and put it down within minutes.
Trump also indicated that he supports extrajudicial killings.
Later in the interview, Trump commented on the Sept. 3 killing of Michael Forest Reinoehl by U.S. marshals. Reinoehl was suspected of shooting a member of the far-right group Patriot Prayer during a protest in Portland, Ore., on Aug. 29. Trump, who swore to uphold the Constitution when he was inaugurated, claimed to have essentially called for an extrajudicial killing:
Now we sent in the U.S. marshals for the killer, the man that killed the young man in the street. Two and a half days went by, and I put out “when are you going to go get him.” And the U.S. marshals went in to get him. There was a shootout. This guy was a violent criminal, and the U.S. marshalls killed him. And I’ll tell you something — that’s the way it has to be. There has to be retribution.
Instead of making a conventional appeal to voters to give him another term in office, Trump is issuing a threat, of sorts: I cannot lose. If I do lose, the election was stolen. Anyone protesting my effort to hold onto power is an insurrectionist. And sometimes, “there has to be retribution.”
I guess that’s enough crazy for today. Take care of yourselves folks and check in if you can to let us know what’s happening where you are. We’ll be thinking of those of you who are in the paths of wildfires and hurricanes.
Hurricane Laura made landfall as a Category 4 hurricane in Louisiana overnight. I haven’t been able to find a lot of information on the damage so far. Right now Russel Honore is on MSNBC attacking the lack of action by FEMA. He explained that the areas that have been hit hardest are the poorest in the state; many live in mobile homes.
CBS News is posting live updates. The latest:
“Extremely dangerous” Hurricane Laura made landfall overnight near Cameron, Louisiana, bringing “catastrophic storm surge, extreme winds and flash flooding” to portions of the state, the National Hurricane Center said early Thursday. The storm had intensified rapidly into a Category 4 hurricane before slamming into the Gulf Coast near the Louisiana-Texas border.
Several hours after it came ashore, the storm was downgraded to a Category 2 hurricane, although the storm was still extremely dangerous. The hurricane center said life-threatening storm surge was continuing early Thursday along much of Louisiana’s coastline.
As of 7 a.m. local time, the storm was located about 20 miles north of Fort Polk, Louisiana, moving north at 15 mph. It was forecast to move across western and northern Louisiana through this afternoon and over Arkansas tonight, and become a tropical storm later on Thursday.
Trump recently took funds from FEMA to pay for his stupid executive orders.
…less than three weeks ago, instead of working with Congress to craft comprehensive legislation to address the ongoing crisis and deliver desperately-needed aid, President Trump looted FEMA’s Disaster Relief Fund to the tune of $44 billion — authorizing the agency to pay for a $300 per week supplement to regular unemployment benefits.
The $300 a week benefit supplement is similar to the $600 one that was included in the CARES Act passed at the start of the pandemic. An extension of that $600 benefit was included in second relief package that the House has already approved, but that Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell won’t hold a vote on. And because the Senate won’t sign off on the House bill and Trump didn’t work with lawmakers to reach a compromise, the unemployment supplement isn’t coming from money appropriated by Congress. It’s coming from the government account meant to cover natural disasters like the one presently bearing down on Mississippi, Louisiana and Texas.
“I am extremely concerned about the health and safety of Americans when Hurricane Laura comes ashore,” Rep. Donald Payne, Jr. (D-NJ), head of the subcommittee on emergency preparedness, response, and recovery, said in a statement. “The fact that President Trump would take up to $44 billion from FEMA’s Disaster Relief Fund right before a possibly record-setting hurricane season shows his inability to protect our country during a crisis. If he had convinced his Senate allies to pass our Heroes Act, we would have extended unemployment benefits and still had plenty of money for FEMA and states to use to help Americans recover from a natural disaster, like Hurricane Laura.”
Meanwhile, Trump has been busy trying to reduce Covid-19 testing so that fewer cases will be discovered.
A sudden change in federal guidelines on coronavirus testing came this week as a result of pressure from the upper ranks of the Trump administration, a federal health official close to the process tells CNN, and a key White House coronavirus task force member was not part of the meeting when the new guidelines were discussed.
“It’s coming from the top down,” the official said of the new directive from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
White House coronavirus task force member Dr. Anthony Fauci said he was in surgery and not part of the discussion during the August 20 task force meeting when updated guidelines were discussed….
“I am concerned about the interpretation of these recommendations and worried it will give people the incorrect assumption that asymptomatic spread is not of great concern. In fact it is,” he said.
The new guidelines raise the bar on who should get tested, advising that some people without symptoms probably don’t need it — even if they’ve been in close contact with an infected person.
Previously, the CDC said viral testing was appropriate for people with recent or suspected exposure, even if they were asymptomatic.
CDC Director Dr. Robert Redfield said Wednesday that changes to the testing guidelines were made after “updated recommendations” from the White House coronavirus task force.
This will lead to more cases and deaths, because people can transmit the virus when they are not yet having symptoms. Trump couldn’t care less how many Americans sicken and die as long as he has a chance of being reelected.
If this guidance is followed there will be more super-spreader events like this:
PharmaLive.com: Biogen Conference Led to 20,000 Covid-19 Cases, Study Suggests.
