Friday Dystopian Reads: Living with The Trumpist Regime Pandemic

Butterfly woman (Life magazine cover by Wladyslaw Benda, 1923)

Good Day Sky Dancers!

How’s the Social Distancing going for those of you that aren’t introverts? Frankly, social distancing is what I call my time away from work and it’s known as peace and quiet finally!!! The worst things right now for me are watching these endless pressers where Trump lies and then every one steps back and clarifies what delusional things he’s announced that simply aren’t true or are terribly distorted. Oh, then Pence does his sycophantic thing.

Fortunately, I’m a remote worker these days and I’m used to the isolation and I have money deposited in my bank. I’m listening to so many of my friends tell me their tales of sudden and unexpected furloughs and unemployment. One set of my friends have had to close their restaurant. Some are relying on take out and delivery but this will be very very brutal for this city. This city will be hit hard on many levels. My heart is with every one going through this that could lose everything and I truly hope we can get the Federal government to help us survive until we can begin to find a new normal together.

I watched a small flock of birds migrating north this morning while walking Temple. Taxes may be postponed but all other forms of life on the planet continue. It’s made me think about the term “nonessential” because it seems that’s what a lot of our jobs, travel, and shopping really are.

We can accept the Trumpist Regime postponing the Federal Tax Date but, as Jon Meacham writes in the NYT times this morning “We Can’t Let Coronavirus Postpone Elections. Even in war, America has kept up its democratic traditions. We can’t stop now.” Getting rid of this inept, crooked, and lying set of Trumpists is our most essential duty this year.

History is on the side of proceeding in times of uncertainty. There’s something in the American character that has long insisted on pressing ahead with democracy’s fundamental task: the casting of ballots and the choosing of leaders. In addition to the Lincoln example, historians know that James Madison was re-elected amid the War of 1812; the midterm elections of 1814 took place not long after the British had invaded Washington; the 1918 balloting occurred despite the ravages of the Spanish flu; 1932 went forward in the face of the Great Depression; and Franklin Roosevelt was re-elected in 1944, during World War II. Even 9/11 delayed the New York City mayoral election only by a matter of weeks.

We have world enough and time — and, in several states, the experience — to make the voting in November safe and secure. Colorado offers us perhaps the most promising model. A “vote at home” state (Hawaii, Oregon and Washington have forms of this, too), Colorado mails ballots to all registered voters well in advance of Election Day. Voters can either mail them back or drop them off at central locations at any point in the weeks-long window of time. Most people have chosen this option; think of it as curbside democracy.

There are security issues, of course: ballots could be intercepted and illegally cast by people with access to a person’s mail. There are, however, signature-checking safeguards in place. No system — including the current one — is perfect. But we can’t let the perfect be the enemy of the good. This coming Monday, Senators Amy Klobuchar and Ron Wyden are introducing legislation to make mail-in ballots available to every voter in America.

We need to have these kinds of conversations about the election honestly, rationally, and now. The sooner the better, for chaos could lead to a nightmare scenario: the possibility that President Trump might take advantage of the unfolding health crisis to delay the November election.

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August 27, 1925. Cover by Garrett Price Life, Kitty Kitty,

Adam Sewer–writing for The Atlantic– suggests that “Donald Trump’s Cult of Personality Did This. The autocratic political culture that has propped up the Trump administration has left the nation entirely unprepared for an economic and public-health calamity.”

The president of the United States is a menace to public health.

I don’t mean that I disagree with him on policy, although I do. I don’t mean that I abhor the president’s expressed bigotry toward religious and ethnic minorities, although that is also true. I am not referring to Donald Trump’s efforts to corrupt the Justice Department, shield his criminal associates from legal peril, or funnel taxpayer money to his tacky hotels and golf courses, although all of these things are reason enough to oppose the president.

What I am referring to is the fact that, soon after the coronavirus outbreak emerged in China, the rest of the world began to regard it as a threat to public health, while Trump has seen it as a public-relations problem. Trump’s primary method of dealing with public-relations problems is to exert the full force of the authoritarian cult of personality that surrounds him to deny that a problem even exists. This approach has paid political dividends for the Republican Party, in the form of judicial appointments, tax cuts for the wealthy, and a rapid erosion of the rule of law. But applied to the deadly pandemic now sweeping the planet, all it has done is exacerbate the inevitable public-health crisis, while leaving both the federal government and the entire swath of the country that hangs on his every word unprepared for the catastrophe now unfolding in the United States. The cardinal belief of Trumpism is that loyalty to Trump is loyalty to the country, and that equation leaves no room for the public interest.

