Thursday Reads

Good Morning!!

08bruni-jumboI’m not going to spend much time on the vice presidential debate in today’s post. CNN’s post-debate poll showed Kamala Harris was the winner.

I don’t think Mike Pence did a very good job of defending Trump, and that’s what he needed to do. He lied again and again with a straight face–that has always been his modus operandi. He refused to answer a question about what states should do about abortion if Roe v. Wade is overturned, and–worst of all–he dodged a question about whether there will be a peaceful transition of power if Trump loses. From The Daily Beast:

At the tail end of Wednesday night’s vice-presidential debate—one that was noticeably less fiery and chaotic than last week’s presidential clash—Vice President Mike Pence completely avoided answering what he would do if President Donald Trump refuses to step down if he loses the election….

The veep first said that he thinks his ticket will win re-election before accusing Democrats of not accepting the outcome of the 2016 election, bringing up the Russia investigation and the impeachment of the president. After invoking former Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton’s advice that Joe Biden shouldn’t concede on election night if the results are close, Pence reiterated his belief that Trump would be re-elected.

“President Trump and I are fighting every day to prevent Joe Biden and Kamala Harris from changing the rules and creating a massive opportunity for voter fraud,” he concluded. “If we have a free and fair election, we’ll have confidence in it.”

Matt Flegenheimer and Annie Karni at The New York Times: Pence, Peerless Trump Defender, Confronts His Limits.

Vice President Mike Pence approached his task on Wednesday as he has approached his four years as the executive straight man to an unruly leader: not merely defending President Trump but effectively insisting, with poker-faced conviction, that those who doubt his boss should not believe their eyes and ears.

R6ZUW44OCRGKHMJQMHJKXZTXDIThe trouble this time was not Mr. Pence’s skill set on this front, which remains peerless. It was the fact set underpinning this debate, which remains inconvenient to an administration so overwhelmed by the virus that its own West Wing has become a hot spot.

And so Mr. Pence — stripped of most politically palatable explanations for the White House pandemic response — set off on a curious charge when Senator Kamala Harris said that the Trump team’s leadership “clearly” has not worked: He chose to hear it as a direct affront to the American people.

“When you say what the American people have done over these last eight months hasn’t worked,” Mr. Pence said gravely, as controlled as his president is rambunctious onstage, “that’s a great disservice to the sacrifices the American people have made.”

At last, the strain seemed to be showing, at least a little. Perhaps that is what a full term of wear-and-tear can do to even the most accomplished rhetorical gymnast.

Or perhaps the reality is simply too bleak for any administration to explain away entirely: The president has contracted the virus that has killed more than 210,000 Americans on his watch. His behavior, since leaving the hospital on Monday, appears to be a continuation of the kind of scientifically dubious happy talk that has left the Trump-Pence ticket at a significant polling disadvantage four weeks before Election Day.

Yes, the story today and every day until the election will be about Trump’s mishandling of the coronavirus pandemic, which has led to the deaths of 211,917 Americans as of this morning. In addition, Trump either doesn’t understand or simply refuses to admit that the pandemic is killing the economy.

244003_rgb_768IMHO, the biggest story this morning is the coronavirus outbreak at the White House and the obvious fact that Trump and his Trumpists have likely spread the virus very widely. Here’s the latest.

ABC News: 34 people connected to White House, more than previously known, infected by coronavirus: Internal FEMA memo.

The coronavirus outbreak has infected “34 White House staffers and other contacts” in recent days, according to an internal government memo, an indication that the disease has spread among more people than previously known in the seat of American government.

The memo also notes that a senior adviser to the president is among those infected. Hope Hicks and Stephen Miller, both senior aides to the president, have tested positive in recent days.

The new figures underscore both the growing crisis in the White House and the lengths to which government officials have gone to block information about the outbreak’s spread. ABC News had previously reported that a total of 24 White House aides and their contacts had contracted the virus. It was not clear in the FEMA memo with the larger number what “other contacts” referred to.

Jennifer Jacobs at Bloomberg: White House Security Official Contracted Covid-19 in September.

A top White House security official, Crede Bailey, is gravely ill with Covid-19 and has been hospitalized since September, according to four people familiar with his condition.

I'm in control hereThe White House has not publicly disclosed Bailey’s illness. He became sick before the Sept. 26 Rose Garden event President Donald Trump held to announce his Supreme Court nominee Amy Coney Barrett that has been connected to more than a dozen cases of the disease.

A White House spokesman declined to comment on Bailey. He is in charge of the White House security office, which handles credentialing for access to the White House and works closely with the U.S. Secret Service on security measures throughout the compound.

Chris Christie is still in the hospital and there has been no news about how he is doing. NJ.com:

Former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie remains hospitalized at Morristown Medical Center, where he was admitted Saturday after testing positive COVID-19

Christie’s current condition is not known. Hospital officials declined comment Tuesday….

Christie, who has struggled with his weight and has a lifelong history of asthma, tweeted that he checked himself into the hospital Saturday. Because of his conditions, he’s at higher risk of developing complications from the virus.

The Daily Beast: White House Quietly Told Vets Group It Might Have Exposed Them to COVID.

On the same day President Donald Trump acknowledged contracting the coronavirus, the White House quietly informed a veterans group that there was a COVID-19 risk stemming from a Sept. 27 event honoring the families of fallen U.S. service members, the head of that charitable organization told The Daily Beast.

5_wexler_0The White House warning, which came on Oct. 2, is the earliest known outreach to visitors of the complex that there was a risk of coronavirus emerging from the grounds where the president, the first lady, and at least 17 of his aides, according to Politico, have now tested positive for the virus.

The Sept. 27 event to honor Gold Star families came the day after the White House hosted a celebration for Supreme Court nominee Amy Coney Barrett that appears to have been an early source of the White House outbreak, though West Wing officials have quietly disputed that linkage. It is unclear to the head of the veterans charity—the Greatest Generations Foundation—which participant’s potential positive coronavirus test sparked the warning.

USA Today: White House coronavirus outbreak may have exposed thousands from Atlanta to Minnesota.