A Biogen corporate meeting held in Boston in March that was initially connected to about 100 cases of COVID-19 could have led to a significantly higher number of infections. A new study suggests the meeting could have contributed to about 20,000 cases across four Massachusetts counties.
A new, 64-page study that has not been peer-reviewed, extrapolates the number of infections that stemmed from the company’s corporate meeting held at the Marriott Long Wharf hotel in February, the early days of the pandemic in the United States. According to The Boston Globe, researchers studied the genetic makeup of confirmed COVID-19 cases from 772 patients in Essex, Middlesex, Norfolk, and Suffolk counties in the Bay State and concluded the meeting was a super-spreader event that infected “tens of thousands.” Jacob Lemieux, an infectious disease physician at Massachusetts General Hospital and one of the researchers involved in the study told the Globe he is confident in the method used to reason out the high number of infections associated with the meeting.
The research team analyzed the genetic sequence of the 772 patients and identified more than 80 distinct SARS-CoV-2 genomes that plagued the Boston area through the month of May. The origin of most of the genomes in those patients could be identified as having come from Europe or other parts of the United States. But, as the Globe reports, one virus had a unique genetic signature found in 289 of those patients. That particular signature was traceable to the Biogen meeting in February, the researchers said.
“By multiplying the proportion of conference-related viral genomes in each of the four counties by the total number of coronavirus infections in Essex, Middlesex, Norfolk and Suffolk, the scientists estimate that 20,000 infections could be linked to the Marriott event,” the Globe reported.
According to WBUR, this event “Seeded 40% Of Boston Coronavirus Cases.”
Cases stemming from the 460,000-person event, which kicked off on August 7, have now been spotted in eight states: Minnesota, Nebraska, Wisconsin, Montana, Wyoming, North Dakota, and Washington. That’s in addition to the cases spotted in South Dakota, where new cases spiked to 251 on August 22 and the seven-day average of new cases continues to climb. Altogether, the cases total more than 100, according to an Associated Press analysis.
Attendees have traveled to more than half of all the counties in the US since the festival wrapped up on August 16, according to anonymous cellphone data from Camber Systems, which was tracking their departures. CNN first reported the location data.
Ahead of the rally, as city officials said there was no way to stop people from coming even if the rally had been canceled in an official capacity, South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem welcomed the event with open arms. She’s also voiced doubt about the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines detailing the effectiveness of masks.
Once the revelers arrived, photos showed few masks and crowded bars, despite warning signs throughout the area. On stage at a packed concert, Smash Mouth’s lead singer mocked the pandemic: “We’re being human once again. F— that COVID s—,” he says in a video.
The crisis continues in Kenosha, Wisconsin after the police shooting of another innocent black man, Jacob Blake. Police in Illinois apprehended Kyle Rittenhouse, a 17-year-old boy who shot three protesters in Kenosha. Kenosha police failed to arrest Rittenhouse after the shooting even though he was approaching them with his hands up. He was white, so he was allowed to leave the state.
Rittenhouse was a Trump fan.
If he was there at all, something prompted 17-year-old Kyle Rittenhouse to grab his rifle and make the short trip from his home in Antioch, Ill., to Kenosha, Wis., on Tuesday. If photos shared on social media are accurate, something spurred him to walk around the town with that rifle in his hands as protests over a police shooting continued into the night. If police are correct that Rittenhouse fired that rifle, if he did shoot three protesters, killing two of them, there was something that caused him to be there to pull the trigger.
This alleged chain of events came from somewhere. Most 17-year-olds don’t see it as their duty to protect the streets of their hometowns, much less of nearby towns where they don’t even live. If Rittenhouse shot those two people dead, there was some spur for him to do so that simply doesn’t exist for most other people.
It’s facile to assume that we can identify that spur as the rhetoric offered by President Trump and his reelection campaign. But it’s impossible not to notice how that rhetoric echoes in what appears to have happened in Kenosha.
The night before those protesters were shot, five different speakers at the Republican National Convention, including the president’s son, decried uncontrolled violent mobs that they claim have taken over the nation’s streets.
Read the rest at the WaPo.
The New York Times traced Rittenhouse’s movements on the day of the shootings:
Kyle Rittenhouse, a 17-year-old Illinois resident, appeared on multiple videos taken throughout the night by protesters and bystanders who chronicled the events as peaceful protests gave way to chaos, with demonstrators, armed civilians and others facing off against one another and the police in the darkened streets.
The New York Times’s Visual Investigations unit analyzed hours of footage to track Mr. Rittenhouse’s movements in the moments leading up to, and during, the shootings….
About two hours before the first shooting, the producer of a video livestream interviews Mr. Rittenhouse at a Kenosha vehicle dealership.
Mr. Rittenhouse is there at the same time as several other armed men. Some of them are positioned on the building’s roof overlooking the parking lot where vehicles were burned the day before.
In a brief exchange on the livestream, he identifies himself as “Kyle.”
Read the rest at the NYT link.
There is so much more news. I haven’t even touched on the DNC hate-fest, which concludes today. Last night’s episode focused on Mike Pence pretending that Trump has defeated the coronavirus and saved America.