Neither the tide of pestilence sweeping the nation nor the economic calamity that will follow was inevitable. They are the predictable outcomes of the president’s authoritarian instincts, his obvious incompetence, and the propaganda apparatus that has shielded him from accountability by ensuring that the public is blinded to his role in the scale of this disaster.

Trump’s first public remarks on the coronavirus came during an interview with the CNBC reporter Joe Kernen on January 22. Kernen asked, “Are there worries about a pandemic at this point?” To which Trump replied, “No. Not at all. And—we’re—we have it totally under control. It’s one person coming in from China, and we have it under control. It’s—going to be just fine.” In February, he falsely declared that “we are very close to a vaccine,” and that “within a couple of days [the number of cases] is going to be down to close to zero.” In early March, he was still urging Americans to ignore the issue, saying, “It will go away. Just stay calm. It will go away.”

One might argue in the president’s defense that panic serves no one. It is important, in fact, that political leaders urge calm in the face of a crisis, even as they prepare for the worst.

Except Trump was not preparing. He was consciously contradicting his administration’s own public-health officials at the time.

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Life Magazine Cover, 1922, Flapper Butterfly, JC Leyendecker

Republican senators have been equally self-dealing and venal.

Bob Brigham / Raw Story: Republican Jim Inhofe dumped up to $450,000 in stock — the fourth GOP senator implicated in scandal: report

Tia Mitchell / Atlanta Journal-Constitution: Perdue, Loeffler among senators whose stock trading during coronavirus raises questions

The first one caught was Senator Burr.

Pro Publica: Senator Dumped Up to $1.6 Million of Stock After Reassuring Public About Coronavirus Preparedness

Greg Sargent provides this analysis in WAPO: “Three big takeaways from the stunning GOP stock-selling revelations”.

Burr’s ‘defense’ actually indicts Trump. One of Burr’s claims in his and Trump’s defense is that it’s unfair to claim daylight between Burr’s private warnings about the coronavirus and Trump’s downplaying of it.

Burr is pointing to a briefing that Trump and administration officials gave in late February, suggesting that this showed that they warned Americans about the need to “begin making plans” for serious inconveniences to come.

But that very same briefing from Trump and his officials actually shows them vastly downplaying the threat and vastly inflating the success of their own efforts.

In it, Trump declared that their strategy was already having “tremendous success, beyond what people thought.” And multiple other officials also hailed the “success” of their containment strategy.

We now know this was the opposite of the truth — the threat was not remotely contained, and the administration’s failures were to blame for it. Burr’s own defense actually shows that the administration was dramatically misleading the public, even as Burr privately warned that the situation was far more dire.

Burr is declining to directly answer questions about the stock sales. But even if you grant that his motives were pure, that cannot expunge the other problem here: that Republicans like him knew in real time that things were surely much worse than Trump was publicly allowing, and likely knew that the administration’s strategy was not remotely matched to the threat.

Here’s an example of the complete ineptitude in all Trumpist activities. The IRS wasn’t aware of the date change for Federal Taxes due.

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May 1934 Dr Seuss Cover

So, every day we get about two national press opportunities and it becomes an endless and hapless pogrom to confuse all of us. Trump attacks woman reporters asking key questions including suggestions that some of them would be better off dying of the virus. Trump basically announces things no one has heard of in the rest of his administration and confusion ensues. Trump continues to use the race baiting “Chinese virus” trope and refer to pandemic containment efforts as a war. None of these things are remotely comforting, necessary, or useful.

Meanwhile, out in Trumpist La La Land we have headlines like this and the resulting editorial op ed from the Kansas City Star: Kansas official: Pandemic isn’t a problem here because there are few Chinese people”.

The chairman of the Riley County Commissioners suggested this week that the global coronavirus pandemic is not a problem locally because unlike in Italy, there are not a lot of Chinese people living in central Kansas, according to two other officials who attended the meeting Wednesday night.

Before we go any further, the scientific term for this kind of xenophobic falsehood is bunkum.

Usha Reddi, the mayor of Manhattan, Kansas, went to the meeting hoping that the commissioners would declare an emergency, which they ultimately did. But what she heard from the chairman, Republican Marvin Rodriguez, was this: “I’m paraphrasing, but he said we don’t have a problem here because Italy has a lot of Chinese people, and we don’t have that problem here.”