President Donald Trump and other White House insiders infected with COVID-19 carried the virus across the country in a matter of days, potentially exposing hundreds, perhaps thousands, of people as they went about their business, a USA TODAY investigation found. 

From a religious summit outside Atlanta to a campaign rally at a Pennsylvania airport and a private fundraiser in Minnesota, Trump, his aides and political allies attended events with thousands of people, often without masks and little regard for social distancing….

USA TODAY reporters examined hundreds of photos and videos from news coverage and social media posts and scoured attendance logs to identify people who came in contact with those individuals.

don't be afraid of covidAt least 6,000 people attended meetings, rallies and other gatherings with them within a week of the Supreme Court nomination ceremony Sept. 26 in the White House Rose Garden, pegged as a potential “superspreader” event….

Epidemiologists and public health experts said USA TODAY’s analysis shows that the White House outbreak has put more people, in more places, at risk than has been previously known. It illustrates just how quickly and how far a superspreader event can carry COVID-19. 

“I don’t think we know the extent of this outbreak yet … people could die,” said Danielle Ompad, an associate professor of epidemiology at New York University’s School of Global Public Health. “It’s the height of irresponsibility for people who are supposed to be leaders.”

Meanwhile, Trump hasn’t been seen in public since he returned to the White House on Monday evening. Instead he has been posting videos of himself wearing heavier make-up than usual and babbling nonsense, including claiming he has been “cured” of the virus and may be immune to it. We haven’t been told what medications Trump is still taking, and the White House and Trump’s doctors have refused to say when Trump last tested negative for the virus. ABC News reports:

The White House has also declined to confirm when and how Trump was tested before last Tuesday’s presidential debate with Joe Biden, even though both campaigns certified to debate organizers that the candidates and everyone who traveled with them to Cleveland tested negative within 72 hours of the debate.

The White House, which has made contradictory statements about when and how often Trump is tested, said the president first tested positive Thursday evening, and first discussed symptoms with his doctor at that time. Studies have shown that coronavirus patients are infectious up to two days before the onset of symptoms.

primitive tribes“People ought to have the right to know whether or not they should be quarantining themselves, if they’re at risk,” Dr. Jeremy Faust, an emergency physician at Brigham and Women’s Hospital and an instructor at Harvard Medical School, told ABC News. “Potentially the president and his team have put others in harm’s way.”

While it’s not clear when Trump was infected with the virus, the White House’s silence raises questions about its compliance with debate rules, the frequency of Trump’s tests, and whether the president or his aides had concerns about him having the virus before he tested positive — as he kept up his busy schedule of campaign events.

And what about the next presidential debate? The debate commission announce that it will be done virtually, and Trump says he won’t participate and instead will hold a superspreader rally! The New York Times: Trump Objects to Commission’s Virtual Debate Plan.

President Trump, in an extraordinary break from the norms of modern campaigning, said on Thursday that he would refuse to participate in the next presidential debate after organizers changed the event to a virtual format because of health concerns about the coronavirus.

His withdrawal from the Oct. 15 event came shortly after the Commission on Presidential Debates, citing the “health and safety of all involved,” abandoned plans to stage the next in-person debate in Miami, saying that Mr. Trump and Joseph R. Biden Jr. would instead participate remotely from separate locations.

But Mr. Trump, whose recent contraction of the coronavirus was a significant impetus for the commission to modify its plans, immediately dismissed the idea of a remote debate as “ridiculous” and accused the debate commission without evidence of seeking to protect his Democratic opponent.

“No, I’m not going to waste my time on a virtual debate,” Mr. Trump told the Fox Business anchor Maria Bartiromo in a television interview. “That’s not what debating is all about. You sit behind a computer and do a debate — it’s ridiculous.”

And this is extraordinary: the editors of The New England Journal of Medicine have publicly stated that Trump should not get a second term: Dying in a Leadership Vacuum.

Here’s the gist:

Covid-19 has created a crisis throughout the world. This crisis has produced a test of leadership. With no good options to combat a novel pathogen, countries were forced to make hard choices about how to respond. Here in the United States, our leaders have failed that test. They have taken a crisis and turned it into a tragedy….

The United States came into this crisis with enormous advantages. Along with tremendous manufacturing capacity, we have a biomedical research system that is the envy of the world. We have enormous expertise in public health, health policy, and basic biology and have consistently been able to turn that expertise into new therapies and preventive measures. And much of that national expertise resides in government institutions. Yet our leaders have largely chosen to ignore and even denigrate experts.

The response of our nation’s leaders has been consistently inadequate. The federal government has largely abandoned disease control to the states. Governors have varied in their responses, not so much by party as by competence. But whatever their competence, governors do not have the tools that Washington controls. Instead of using those tools, the federal government has undermined them. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which was the world’s leading disease response organization, has been eviscerated and has suffered dramatic testing and policy failures. The National Institutes of Health have played a key role in vaccine development but have been excluded from much crucial government decision making. And the Food and Drug Administration has been shamefully politicized,3 appearing to respond to pressure from the administration rather than scientific evidence. Our current leaders have undercut trust in science and in government,4 causing damage that will certainly outlast them. Instead of relying on expertise, the administration has turned to uninformed “opinion leaders” and charlatans who obscure the truth and facilitate the promulgation of outright lies….

Anyone else who recklessly squandered lives and money in this way would be suffering legal consequences. Our leaders have largely claimed immunity for their actions. But this election gives us the power to render judgment. Reasonable people will certainly disagree about the many political positions taken by candidates. But truth is neither liberal nor conservative. When it comes to the response to the largest public health crisis of our time, our current political leaders have demonstrated that they are dangerously incompetent. We should not abet them and enable the deaths of thousands more Americans by allowing them to keep their jobs.

I think this post is getting too long; but I can’t be sure, because the new WordPress editor doesn’t provide a word count. I’ll post a few more stories in the comment thread below. I hope you all have a peaceful day. Take care of yourselves and your loved ones, and please check in with us if you have the time and inclination.