Only voters can decide the political fate of Donald Trump. But the evidence of a dark, dispiriting election year suggests unequivocally that the President has failed to find answers equal to the magnitude and complexity of America’s two great crises — over health and race.
So at the shape-shifting Republican National Convention on Wednesday, Trump’s most loyal subordinate Vice President Mike Pence had little option but to do what he does best. He twisted the facts, spun a more pleasing alternative national reality and showered his boss with praise.
Even by the standards of 2020, it was a disorienting night. Adding to the awfulness of another police shooting of a Black man and the shooting of two protesters (by an apparent Trump supporter) and the pandemic about to claim its 180,000th American victim, a monstrous hurricane tore towards the Gulf Coast.
Already, there are doubts whether the President’s big acceptance speech and a fireworks display Thursday at the White House in front of a pandemic-defying crowd of more than 1,000 people will be appropriate given what forecasters say are “unsurvivable” conditions facing those in the path of Hurricane Laura.
My guess is Trump won’t want his final night of glory postponed. Whether his advisers can convict him to do it is questionable.
I’ll post a few more stories in the comment thread. I hope anyone in the path of Laura will stay safe. Take care everyone!
As I sat down to write this post, the sound of a jackhammer began somewhere inside or outside my building. Just what my frazzled nerves needed at 7:30AM in Trump’s dystopian nightmare America.
After midnight last night Trump sent out one his idiotic all-caps tweets:
And this morning, “Criminal Intent” is trending on Twitter. A sampling of the mocking replies:
This is the world we live in now. A killer virus is running rampant, the economy is a dumpster fire, and the “president” is a doddering but corrupt fool who is mocked unmercifully in the media and on-line forums.
Yesterday, Dakinikat told us about a study that suggests that recovering from Covid-19 probably doesn’t provide us with long-term immunity. Today another researcher tells us that cloth masks probably do nothing to protect us from the virus. The Asahai Shimbun: Cloth face masks offer zero shield against virus, a study shows.
Kazunari Onishi, an associate professor at St. Luke’s International University in Tokyo, found that cloth masks had a 100-percent leakage rate in terms of airborne particles penetrating the fabric and through the gap between masks and faces, substantially raising the risk of infection.
Onishi, a specialist in environmental epidemiology, tested numerous types of masks to ascertain which ones are effective in preventing infection from COVID-19.
Non-woven masks which passed filtering performance tests had a 100-percent leakage rate when not worn properly. Worn correctly, the leakage rate dropped to about 50 percent….
Onishi tested a range of masks: those made from cloth, non-woven masks, dust masks which met the N95 standard and other types, even the “Abenomasks” made of gauze distributed to every household in Japan by the central government.
Given that non-woven masks and dust masks have largely different leakage rates depending on whether they are worn correctly or not, they were compared on the basis of when they were worn casually and perfectly.
Onishi found that cloth and gauze masks had 100-percent leakage rates.
Dust masks had the lowest rate, 1 percent, when they were worn correctly. When they were worn casually, the rate was 6 percent.
With regard to non-woven masks, the type that passed the filtering performance tests had a 52-percent leakage rate when worn correctly. Masks that did not undergo the tests had an 81-percent rate.
We also recently learned that the virus is very likely spread through airborne particles. This is from MIT’s Technology Review: If the coronavirus is really airborne, we might be fighting it the wrong way.
This was the week airborne transmission became a big deal in the public discussion about covid-19. Over 200 scientists from around the world cosigned a letter to the World Health Organization urging it to take seriously the growing evidence that the coronavirus can be transmitted through the air. WHO stopped short of redefining SARS-CoV-2 (the virus that causes covid-19) as airborne but did acknowledge that more research is “urgently needed to investigate such instances and assess their significance for transmission of COVID-19.”
“I honestly don’t know what people are waiting for,” says microbiologist Chad Roy of Tulane University in the US. “It doesn’t take WHO coming out to make a proclamation that it’s airborne for us to appreciate this is an airborne disease. I don’t know how much clearer it needs to be in terms of scientific evidence.” [….]
The evidence that this type of transmission is happening with SARS-CoV-2 arguably already exists. Several big studies point to airborne transmission of the virus as a major route for the spread of covid-19. Other studies have suggested the virus can remain in aerosolized droplets for hours. One new study led by Roy and his team at Tulane shows that infectious aerosolized particles of SARS-CoV-2 could actually linger in the air for up to 16 hours, and maintain infectivity much longer than MERS and SARS-CoV-1 (the other big coronaviruses to emerge this century).
We still don’t know what gives SARS-CoV-2 this airborne edge. “But it may be one reason this is a pandemic, and not simply a small outbreak like any other coronavirus,” says Roy.
What can we do to be safer? The gist is that we need to be wearing masks and staying away from crowded spaces; and repeatedly cleaning surfaces is a big waste of time and energy. Head over to Tech Review to read the details.
Naturally, Trump is doing nothing to help us deal with the pandemic and everything he can think of to make things worse. Right now the focus seems to be on attacking Dr. Fauci.
Stephen Collinson at CNN: White House turns on Fauci as disaster grows out of aggressive state openings.