Reached by phone, Rodriguez told The Star Editorial Board, “I didn’t necessarily say it like that.” So how did he say it? “Italy has a problem with its health department, first. It’s health for everybody. I have a friend in the Navy, and he said in that area” of Northern Italy where that country’s first cases were reported, “there’s a garment industry and a lot of Chinese. If we were like Italy, we’d have it already.”

We do have it already. But, does he understand why it’s dangerous to Asian Americans to talk like that, and that there has been an increase in reported attacks?

“Well, they say it came out of China,” he answered, “and I’m not putting it past the Chinese government in communist China.” Meaning, to export a virus on purpose? “Normally, this kind of thing spreads slowly,” he answered, so “I put two and two together. I’ve been around a long time, girl.”

He also said that his only public policy goal in saying all of this was to try to discourage panic. “We’re hurting a lot of people in Manhattan” by overreacting, he said. “Places are being shut down for no reason at all.”

All of the above not only encourages racist attacks but also encourages the public to ignore the life-saving advice of public health officials to take proper precautions to avoid transmitting the virus.

“This is false information,” Reddi said of Rodriguez’ remarks. “It’s not keeping the community safe. I felt very uncomfortable” hearing his comments about Chinese people.

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Life Magazine cover by John LaGatta / January 1929

Ronald Brownstein–writing for The Atlantic— writes: “Red and Blue America Aren’t Experiencing the Same Pandemic. The disconnect is already shaping, even distorting, the nation’s response.”

Even a disease as far-reaching as the coronavirus hasn’t entirely crossed the chasm between red and blue America.

In several key respects, the outbreak’s early stages are unfolding very differently in Republican- and Democratic-leaning parts of the country. That disconnect is already shaping, even distorting, the nation’s response to this unprecedented challenge—and it could determine the pandemic’s ultimate political consequences as well.

A flurry of new national polls released this week reveals that while anxiety about the disease is rising on both sides of the partisan divide, Democrats consistently express much more concern about it than Republicans do, and they are much more likely to say they have changed their personal behavior as a result. A similar gap separates people who live in large metropolitan centers, which have become the foundation of the Democratic electoral coalition, from those who live in the small towns and rural areas that are the modern bedrock of the GOP.

Government responses have followed these same tracks. With a few prominent exceptions, especially Ohio, states with Republican governors have been slower, or less likely, than those run by Democrats to impose restrictions on their residents. Until earlier this week, Donald Trump downplayed the disease’s danger and overstated the extent to which the United States had “control” over it, as the conservative publication The Bulwark recently documented. Conservative media figures including Rush Limbaugh and Sean Hannity likewise insisted for weeks that the media and Democrats were exaggerating the danger as a means of weakening Trump. Several Republican elected officials encouraged their constituents to visit bars and restaurants precisely when federal public-health officials were urging the opposite.

So, the next thing that’s going on is Trumpist suppression of unemployment figures. Will this actually happen?

I agree with Dr. Paul Krugman on this one: “3 Rules for the Trump Pandemic. One: Don’t trust the president.”

The details of our failure are complex, but they all flow ultimately from Trump’s minimization of the threat: He was asserting that Covid-19 was no worse than the flu just last week (although true to form, he’s now claiming to have known all along that a pandemic was coming).

Why did Trump and his team deny and delay? All the evidence suggests that he didn’t want to do or say anything that might drive down stock prices, which he seems to regard as the key measure of his success. That’s presumably why as late as Feb. 25 Larry Kudlow, the administration’s chief economist, declared that the U.S. had “contained” the coronavirus, and that the economy was “holding up nicely.”

Well, that was a bad bet. Since then, the stock market has more or less given up all its gains under the Trump presidency. More important, the economy is clearly in free-fall. So what should we do now?

I’ll leave health policy to the experts. On economic policy, I’d suggest three principles. First, focus on hardship, not G.D.P. Second, stop worrying about incentives to work. Third, don’t trust Trump.

FRANK LEYENDECKER, July 1921 cover

Any one who trusts this President and believes what he says is a major rube and they’re exactly why we’re in this position.

So, my friend and fellow blogger @Adrastosno has given me a huge ear wig this week and I will share it with you.