Thursday Reads: The Trump Convention Approaches

Barack Obama at the Democratic National Convention, 2008

Barack Obama at the Democratic National Convention, 2008

Good Morning!!

The next two weeks will be fascinating ones for political junkies. The Republican Convention begins on Monday, July 18 in Cleveland, and just a week later on July 25 the Democratic Convention will be held in Philadelphia. The list of speakers for the GOP Convention was released this morning.

The Washington Post: Republican convention’s ‘non-conventional’ list: Model, astronaut and Trump clan.

Donald Trump’s convention will feature an eclectic mix of cultural figures, from the first woman to command a space shuttle mission to the survivors of the 2012 Benghazi attacks to an underwear model.

But while several Republican Party establishment figures will take the stage next week in Cleveland, the national convention to officially nominate Trump will be devoid of some of the GOP’s most seasoned leaders and brightest new stars.

Republican officials released a long-awaited list of convention speakers on Thursday that are billed as “non-conventional speakers” who emphasize “real world experience.”

Barry Goldwater and William Miller at the 1964 GOP Convention in San Francisco

Barry Goldwater and William Miller at the 1964 GOP Convention in San Francisco

A small number of elected officials and former office-holders have agreed to speak at Trump’s convention, including Paul Ryan, Mitch McConnell, Rudy Giuliani, Ted Cruz, Scott Walker, Marsha Blackburn, Mike Huckabee, Rick Scott, Chris Christie, Newt Gingrich, Jeff Sessions, Joni Ernst, and Asa Hutchison. Indiana Gov. Mike Pence is not included in the list of speakers. It’s not clear whether that means he will be the VP nominee or if there is some reason he won’t be speaking. Another notable omission from the speakers list is Sarah Palin.

The unusual collection of non-political speakers seems designed to broaden Trump’s appeal. They include retired astronaut Eileen Collins, the first woman pilot and first woman commander of a space shuttle mission; Mark Geist and John Tiegen, two survivors of the 2012 attack on the U.S. diplomatic outpost in Benghazi, Libya; and Antonio Sabato Jr., a former Calvin Klein underwear model, soap-opera actor and reality-television star.

Some sports figures will take the stage here, including pro golfer Natalie Gulbis and Ultimate Fighting Championship president Dana White. But some sporting heroes of decades past that Trump has said he would like to see at the convention — former Indiana University basketball coach Bobby Knight and boxing legend Don King — are not listed as featured speakers.

Thomas E. Dewey at the 1948 Republican Convention

Thomas E. Dewey at the 1948 Republican Convention

Trump family members and close friends will also speak at the convention.

The Cleveland convention will be orchestrated to help expand Trump’s appeal to the general electorate. To that end, several member of Trump’s family are expected to give speeches, including his wife, Melania, and his four oldest children, Donald Jr., Ivanka, Eric and Tiffany.

In addition, other speakers who have known Trump and his family through the years plan to take the stage. They include Haskel Lookstein, a rabbi in New York who converted Ivanka Trump to Judaism; Tom Barrack, a wealthy California-based investor who has worked with Donald Trump on real estate deals; and Kerry Woolard, the general manager of Trump Winery in Virginia.

See a full list of GOP convention speakers at Cleveland.com and a tentative schedule of events at Newsday.

In contrast to the weak list of GOP convention speakers, the Democratic Convention speakers list is star-studded. The Washington Post:

The Democratic National Convention is likely to open with a showcase of some of the party’s biggest stars, including Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont, and first lady Michelle Obama, according to a source with knowledge of the convention planning.

Although the speaking schedule isn’t yet set in stone, the jam-packed Monday night is also expected to include Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.), and Rep. Joe Kennedy (D-Mass.) will introduce Warren in Philadelphia.

Sanders’s name will be entered into the nomination, prompting a roll call vote of delegates for both candidates.

Percy Sutton nominates Shirley Chisholm at the 1972 Democratic Convention

Percy Sutton nominates Shirley Chisholm at the 1972 Democratic Convention

As we all expected Sanders will continue trying to get as much attention as he can for as long as he can.

According to another source familiar with the convention planning, the night’s theme will be an economic agenda focused on families. The list of speakers is intended to highlight the unity of the Democratic Party in contrast to the Republican convention that will have come the week before.

The night’s programming, including the speakers and videos, will drive home the theme of Clinton’s campaign, “Stronger together,” by highlighting a populist economic agenda.

The convention speaking list is coming together this week, and more speakers are likely to be formally announced as early as this week.

Presumably, speakers also will include President Obama and former President Clinton as well as rising stars in the party.

The Trump campaign announced yesterday that the presumptive GOP nominee will name his Vice Presidential running mate tomorrow morning at 11AM in New York City. The exact location hasn’t been announced yet. NPR reports: Trump Wraps Up Vice President Auditions, Sets Friday Announcement.

The deadline for a decision comes after the presumptive GOP presidential nominee wrapped up both public tryouts and private meetings with the three men believed to be among the finalists — Indiana Gov. Mike Pence, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich and New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie.

After he campaigned with Pence in Indiana Tuesday evening, Trump his family met with Pence at his Indiana home on Wednesday morning, according toNBC News, while Gingrich and Alabama Sen. Jeff Sessions also flew to Indianapolis to meet with Trump. Christie met with Trump and his family on Tuesday.

Pence, who gave a tepid endorsement to Texas Sen. Ted Cruz before his state’s primary, was more gleefully on board with Trump’s campaign on Tuesday night as he introduced him at a rally in Westfield.

“Donald Trump gets it,” Pence told the crowd. “Donald Trump hears the voice of the American people.” ….

Of the three presumed vice presidential finalists, Pence was the only one who gave a direct introduction for Trump before he came to the stage. Trump also campaigned with Christie on Monday in Virginia and with Gingrich last week in Ohio.

Trump praised Pence at the end of what was a meandering speech — attacking rival Hillary Clinton often but also wandering off into other topics such as immigration and trade and back again.

“I don’t know if he’s going to be your governor or your vice president, who the hell knows!” Trump told the crowd, referring to Pence.