Instead of focusing on the out-of-control coronavirus disaster in Florida and other early opening states, the White House is trying to destroy the reputation of one of America’s most respected public servants, Dr. Anthony Fauci, for telling the truth about how bad things are getting.
President Donald Trump is meanwhile highlighting claims that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, doctors, media and the Democrats are lying about the country’s pandemic — the world’s worst — in order to crush the economy on which he is relying for reelection.
The new campaign of deception is accelerating a day after Florida recorded the highest-ever single daily caseload of new infections for any US state and as the daily total of confirmed cases nationwide hits a staggering 60,000. The surge is raging across southern and Western heartlands, also including Texas, Georgia and Arizona which tried to get back to normal before the curve of infections was suppressed. The resulting torrent of new cases is exposing Trump’s call for early openings, embraced by many Republican governors in defiance of CDC guidelines, as one of the worst political and economic decisions in modern history….
The campaign against Fauci, who has been one of America’s most highly regarded public health officials for decades and was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by George W. Bush, tells an extraordinary tale of administration priorities amid a national crisis and of the brutal approach it uses to discredit any official who challenges Trump’s false narratives.
On Sunday, a White House official told CNN that several top aides to Trump were concerned about “about the number of times Dr. Fauci has been wrong on things” citing his past comments on the threat from the virus and the use of masks. Sources told CNN’s Kaitlan Collins on Monday that the President, who hasn’t met Fauci for weeks, was annoyed with the top infectious disease specialist’s public statements and “good press.”
And there’s more scapegoating of Fauci to come, according to The Daily Beast: Top Trump Ally Preps a New Assault on Fauci.
Stephen Moore, a conservative economist who informally advises Trump on economic matters, said on Monday evening that he is working on a new policy memo that would “go after Fauci,” not just for the doctor’s proclamations on the still-raging coronavirus pandemic, but for his decades of work for the U.S. government prior to the current crisis.
“We are working on a memo that shows how many times Dr. Fauci’s been wrong during not just [this pandemic], but during his entire career,” Moore told The Daily Beast, adding that he and his team at the Committee to Unleash Prosperity had been working on it for weeks. Moore, whose failures at political and economic prognostication are routine grist for his critics, added that he and his group intend to send their final product to the White House and Trump and to “publicize it,” once ready.
Moore said that the current title of the memo is: “Dr. Wrong.”
“It will document how often his predictions have been not just wrong, but in many cases, fabulously wrong…[and it’ll be] looking at his whole career of making predictions about disease, and trying to show a pattern,” he continued. “Fauci’s been ‘Dr. Doom’… and I don’t have a problem with him being ‘Dr. Doom,’ but I have a problem with him being wrong, wrong, wrong… He’s been a detriment to getting the economy reopened, with a lot of his false predictions.”
At The Washington Post, there’s an op-ed by four former leaders of the CDC, Tom Frieden, Jeffrey Koplan, David Satcher, and Richer Besser: We ran the CDC. No president ever politicized its science the way Trump has.
As America begins the formidable task of getting our kids back to school and all of us back to work safely amid a pandemic that is only getting worse, public health experts face two opponents: covid-19, but also political leaders and others attempting to undermine the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. As the debate last week around reopening schools more safely showed, these repeated efforts to subvert sound public health guidelines introduce chaos and uncertainty while unnecessarily putting lives at risk.
As of this date, the CDC guidelines, which were designed to protect children, teachers, school staffers and their families — no matter the state and no matter the politics — have not been altered. It is not unusual for CDC guidelines to be changed or amended during a clearance process that moves through multiple agencies and the White House. But it is extraordinary for guidelines to be undermined after their release. Through last week, and into Monday, the administration continued to cast public doubt on the agency’s recommendations and role in informing and guiding the nation’s pandemic response. On Sunday, Education Secretary Betsy DeVos characterized the CDC guidelines as an impediment to reopening schools quickly rather than what they are: the path to doing so safely. The only valid reason to change released guidelines is new information and new science — not politics.
One of the many contributions the CDC provides our country is sound public health guidance that states and communities can adapt to their local context — expertise even more essential during a pandemic, when uncertainty is the norm. The four of us led the CDC over a period of more than 15 years, spanning Republican and Democratic administrations alike. We cannot recall over our collective tenure a single time when political pressure led to a change in the interpretation of scientific evidence.
Read the rest at the WaPo.
More stories to check out today:
Salon: Dr. John Gartner: “Donald Trump is the most successful bio-terrorist in human history.” Psychologist and former Johns Hopkins professor on Trump’s pandemic conduct: “He is a first-degree mass murderer.”
The New Yorker: The Study That Debunks Most Anti-Abortion Arguments.
Karen Attiah at The Washington Post: The Texas Rangers’ team name must go.
Stay home as much as you can, Sky Dancers. As Dakinikat suggested yesterday, I hope you’ll briefly check in from time to time to let us know how you’re doing. We love you all and want you to be safe!
Today, members of the White House coronavirus task force will testify in the House of Representatives. The hearing starts at 11AM, and I expect it will be shown on the cable news channels. Here’s the C-Span link.
With cases rising in nearly half of the states and a White House eager to return to normal, Fauci, the nation’s top infectious-disease expert, and three other key officials are scheduled to appear before a House panel overseeing the administration’s response.