Richard Nixon at the 1968 Republican Convention

Richard Nixon at the 1968 Republican Convention

Yeah, who the hell knows? This horrifying man is actually running for president. The other top VP candidates are supposedly Jeff Sessions, Chris Christie, and Newt Gingrich. TA Frank weighed in on each of these choices at The Atlantic: It’s down to four, but does any candidate offer even a smidgen of hope?

At this point, Trump needs a running mate who amplifies his strengths and, possibly, goes some way toward remedying some of the candidate’s most serious weaknesses: erratic behavior, lack of experience, inadequate grasp of history, and almost zero policy chops. He or she needs to believe what Trump believes—but in a way that suggests there will be an adult in the room. Trump’s vice president is likely to be powerful in the White House, so the pick is about a lot more than campaigning. The question remains, however, whether any of the final four offer a glimmer of hope.

Some excerpts from Frank’s assessments of the top four candidates.

Newt Gingrich

Even in the wake of reports that Fox News and Gingrich have parted ways, perhaps to allow him to be vetted for the post, I still do not think this V.P. possibility is for real. Even Trump has said about Gingrich that “Newt is Newt.” That’s what you say about someone whom you accept despite major flaws. As in: Kanye is Kanye. That sort of stuff. And remember that “erratic” thing that we were trying to remedy? Gingrich is not your man for that.

John Kennedy at the 1960 Democratic Convention

John Kennedy at the 1960 Democratic Convention

Mike Pence

Yes, Pence campaigned with Trump this week in Indianapolis and sang his praises. But he seemed about as believable in his Trump-love as Paul Ryan. O.K., he did a little better than that. At least he wants Trump to win, maybe.

But Mike Pence has a fan club of roughly four, and all four have the last name Pence. This is someone who has the capability to be bungling and divisive on dumb social issues—by all accounts pleasing no one in his management of a religious-liberty law in Indiana, which means he angers social liberals, social moderates, and social conservatives. To be fair, that does leave the apathetic or uninformed.

Chris Christie

We’ve been through this. Christie is, I will admit, an excellent retail politician. He’s a superb attack dog. He’s a social moderate. You like him, and he likes you, or thinks he does. But he’s got that bridge scandal to deal with and no one respects him after he turned into a courtier. Trump’s ticket would become the stuff of comedy. Picture it. Now picture it as a silhouette.

Protesters forming a human pyramid in Chicago's Grant Park during the 1968 Democratic Convention

Protesters forming a human pyramid in Chicago’s Grant Park during the 1968 Democratic Convention

Jeff Sessions

Here, I must bring up one more crucial vulnerability of Trump: the suspicion that he doesn’t really mean a lot of the things that he says. It’s all pandering: on immigration, on trade, on budgets, on health care, etc. That’s one more reason why Jeff Sessions would pack a punch: Sessions represents Trumpism without Trump. Selecting him as a running mate would signal that Trump actually means what he’s saying.

Read more from TA Frank at the link.

I can’t resist including this assessment of Trump’s VP choices from Gawker: Which of His Potential Vice Presidential Candidates Is Donald Trump Just Fucking With? Check it out at that link.

So . . . what do you think? Will you be watching next week’s GOP clusterf#ck? What other stories are you following today?


Reactions to Hillary and Her Speech: The Good The Bad and The Ugly

Hillary speech1

Good Morning!!

Dakinikat will try to put up a post this afternoon if she can find time, but in the meantime, here are a few reactions to Hillary’s speech from the media and other politicians, as well as her interview with the Des Moines Register and a good article on the Clinton Foundation for us to discuss in the meantime.

The Good

From The Des Moines Register: Clinton hears ‘eagerness’ for talk of female presidency.

Hillary Clinton did not win the Democratic presidential nomination in 2008, but her campaign succeeded in addressing concerns about whether a woman could be commander in chief, she told The Des Moines Register on Sunday.

“Part of what I tried to do in that campaign was to begin to answer that question,” she said. “Now I feel like the question’s been answered.” ….

“There is an eagerness that I sense coming at me from people in my audiences, in my conversations, to engage with me about that more than I felt in ’08,” Clinton told the Register on Sunday, one of two sit-down news interviews that were the first for this presidential bid.

In the 15-minute interview at the Iowa State Fairgrounds, Clinton defended the presidencies of Bill Clinton and Barack Obama, said she’ll propose improvements to the Affordable Care Act, and expanded on her views about the proposed Trans-Pacific Partnership trade pact. She landed on the side of House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi over Obama in wanting to ensure stronger protections for American workers.

Read the rest at the link.

Hillary2

Inside Philanthropy: Shut Up About the Clinton Foundation’s Problems for a Minute to Look at It’s Programs.

With all the hype in the media about the Clinton Foundation, we wonder how many Americans actually know what the foundation does—or how many members of the media, for that matter.

Listening to news reports, you’d think the sole purpose of this outfit is to help the Clintons get rich and do favors for their shady friends. And while, to be sure, some of the reports about specific donors have been troubling—and suggest questionable judgment by the Clintons—what’s missing is a broader, more balanced look at how the foundation mobilizes money for good causes and who, in reality, puts up most of that money. (Hint: It’s not dictators looking for favors from the State Department.) While people shouldn’t stop asking hard questions about the foundation, they should pay more attention to its approach and programs.

In fact, the Clinton Foundation stands as one of the more successful efforts of recent years to mobilize new resources for philanthropy. Since its founding in 2001, it has raised nearly $2 billion, according an independent review by the Washington Post. Yes, chunks of that money have come from the Clintons’ network of political donors and corporate friends, which is how fundraising often works: You hit up the rich people you know for your causes. And, sure, some of them may not have the purest motives for ponying up, especially if you’re someone who can return favors later, but that’s the nature of the game.

Philanthropic fundraising is more like political fundraising than many may imagine. You think every hedge fund guy who gives big at the Robin Hood’s annual gala is solely focused on poor kids in East New York? Or that every tech leader who recently listened to Marc Benioff’s pleas and chipped in to fight poverty in the Bay Area has a heart of gold? Or that everyone sitting on MoMA’s board is only there because they love art? Come on.

Much more at the link.

Hillary populist

Matthew Yglesias at Vox gets it: Hillary Clinton has always been to Obama’s left on economics.

At a dramatic weekend rally on Roosevelt Island, Hillary Clinton unleashed a speech that was in some ways strikingly liberal, especially for a candidate who’s not facing meaningful opposition in the Democratic Primary. Politico’s Glenn Thrush says it shows that “the Democratic Party is moving left fast” and Clinton knows it, which is why she uncorked “economic-inequality rhetoric could have been comfortably uttered by the likes of Elizabeth Warren, Joseph Stiglitz, Bernie Sanders, or Martin O’Malley.”

The truth, however, is that on the kind of pocketbook issues that Clinton spent most of yesterday’s speech discussing, she’s alwaysbeen on the left wing of the Democratic Party. She’s been in the public eye far too long to have avoided inconsistencies over the years. But in positional terms, somewhat to the left of Obama — or Bill Clinton — on economics is where she’s been this whole time.

Yglesias goes into plenty of detail on Hillary’s record. Good piece!

hillary-clinton-h-stage-roosevelt-island

The Washington Post: Hillary Clinton won the weekend on social media.

According to an analysis by Zignal Labs, The Washington Post’s campaign analytics partner, 59 percent of all 2016 chatter during the weekend was about her. That means three out of every five stories or posts written about any presidential contender mentioned the former secretary of State. By comparison, the week prior, she commanded just 20 percent.

A June 11 post from Peter Daou and Tom Watson at their new site #HillaryMen: A Woman Leading America – If Not Now, When?

Our premise is that Hillary’s inclusive vision, unwavering commitment to public service, progressive policies and unparalleled experience make her one of the best (and best qualified) candidates ever to seek the presidency. If Hillarycannot become the first woman in history to cross the presidential finish line, who can? If not now, when? When will we show our daughters that a woman can be president?

Viewing the 2016 election through an explicit gender lens, the ferocious attacks against Hillary are not just about her, but underscore the deeply ingrained resistance to any woman with a viable path to the White House. Does anyone believe that another female candidate could get within reach of the presidency without running headlong into the same double standard and institutional resistance confronting Hillary?

Spotlighting the gender aspect of the 2016 race does not mean we discount the centrality of issues and competing ideologies or the complex information processing that leads voters to choose a candidate. Nor is it our intention to make specific accusations of gender bias. We are simply acknowledging the political, social and cultural barriers that have resulted in a complete shut out in national U.S. politics, at 44-0. In nearly a quarter millennium, not a single woman has occupied our nation’s highest office.

This is going to be a great site to read for inspiration during the upcoming campaign. Thanks to Beata for posting about it in the comments on Saturday.

Read the rest of this entry »


Thursday Reads: A Mixed Bag of News and Views

Tea in the garden darker

Good Morning!!

I’m not seeing any particular theme in today’s news, but there is quite a bit of good stuff to read; so I’ll just toss out a few items that interested me.

Poor Benjamin Netanyahu. It seems all his efforts to use the Republican Congress to squash President Obama’s negotiations is one big giant fail. He managed to get reelected with the help of John Boehner et al., but that’s about it. First Obama said that Iran recognizing Israel wouldn’t be part of any deal, and then yesterday the White House mocked Bibi on Twitter.

The Washington Post: Why Obama says Iran does not have to recognize Israel as part of a nuclear deal.

President Obama, who doesn’t get along with Netanyahu, seemed to dismiss the Israeli premier’s latest demand in an interview this week. When asked by NPR’s Steve Inskeep whether Iranian recognition of the state of Israel would be included in any final deal, Obama deemed such a move a “fundamental misjudgment.” Here’s an excerpt of his remarks:

Well, let me say this — it’s not that the idea of Iran recognizing Israel is unreasonable. It’s completely reasonable and that’s U.S. policy….

There’s still going to be a whole host of differences between us and Iran, and one of the most profound ones is the vile, anti-Semitic statements that have often come out of the highest levels of the Iranian regime. But the notion that we would condition Iran not getting nuclear weapons, in a verifiable deal, on Iran recognizing Israel is really akin to saying that we won’t sign a deal unless the nature of the Iranian regime completely transforms. And that is, I think, a fundamental misjudgment.

The point here is one that diplomats would take for granted. When attempting to make a deal with your interlocutor, particularly one where there’s a considerable history of grievance and animosity, you can’t expect to win a total capitulation.

Duh. Poor Bibi, like today’s Republicans doesn’t comprehend the notion of compromise.

David Knowles at Bloomberg Politics on the Twitter gag: White House Trolls Netanyahu on Iran with Bomb Graphic.

The White House has employed a graphic first used by Benjamin Netanyahu to push its case for a nuclear deal with Iran that the Israeli Prime Minister opposes. On Wednesday, the president’s office posted a tweet that borrowed the graphic representation of a bomb that Netanyahu had held up during a speech to the United Nation’s General Assembly in which he warned of Iran’s growing nuclear capability.

The fuse on the original image was intact, and there was no sign of the metaphorical scissors or accompanying text that the White House saw fit to add.

Bibi bomb

Pretty funny.

And how about this op-ed from the Jerusalem Post: How Netanyahu is single-handedly hurting the US-Israel relationship.

Benjamin Netanyahu is singlehandedly hurting a relationship that has resulted in over $100 billion in military aid to Israel since 1962.  The Prime Minister is hurting a relationship with a country that constantly defends Israel at the UN; resulting in over 30 U.S. vetoes of resolutions critical to Israel. Because of Netanyahu, some are wondering if the U.S. should continually give $3.1 billion in annual aid and professors like Harvard’s Steven Strauss have written about ending this perpetual assistance. Sadly, the Prime Minister’s supporters in Israel and abroad don’t seem moved by the magnitude of what could be lost if Netanyahu’s feud with Obama “gets even worse.”  [….] 

even those whose job it was to protect Israel from the threats trumpeted by Netanyahu feel that the Prime Minister has overstepped the boundaries of rationality.