The testimony will be Fauci’s first since a highly anticipated appearance a month ago, and it comes on the heels of President Trump’s comments at a controversial campaign rally over the weekend that he asked officials to slow testing to show fewer cases. Aides later said the comment was made in jest, but it prompted a fresh round of criticism that Trump is seeking to minimize the challenges that loom in recovering from the virus.
In a joint statement submitted on behalf of the four witnesses, the Department of Health and Human Services says “while it remains unclear how long the pandemic will last, COVID-19 activity will likely continue for some time.”
The statement warns that if coronavirus activity continues into the upcoming flu season, “this could place a tremendous burden on the health care system related to bed occupancy, laboratory testing needs, personal protective equipment and health care worker safety.”
The statement also calls testing “an essential component of our nation’s response” and says a “safe and effective vaccine” will be “essential to stopping the spread of infection, reducing rates of morbidity and mortality, and preventing future outbreaks.”
Fauci is scheduled to be joined before the House Energy and Commerce Committee by Robert Redfield, director of the Centers for Disease Control; Stephen Hahn, head of the Food and Drug Administration; and Brett Giroir, head of the U.S. Public Health Service.
Meanwhile, Trump and his goons apparently plan to blame the CDC for the mess they made. Polico: Trump team weighs a CDC scrubbing to deflect mounting criticism.
White House officials are putting a target on the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, positioning the agency as a coronavirus scapegoat as cases surge in many states and the U.S. falls behind other nations that are taming the pandemic.
Trump administration aides in recent weeks have seriously discussed launching an in-depth evaluation of the agency to chart what they view as its missteps in responding to the pandemic including an early failure to deploy working test kits, according to four senior administration officials. Part of that audit would include examining more closely the state-by-state death toll to tally only the Americans who died directly of Covid-19 rather than other factors. About 120,000 people in the U.S. have died of the coronavirus so far, according to the CDC’s official count.
Aides have also discussed narrowing the mission of the agency or trying to embed more political appointees within it, according to interviews with 10 current and former senior administration officials and Republicans close to the White House. One official said the overall goal would be to make the CDC nimble and more responsive.
Politically, Trump aides have also been looking for a person or entity outside of China to blame for the coronavirus response and have grown furious with the CDC, its public health guidance and its actions on testing, making it a prime target. But some wonder whether the wonky-sounding CDC, which the administration directly oversees, could be an effective fall guy on top of Trump’s efforts to blame the World Health Organization….
The moves are among the White House’s efforts to deflect attacks on President Donald Trump and place them elsewhere in the federal bureaucracy. Protecting the president is seen as increasingly important by political aides as the general election approaches in just over four months and criticism mounts from former Vice President Joe Biden, other Democrats and even former national security adviser John Bolton who say the blame rests squarely on Trump himself.
The U.S. is losing the battle against the virus, and the blame should fall on Trump’s shoulders. This monster has cast a pall over the country and the rolling health crisis and the accompanying economic disaster are likely to get much worse.
Michelle Goldberg at The New York Times: America Is Too Broken to Fight the Coronavirus.
Graphs of the coronavirus curves in Britain, Canada, Germany and Italy look like mountains, with steep climbs up and then back down. The one for America shows a fast climb up to a plateau. For a while, the number of new cases in the U.S. was at least slowly declining. Now, according to The Times, it’s up a terrifying 22 percent over the last 14 days.
As Politico reported on Monday, Italy’s coronavirus catastrophe once looked to Americans like a worst-case scenario. Today, it said, “America’s new per capita cases remain on par with Italy’s worst day — and show signs of rising further.”
This is what American exceptionalism looks like under Donald Trump. It’s not just that the United States has the highest number of coronavirus cases and deaths of any country in the world. Republican political dysfunction has made a coherent campaign to fight the pandemic impossible.
At the federal level as well as in many states, we’re seeing a combination of the blustering contempt for science that marks the conservative approach to climate change and the high tolerance for carnage that makes American gun culture unique.
The rot starts at the top. At the beginning of the crisis Trump acted as if he could wish the coronavirus away, and after an interval when he at least pretended to take it seriously, his administration has resumed a posture of blithe denial.
Head over to the NYT to read the rest of this powerful piece.
Fallout continues after Trump’s disastrous rally in Tulsa on Saturday night, but he’s still planning to head to Arizona–another coronavirus hot spot–today.
Jonathan Lemire at AP: After Tulsa, Trump heads to virus hotspot Arizona and border.
Regrouping after a humbling weekend rally, President Donald Trump faces another test of his ability to draw a crowd during a pandemic Tuesday as he visits Arizona and tries to remind voters of one of his key 2016 campaign promises….
First, the president will travel to Yuma to mark the construction of more than 200 miles (322 kilometers) of wall along the U.S.-Mexico border, an issue that he built his campaign on four years ago. Later, he’ll address a group of young Republicans at a Phoenix megachurch, where event organizers have pledged thousands will attend.
Throughout the trip, the COVID-19 pandemic will shadow Trump. The Democratic mayor of Phoenix made clear that she does not believe the speech can be safely held in her city — and urged the president to wear a face mask.