According to The Jerusalem Post recently, “Former Mossad chief slams Netanyahu for insistence that Iran recognize Israel’s right to exist.” Efraim Halevy also predicted a“dramatic” improvement in Israeli relations with the U.S. if Netanyahu were to be defeated in the latest elections.  Another former Mossad chief, Meir Dagan, called Netanyahu’s speech to Congress “bull—t” and views the Prime Minister’s policies as dangerous to Israel’s future. A third former Mossad chief, Tamir Pardo, stated that a nuclear Iran did notpost an existential threat to Israel; a viewpoint directly at odds with the hysteria (fueled by Netanyahu’s political ideology) surrounding Obama’s nuclear deal.

When three former Mossad chiefs are forced to speak out, an Israeli Prime Minister should tone down his paranoid rhetoric, not increase the tempo of his political exploits. Say what you will about Bibi’s critics, but former Mossad chiefs aren’t “leftist” and they know quite a bit about Israeli security threats. Their sober assessment of Netanyahu’s P. T. Barnum inspired diplomacy (regarding Israel’s U.S. relationship) is just cause to reassess the Prime Minister’s behavior; not champion his constant criticism of Obama’s nuclear deal.

The Economist writes that “RARELY have relations between an American president and an Israeli prime minister sunk so low.” The New Yorker published an article titled A Bad Day In American-Israeli Relations. Senator Dianne Feinstein recently stated she wished that Netanyahu “would contain himself” and I echoed the California Senator’s sentiment in a recent Congress Blog piece. Tzipi Livni has warned that Netanyahu is leading Israel into “crisis and diplomatic isolation.” Like Livni, Yair Lapid has lamented over the state of relations between the White House and Israel, stating, “This damage will take a long time to mend.” Everyone from former Mossad chiefs, U.S. Senators, Israeli politicians, and journalist have expressed dismay about the decline in a relationship that is essential to Israel’s future.

Valerie_Jarrett_insert_c_Washington_Blade_by_Michael_Key

From The Washington Post, here’s more interesting news from the White House: White House condemns therapy to ‘cure’ gay youth.

The statement was issued in response to a White House petition signed by more than 120,000 people after the suicide of 17-year-old Leelah Alcorn, a transgender teen from Ohio whose suicide note condemning the society’s treatment of transgender people went viral after her death. In the note, she indicated she had been subjected to such therapies.

“The only way I will rest in peace is if one day transgender people aren’t treated the way I was, they’re treated like humans, with valid feelings and human rights,” Alcorn wrote in her note.

The White House statement, issued by President Obama’s senior adviser Valerie Jarrett, condemned “conversion” therapy, also known as “reparative” therapy, which she defined as any treatment aimed at changing a person’s sexual identity.

“The overwhelming scientific evidence demonstrates that conversion therapy, especially when it is practiced on young people, is neither medically nor ethically appropriate and can cause substantial harm,” she wrote. “As part of our dedication to protecting America’s youth, this Administration supports efforts to ban the use of conversion therapy for minors.”

Shortly before releasing the White House response to the petition on conversion therapy, according to a White House official, Jarrett spoke with organizers of the petition. “She listened to their personal stories about why this was important to them and thanked them for their efforts,” said the official, who asked for anonymity in order to describe a private conversation.

Transgender Bathroom

And from The Advocate: The White House’s Executive Office Now Has Gender-Neutral Bathroom.

An all-gender restroom is for the first time available in the Eisenhower Executive Office Building, confirms a White House spokesman. Alternatively, guests are invited to use whichever bathroom fits with their gender identity.

“The White House allows staff and guests to use restrooms consistent with their gender identity,” said White House spokesman Jeff Tiller, “which is in keeping with the administration’s existing legal guidance on this issue and consistent with what is required by the executive order that took effect today for federal contractors.”

Valerie Jarrett, senior adviser to President Obama, had mentioned the policy change in an op-ed today for The Advocate, saying the adminstration had “closely examined” its policies on “restroom access” to help “ensure that everyone who enters this building feels safe and fully respected.”

Gender neutral bathrooms, if single-stall, also often offer a safe space to differently abled users, parents with their children, and anyone else seeking privacy.

The push for gender-neutral restrooms in public buildings and workplaces has been one cause taken up by transgender rights activists — and one that’s found the most visible sucecss on university campuses — making Jarrett’s anouncement feel to many like a win for trans Americans.

“It is heartening to see that, even if legislators in some states are attacking the dignity and humanity of transgender and gender-nonconforming people, at least the White House is still moving in the direction of dignity and common sense,” Mara Keisling, executive director of the National Center for Transgender Equality, told The Advocate.

Within the past several years, the Obama administration has been increasingly affirming of trans citizens, with Vice President Joe Biden referring in 2012 to transgender discrimination as the “civil rights issue of our time” and President Obama using the word “transgender” (in addition to “lesbian” and “bisexual”) in this year’s State of the Union Address for the first time ever for any president. Federal employees have had the right to use the bathroom that accords with their gender identiy since 2011.

Around the country, heads of Republican homophobes must be exploding. Read the whole article for more on LGBT-positive actions the Obama administration has taken.

Xavier Morales

Xavier Morales

Some not so good news: the Secret Service’s credibility continues to slide downhill rapidly.

WaPo: Secret Service manager put on leave during probe of alleged assault.

The D.C. police’s sex-crimes unit and a government inspector general are investigating the female agent’s allegation that Xavier Morales, a manager in the security clearance division, made unwanted sexual advances and grabbed her on the night of March 31 after they returned to the office from a party at a downtown restaurant, according to two law enforcement officials with knowledge of the probe.

The woman told police and agency investigators that Morales, her boss, told her during the party at Capitol City Brewing Company that he was in love with her and would like to have sex with her, according to two people briefed on her statements. In the office later, she alleged, Morales tried to kiss her and grabbed her arms when she resisted, according to the two people briefed on her complaint. The woman alleged that the two scuffled until Morales relented.