The “Students for Trump” event will be held at the Dream City Church and broadcast to groups across the nation. Students for Trump is a special project of Turning Point Action, a grouped chaired by Trump ally Charlie Kirk, which is hosting the president for his address. Organizers said health and safety measures still were being finalized and it was unclear if attendees would be asked to wear masks or keep socially distant.
The church, which can hold about 3,000 people, released a statement saying it only found out that Trump would be speaking at the event after it agreed to rent its facilities.
“Dream City’s facility rental does not constitute endorsement of the opinions of its renters,” the statement said….
Students for Trump includes a waiver similar to the one the Trump campaign gave to attendees of the Tulsa rally, acknowledging the health risks.
“By attending this convention, you and any guest voluntarily assume all risks related to exposure to COVID-19 and agree not to hold Turning Point Action, their affiliates, Dream City Church, employees, agents, contractors, or volunteers liable for any illness or injury,” it reads.
Three articles on the fallout from Tulsa and other problems with the Trump campaign, including lackluster fund-raising:
The Washington Post: Trump’s anger over Tulsa rally underscores growing problems within his campaign.
A sea of empty seats in a Tulsa arena on Saturday set off a furious round of finger-pointing and recriminations around President Trump’s campaign that continued through Monday, amplifying the president and his team’s struggle to find their footing amid national and political crises.
Trump has fumed about his campaign manager Brad Parscale over the half-empty arena, campaign officials are engaged in whisper campaigns against their colleagues, and some Trump allies are calling for a dramatic reorganization of the reelection machine, according to several current and former administration and campaign officials.
On Monday, the campaign announced that two additional staff members tested positive for the novel coronavirus after attending the Tulsa rally. Six members of the campaign advance team tested positive before the rally.
Publicly, the White House and Trump campaign declared the rally a success and denied claims that Trump — who has long fixated on crowd size — was upset about the crowd of 6,200 at the 19,000-seat arena in Tulsa. Before the event, Trump said he expected tens of thousands of supporters to be there.
The Daily Beast: Trump’s Rally Was a ‘Disaster.’ But It Wasn’t Even His Biggest One.
President Trump complained to top advisers about being put in a position where the media could mock him. He ordered his team to immediately find out what went wrong. And two of the sources said the president suggested there would be major consequences for campaign staff if this wasn’t “fixed” and if he saw too many empty seats at his next coronavirus-era mega-rally.
Among various Trump associates and staff—as well as GOP veterans—the blame was directed at Michael Glassner, the campaign’s chief operating officer, and Brad Parscale, the campaign manager….
the lackluster rally attendance came as cracks appear to be forming in one of the president’s key political assets—his formidable, and for a time unmatched, grassroots appeal—and as his Democratic rival overtakes him in an area dominated by Trump in 2016: small-dollar fundraising.
As Trump was on stage in Tulsa, his campaign filed its most recent financial report with the Federal Election Commission, revealing that it had brought in just under $25 million last month, well short of the nearly $37 million in receipts reported by the Biden campaign. The real concerns for the Trump campaign, though, were in the details. For the second time in three months, Biden’s campaign reported beating Trump’s in small dollar donations, both in terms of gross receipts—Biden more than tripled the $5.4 million that Trump brought in in May from donations of under $200—and as a share of total individual contributions. All told, 38.2 percent of individual donations to the Trump campaign in May came via contributions of less than $200, compared to 47.2 percent for Biden.
Gabriel Sherman at Vanity Fair: “Brad Really S–t the Bed Saturday Night”: After Tulsa Catastrophe, Parscale–and Kushner–is at the Top of Trump’s Hit List.
Donald Trump’s exhausted trudge from Marine One toward the White House after his botched rally in Tulsa, his red tie undone, a grim look on his face, a crumpled MAGA hat in his hand, is now an iconic image of his presidency. And as always with Trump, he’s already looking for someone to blame. The most obvious candidate, according to sources, is his embattled campaign manager, Brad Parscale. “Brad really shit the bed Saturday night. You have to remember, execution is 95% of presidential politics,” a Republican close to the White House told me over the weekend. Parscale committed a cascade of errors, from overhyping expected turnout to blaming the half-filled arena on protesters. Trump was so furious when he saw how thin the crowd was that he threatened to not go onstage, two sources briefed on the discussions told me. The sources said that Parscale, reading the tea leaves, is planning to step down. “He knows he can’t survive,” one source told me.
Jason Miller, a senior adviser to the Trump campaign, said Parscale is safe. “Brad is the campaign manager, and he’s the one in charge,” Miller said.
But one thing is for sure: The blame game has shifted into high gear. Trump insiders told me Trump was presented with five options of where to hold his rally. “The president chose Tulsa,” a source said. Sources also told me that if Parscale is forced out, he likely won’t be the only casualty of the rally fiasco. Trump is debating revoking his son-in-law Jared Kushner’s control over the campaign, sources said. As I previously reported, Trump has been frustrated with Kushner’s oversight of the campaign in light of polling that consistently shows Trump losing to Joe Biden. Another source of friction has been campaign spending and reports Trump has gotten that Parscale is making millions of dollars. “Did Jared allow this?” Trump asked advisers recently, according to a source. (Kushner declined to comment.)
More gossip at the link.