Through an agency spokesman, Morales declined to comment, and he did not respond to requests for comment left on his personal phone.

Late last week, the Secret Service took the unusual step of placing Morales on indefinite administrative leave and adding his name to an internal “do not admit” list prohibiting entry to the office, a Secret Service official said. The Secret Service also took away his gun and badge after agency investigators launched a preliminary review of the complaint and conducted “subsequent corroborative interviews” Thursday afternoon, said agency spokesman Brian Leary.

More details at Heavy.com: Xavier Morales: 5 Fast Facts You Need to Know.

Ugh. Maybe we need more female Secret Service agents to quell the “boys will be boys” atmosphere in the agency.

Christ-Christie-Bridgegate-Press-Conf-3-620x430

More trouble may be coming for NJ governor and possible GOP presidential candidate Chris Christie.

NJ.com reports:  Indictments may come very soon in Bridgegate, report says.

Indictments may be coming very soon in Bridgegate, the investigation into improper lane closures at the George Washington Bridge in late 2013 that has also led to questions about bribery and conflicts of interest possibly involving Gov. Christie and the Port Authority, sources told The New York Times.

New Jersey U.S. Attorney Paul Fishman launched the probe a few months after three lanes were closed to the bridge in September 2013, causing gridlock in Fort Lee. The closures were initially attributed to a traffic study by a Port Authority executive, Bill Baroni, but emails unearthed during an investigation revealed that the lanes were shut down on the orders of a Christie aide, Bridget Anne Kelly, to a Port Authority official appointed by Christie, David Wildstein. Some believe the lane closures were retribution for the failure of Fort Lee’s mayor, Mark Sokolich, to endorse Christie’s bid for re-election at a time when the governor and likely Republican presidential candidate was trying to build bipartisan support.

The Times previously reported that Fishman’s office may bring indictments to the operators of the bridge under a little-used statute that makes it a crime to use the bridge for something other than its intended purpose. Fishman’s office declined to say what course the investigation is taking.

This could be very interesting.

I have more news links, but I’m running out of space and time. I’ll add them to the comments.

What stories are you following? I’d love to read your comments on this post and click on your links to your recommended reads for today.

 


Tuesday Reads

The Magpie, Claude Monet

The Magpie, Claude Monet

Good Morning!!

The Midwest and Northeast were hit with another huge snowstorm yesterday, and there could be another one on the way. I may never get my car out of the driveway again. The strange thing is that it is also incredibly cold, in the single numbers again this morning. I’m going to wait until it gets into the 20s before I start trying to get my front door open and start digging out. I’m also struggling with a cold, so I’m going to have to shovel slowly.

The measles outbreak and the vaccine “controversy” are the stories topping the news today, after several politicians weighed in yesterday. I’m going to focus on those stories again today.

First up, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie. From Jeffrey Kluger at Time Magazine: Chris Christie’s Terrible Vaccine Advice.

Last I checked, Chris Christie isn’t a licensed commercial pilot, which is one reason he probably doesn’t phone the cockpit with instructions when his flight encounters turbulence. Chances are, he doesn’t tell his plow operators how to clear a road when New Jersey gets hit by a snow storm either. But when it comes to medicine, the current Governor, former prosecutor and never doctor evidently feels pretty free to dispense advice. And doncha’ know it? That advice turns out to be terrible.

Asked about the ongoing 14-state outbreak of measles that has been linked to falling vaccination rates, Christie—the man who prides himself on chin-jutting certainty—went all squishy. “Mary Pat and I have had our children vaccinated and we think that it’s an important part of being sure we protect their health and the public health,” he said. “I also understand that parents need to have some measure of choice in things as well, so that’s the balance that the government has to decide.”

The Governor then went further, taking off his family doctor hat and putting on his epidemiologist hat. “Not every vaccine is created equal,” he said, “and not every disease type is as great a public health threat as others.”

He was not specific about which diseases fall below his public-health threat threshold, but New Jerseyans are free to guess. Would it be polio, which paralyzed or killed tens of thousands of American children every year before a vaccine against it was developed? Would it be whooping cough, which results in hospitalization for 50% of all infants who contract it and death for 2%, and is now making a comeback in California due to the state’s low vaccination rates? Are we going to have mandatory HSV 2 testing? Or would it be measles, which still kills nearly 150,000 people—mostly children—worldwide every year?

Chris-Christie-balance-to-vaccinations-CrabDivingOf course this isn’t the first time Christie pretended to be a medical expert–remember how he reacted when nurse Kaci Hickox landed in Newark after treating Ebola patients in Africa?

Christie later tried to walk back his remarks about vaccines, but he has a history of pandering to anti-vaxxers. During his 2009 campaign for governor, Christie wrote the following in a letter to supporters:

“Many of these families have expressed their concern over New Jersey’s highest-in-the nation vaccine mandates. I stand with them now, and will stand with them as their governor in their fight for greater parental involvement in vaccination decisions that affect their children.”

Next up, Senator Rand Paul. At the Washington Post,  Jose A. DelReal writes: Rand Paul, M.D., says most vaccines should be ‘voluntary.’

“I’m not anti-vaccine at all but…most of them ought to be voluntary,” Paul told Laura Ingraham on her radio show Monday. “I think there are times in which there can be some rules but for the most part it ought to be voluntary.”

Paul pointed to a 2007 effort by then-Texas Gov. Rick Perry (R), who is also considering a 2016 run for the Republican nomination, that would have required young girls to receive a vaccine for human papillomavirus (HPV). That move was sharply attacked by social conservatives who said requiring vaccination against HPV, which is a sexually transmitted disease, would encourage promiscuity. The Texas legislature eventually overturned the mandate. Perry later called the order “a mistake.”

“While I think it’s a good idea to take the vaccine, I think that’s a personal decision for individual’s to take,” Paul said, attempting to strike a balance between responsible medical protocols and personal choice.

Paul

Like Christie, Paul made sure his own children were vaccinated. But Paul really went off the deep end later on Monday.