There is much more news today; I’ll add some links in the comment thread. What stories have you been following? Please share.
After Trump’s disgraceful performance at the CDC yesterday, along with the pathetic sicophancy of the CDC director Robert Redfield, I’m beginning to get really frightened about growing spread coronavirus here in the U.S. Please watch this video of Richard Hatchett, Chief Executive of the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations.
Now take a look at how the Trump administration is responding to the crisis. First, the CDC Director sucking up to the idiot in chief.
I know it’s hard to watch Trump, but please do watch these clips. He is getting more dangerous.
He is treating an epidemic like he did the Russia investigation–lying and covering up. He couldn’t care less how many people get sick and die; he just wants to keep the numbers down so he doesn’t look bad. He doesn’t seem to understand that this won’t work with a public health crisis.
This is quite literally insane, and yet the people around Trump are afraid to correct him or ask him to step back and let the experts handle the situation.
Retired General Barry McCaffrey doesn’t mince words.
Phillip Bump at The Washington Post: Which is Trump more worried about: Coronavirus numbers or coronavirus patients?
A comment President Trump made during his visit to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Friday brought into focus a unifying theory of his administration’s fumbling response to the growing spread of the coronavirus.
He was asked if passengers on a cruise ship anchored near San Francisco, some of whom have been exposed to the virus, should be brought ashore.
“From my standpoint, I want to rely on people. I have great experts, including our vice president who is working 24 hours a day on this stuff. They would like to have the people come off,” he said, wearing a baseball cap promoting his reelection campaign. “I’d rather have the people stay, but I’d go with them. I told them to make the final decision.”
“I would rather because I like the numbers being where they are,” Trump continued. “I don’t need to have the numbers double because of one ship that wasn’t our fault. And it wasn’t the fault of the people on the ship either, okay? It wasn’t their fault either and they’re mostly Americans. So, I can live either way with it. I’d rather have them stay on, personally.”
Trump can live with patients with coronavirus staying on a cruise ship with uninfected passengers. Whether those patients or future patients can live with that decision is entirely the point.
David Nakamura at The Washington Post: ‘Maybe I have a natural ability’: Trump plays medical expert on coronavirus by second-guessing the professionals.
President Trump likes to say that he fell into politics almost by accident, and on Friday, as he sought to calm a nation gripped with fears over coronavirus, he suggested he would have thrived in another profession — medical expert.
“I like this stuff. I really get it,” Trump boasted to reporters during a tour of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta, where he met with actual doctors and scientists who are feverishly scrambling to contain and combat the deadly illness. Citing a “great, super-genius uncle” who taught at MIT, Trump professed that it must run in the family genes.
“People are really surprised I understand this stuff,” he said. “Every one of these doctors said, ‘How do you know so much about this?’ Maybe I have a natural ability.” [….]
Sporting his trademark red 2020 campaign hat with the slogan “Keep America Great,” the president repeatedly second-guessed and waved off the actual medical professionals standing next to him. He attacked his Democratic rivals — including calling Washington Gov. Jay Inslee a “snake” for criticizing his response — and chided a CNN reporter for smiling and called her network “fake news.”
And he described coronavirus testing kits — which his administration has been criticized for being slow to distribute — as “beautiful” and said they were as “perfect” as his Ukraine phone call last summer that led him to be impeached.
Read the rest at the WaPo.
Trump appears very worried about the U.S. economy, but he thinks he knows better than the experts about that too. John Harwood at CNN: Trump waves off economists’ prescriptions for preventing US coronavirus slowdown.
President Donald Trump sent a message Friday to anyone expecting major economic aid to head off a coronavirus recession: Don’t hold your breath.
With financial markets reeling, some economists back direct bailouts for affected workers and businesses to prevent a contraction of the already-slowing American economy. But as he signed the $8.3-billion emergency coronavirus spending bill passed by Congress — more than triple the amount the White House had requested — Trump waved off the idea of a new fiscal stimulus to protect America’s record-breaking economic expansion, again calling on the Federal Reserve to use its monetary policy tools.
“The Fed should cut and the Fed should stimulate,” Trump told me before leaving the White House to tour tornado damage in Tennessee. And he evinced little concern about the chance of recession anytime soon, declaring, “I think we’re in great shape.”
The President’s characteristically upbeat assessment does not match the darkening mood among business analysts as the coronavirus crisis deepens in the US and around the world. Mark Zandi, an economist with Moody’s Analytics, now pegs the odds of recession this year at 50%.
Economic stimulus is going to be needed, but Trump thinks he knows better.
Offsetting the coronavirus threat would require a package in the range of $100 billion, Swonk says — comparable to what President George W. Bush and Congress enacted to combat the effects of Hurricane Katrina. Jason Furman, President Barack Obama’s former top economic adviser, has called for a $350 billion stimulus that would send $1,000 to every taxpaying US resident and $500 to each of their children.
Yet comments by Trump and his top economic aide made clear the White House does not currently back anything close to that scale.
“We’re not looking at these massive, federal, throw-money-at-people plans,” National Economic Council director Larry Kudlow told reporters. “We are looking at timely and targeted (efforts) where we can do the most good.”