Speaking on CNBC’s “Closing Bell” later Monday, Paul said that there should be increased public awareness that vaccines are good for children, but reiterated that vaccines should be voluntary, as he said they were in the past.

“I’ve heard of many tragic cases of walking, talking normal children who wound up with profound mental disorders after vaccines,” Paul said. “I’m not arguing vaccines are a bad idea. I think they’re a good thing. But I think parents should have some input. The state doesn’t own your children, parents own the children and it is an issue of freedom and public health.”

Parents “own their children?” WTF?! And what are these “profound mental disorders?” Who are these children and what vaccines did they get? I can’t believe the media lets this man get away with throwing out these evidence-free claims.

At The Week, Ryan Cooper explains the immorality of Christie’s and Paul’s positions.

…this entire argumentative frame misses the greatest benefit of vaccines: herd immunity. A population vaccinated to a high enough level becomes largely impervious to the disease by sheer statistics, and that protects the vulnerable ones who can’t be vaccinated, or those whose vaccines didn’t take root. Vaccines are not just about preventing personal illness, but stopping them from spreading. Done systematically enough, it can eradicate diseases completely. The elimination of smallpox, which killed something like 300 million people in the 20th century alone, ranks high on the list of human accomplishments.

That is why this is as much a moral issue as a scientific one. The appalling selfishness inherent in the idea of “vaccine choice” was starkly illustrated in a recent CNN story. After the measles outbreak at Disneyland, CNN talked to a family whose 10-month old baby had contracted the disease. They’re terrified he’ll pass it on to their 3-year-old daughter, who has leukemia and can’t get the vaccine — but might be killed by the disease. Here’s the response of a refusenik parent:

CNN asked Wolfson if he could live with himself if his unvaccinated child got another child gravely ill. “I could live with myself easily,” he said. “It’s an unfortunate thing that people die, but people die. I’m not going to put my child at risk to save another child.” [CNN]

Wolfson

In other words, it’s okay to cause the death of another child if your kid wants to go to Disneyland. And that’s leaving aside the risk to Wolfson’s own kids, who are put at risk by his atrocious parenting.

Every person depends on society to function. From public roads, to sanitation, to clean water, to the very economic system itself — your day is made possible by millions of other people doing their small part to maintain our civilization. When it comes to violently contagious diseases, it is not possible to speak meaningfully of choice divorced from the needs of those people.

Here’s a little more on Dr. Wolfson from Terrence McCoy at The Washington Post: Amid measles outbreak, anti-vaccine doctor revels in his notoriety.

“Don’t be mad at me for speaking the truth about vaccines,” Wolfson said in a telephone interview with The Washington Post. “Be mad at yourself, because you’re, frankly, a bad mother. You didn’t ask once about those vaccines. You didn’t ask about the chemicals in them. You didn’t ask about all the harmful things in those vaccines…. People need to learn the facts.”

But whose facts is he talking about? Every respectable expert totally disagrees with him and his anti-vaccine movement and, along with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, urges parents to get their kids vaccinated. And Wolfson himself, who has quickly become something of a spokesman for the anti-vaxxers, is in no way an expert on vaccines or infectious diseases. He’s cardiologist who now does holistic medicine.

What the experts say: “The measles vaccine is one of the most highly effective vaccines that we have against any virus or any microbe, and it is safe, number one,” Anthony Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, told CBS. “Number two, measles is one of the top two most contagious infectious viruses that we know of…. So you have a highly infectious virus and you have an extraordinarily effective vaccine.”

Despite the measles outbreak that has spread to at least 14 states, Wolfson’s advice to parents is:

Wolfson actively urges people to avoid vaccines. “We should be getting measles, mumps, rubella, chicken pox, these are the rights of our children to get it,” he told the Arizona Republic. “We do not need to inject chemicals into ourselves and into our children in order to boost our immune system.” He added: “I’m a big fan of what’s called paleo-nutrition, so our children eat foods that our ancestors have been eating for millions of years…. That’s the best way to protect.”

Should kids have polio too?

andrew-wakefield385_482677a

McCoy also wrote recently about Andrew Wakefield the British doctor who started the vaccine panic: 

If the [measles] outbreak proves anything, it’s Wakefield’s enduring legacy. Even years after he lost his medical license, years after he was shown to have committed numerous ethical violations, and years after the retraction of a medical paper that alleged a vaccine-autism link, his message resonates. Facebook is populated by pages like “Dr. Wakefield’s Work Must Continue.” There’s the Web site called “We Support Andrew Wakefield,” which peddles the Wakefieldian doctrine. And thousands sign petitions pledging support….

Wakefield’s defenders frequently harbor a deep distrust of government. “They often suggest that vaccination is motivated by profit and is an infringement of personal liberty and choice; vaccines violate the laws and nature and are temporary or ineffective; and good hygiene is sufficient to protect against disease,” said a 2008 editorial in Nature.

Others, from Katie Couric to Jenny McCarthy to Michele Bachmann, have caught the anti-vaccine bug.

Katie Couric?

And in Wakefield, who still preaches the gospel of anti-vaccination from Texas, such individuals find a true martyr — a man who has sacrificed everything to take on powerful pharmaceutical companies and the biggest villain of all: the government. Those who came to hear him speak in 2011 at Graceview Baptish Church in Tomball, Texas, left messages of encouragement, according to the New York Times: “We stand by you!” and “Thank you for the many sacrifices you have made for the cause!” Another person, suddenly aware that a reporter was in the midst, warned the writer she better be careful. “Be nice to him,” the woman said. “Or we will hurt you.

“To our community, Andrew Wakefield is Nelson Mandela and Jesus Christ rolled up into one,” J.B. Handley, co-founder of a group that disputes vaccine safety, told the Times. “He is a symbol of how all of us feel.”

Read much more about Wakefield and his discredited research at the WaPo link.

Meanwhile measles continues to spread from coast to coast. Here’s a map of reported cases at the NYT.

What else is happening? Please share your thoughts and links in the comment thread and have a terrific Tuesday!