With airlines already suffering from canceled flights, Kudlow cited “micro forms of assistance” that could help sectors including transportation, manufacturing, farming and small businesses. He offered no details.
What we need most of all is widespread testing, but the Trump administration doesn’t seem interested in letting that happen. It looks like they are just going to try to keep gaslighting us.
The New York Times: With Test Kits in Short Supply, Health Officials Sound Alarms.
President Trump claimed again on Friday that anyone who needed a coronavirus test “gets a test.” But from Washington State to Florida to New York, doctors and patients are clamoring for tests that they say are in woefully short supply, and their frustration is mounting alongside the growing number of cases around the country.
In California, where thousands are being monitored for the virus, only 516 tests had been conducted by the state as of Thursday. Washington health officials have more cases than they can currently process. And in New York, where cases have quadrupled this week, a New York City official pleaded for more test kits from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
“The slow federal action on this matter has impeded our ability to beat back this epidemic,” the official said in a letter Friday.
More than 300 cases have been confirmed, at least 17 have died, and thousands are in self-quarantine. Public health officials are warning that no one knows how deeply the virus will spread, in part because the federal government’s flawed rollout of tests three weeks ago has snowballed into an embarrassing fiasco of national proportions.
The latest two deaths were announced late Friday night in Florida, marking the first time fatal cases were not on the West Coast.
In the last week, Mr. Trump and his top officials repeatedly promised that 1 million to 1.5 million tests would be sent around the country, even though labs — government and private ones alike — have struggled to get the tests running amid a growing number of infections and rising demand for tests. Despite an order Wednesday by the C.D.C. to greatly expand criteria for who can be tested, many hospitals and state health authorities continued to limit tests to those at the highest risk for infection, adding to the confusion and frustration, especially in hot spots like California and Washington.
On Saturday Jan. 11 — a month and a half before the first Covid-19 case not linked to travel was diagnosed in the United States — Chinese scientists posted the genome of the mysterious new virus, and within a week virologists in Berlin had produced the first diagnostic test for the disease.
Soon after, researchers in other nations rolled out their own tests, too, sometimes with different genetic targets. By the end of February, the World Health Organization had shipped tests to nearly 60 countries.
The United States was not among them.
Why the United States declined to use the WHO test, even temporarily as a bridge until the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention could produce its own test, remains a perplexing question and the key to the Trump administration’s failure to provide enough tests to identify the coronavirus infections before they could be passed on, according to POLITICO interviews with dozens of viral-disease experts, former officials and some officials within the administration’s health agencies.
The slowness of the testing regimen — which, administration officials acknowledged this week, is still not producing enough tests to meet the national demand — was the first, and most sweeping, of many failures. So far there have been confirmed cases in at least 23 states, and at least 15 deaths, while the stock market plunged and an otherwise healthy economy braced for a major disruption.
But neither the CDC nor the coronavirus task force chaired by Vice President Mike Pence would say who made the decision to forgo the WHO test and instead begin a protracted process of producing an American test, one that got delayed by manufacturing problems, possible lab contamination and logistical delays.
I’ll end with this long piece at the Financial Times on the efforts to develop a coronavirus vaccine: Coronavirus and the $2bn race to find a vaccine.
Juan Andres woke up three times during the night after putting his precious vials of vaccine on the back of a delivery lorry. In late February, Moderna, a biotech group based outside Boston, smashed the record for the fastest time between identifying a virus — in this case Covid-19 coronavirus — and creating a vaccine ready to test in humans: just 42 days.
In the lab, the team had been excited but in the early hours Mr Andres, a 30-year pharma veteran in charge of manufacturing, was nervously checking his phone to track the lorry carrying the potential vaccine to a discreet location. There the US National Institutes of Health would start the trial to test whether it works.
“The pride comes from this [being] a race,” he says. “Doing this as fast as possible is something that is a duty.” Once they were sure the vaccine had arrived safely, the team celebrated with ice cream. At least 100 Moderna staff worked on the project but Mr Andres says everyone is excited to be involved, even people’s families. “I can’t remember the last time my 15-year-old thought I did something cool,” he laughs.
Moderna is one of more than 20 companies and public sector organisations worldwide racing to develop a vaccine against Covid-19, which in little more than two months has exploded from a few people suffering from respiratory disease in the Chinese city of Wuhan to a near-pandemic with 95,000 cases and 3,300 deaths worldwide so far….
The Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations [see the first video in this post] — a partnership of governments, industry and charities, created three years ago to fight emerging diseases that threaten global health — is already sponsoring four Covid-19 vaccine projects, including Moderna’s. It is also on the point of signing contracts for four more, says Richard Hatchett, CEPI chief executive. He estimates that developing Covid-19 vaccines at the speed required will cost about $2bn over the next 12-18 months.
Moderna is off to the fastest start, Dr Hatchett believes, but several others are close behind. “We received 48 applications from all over the world following our call for proposals in February,” he adds. “There is a real sense of urgency . . . because the threat we are facing is unprecedented in the last 100 years in terms of its speed and potential severity,” he says, referring to the 1918 Spanish flu pandemic.
That’s it for me. Sorry I’m so obsessed with coronavirus. Feel free to discuss any other topic in the comments! This is an open thread.