First, from Wiki:

The title refers to an inscription written by diminutive American actor Michael J. Pollard in Jim Capaldi’s notebook while they were both in Morocco.[1] Capaldi and Pollard were planning to work on a movie that was never filmed. Capaldi said:

Pollard and I would sit around writing lyrics all day, talking about Bob Dylan and the Band, thinking up ridiculous plots for the movie. Before I left Morocco, Pollard wrote in my book ‘The Low Spark of High Heeled Boys.’ For me, it summed him up. He had this tremendous rebel attitude. He walked around in his cowboy boots, his leather jacket. At the time he was a heavy little dude. It seemed to sum up all the people of that generation who were just rebels. The ‘Low Spark,’ for me, was the spirit, high-spirited. You know, standing on a street corner. The low rider. The ‘Low Spark’ meaning that strong undercurrent at the street level.[2]

I cannot tell you how many hours I spent at the piano trying to learn how to riff via this song. And, it’s only this month I realized what the composer/lyricists actually meant. So, maybe we need to keep our low sparks going and get ready to amp them up in November. Remember, the birds are already heading to where they want to be this summer. I’m sure to see that same flock pass over me by fall.

What’s on you reading and blogging list today?


#QuarantineAndChill Friday Reads: The Corona Virus Times

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Good Day Sky Dancers!

How’s that Social Distancing thing  going for you? I will fully admit to doing that ever since 2016 when the Trump Virus was let loose in the world.  I mean you could run into something unpleasant like a TV turned to FOX News.  This self isolation time just means I’m now not alone alone in the entire self isolation thing.  I can look at my window and know every one is avoiding each other on my street now.  It’s not just me avoiding them.

I’m venturing out shortly to hit the pharmacy at my local ghetto Walgreen’s. I’ve been noticing that the public bus drivers are masked and not in the traditional Mardi Gras sense. A quick conversation with a concierge whose a long time neighbor and hospitality worker told me he’d spent the last few days doing nothing but cancellations. My last lecture on ground was Wednesday night and I’m trying to figure out what kind of tools I have at my disposal to spend the rest of term teaching a course in a school that basically has no remote distance programs and whose only remote distance experience was basically post Katrina. It seems they have no bandwith for these number of classes/students. I will be helping fellow faculty members figure out what to do on Monday. I’ve been scheduled to provide a 2 hour seminar. But really, if the tools aren’t there already I doubt this will be easy.

 

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My last major discussion with my students was about the stock market and had airplane stock bottomed yet? Simultaneously, Trump was delivering the message that Europeans–from some random countries but not the UK and Ireland–were going to be denied access to the US. For some reason, Trump’s worried about Europe having so many “open borders” as if a virus can’t go any where if there’s a drawbridge up in a castle. US Equity markets spent all day yesterday crashing to a point we hadn’t experienced since 1987. Remember those Reagan Wonder Economy years? Me neither.

Let’s face it. The Trump administration is simultaneously bumbling and toxic. How much more can we take of this? From The Atlantic and Republican Peter Wehner: “The Trump Presidency Is Over. It has taken a good deal longer than it should have, but Americans have now seen the con man behind the curtain.” We can only hope.

To be sure, the president isn’t responsible for either the coronavirus or the disease it causes, COVID-19, and he couldn’t have stopped it from hitting our shores even if he had done everything right. Nor is it the case that the president hasn’t done anything right; in fact, his decision to implement a travel ban on China was prudent. And any narrative that attempts to pin all of the blame on Trump for the coronavirus is simply unfair. The temptation among critics of Donald Trump to use the coronavirus pandemic to get back at Trump for every bad thing he’s done should be resisted, and schadenfreude is never a good look.

That said, the president and his administration are responsible for grave, costly errors, most especially the epic manufacturing failures in diagnostic testing, the decision to test too few people, the delay in expanding testing to labs outside the Centers for Disease Control, and problems in the supply chain. These mistakes have left us blind and badly behind the curve, and, for a few critical weeks, they created a false sense of security. What we now know is that the coronavirus silently spread for several weeks, without us being aware of it and while we were doing nothing to stop it. Containment and mitigation efforts could have significantly slowed its spread at an early, critical point, but we frittered away that opportunity.

“They’ve simply lost time they can’t make up. You can’t get back six weeks of blindness,” Jeremy Konyndyk, who helped oversee the international response to Ebola during the Obama administration and is a senior policy fellow at the Center for Global Development, told the Washington Post. “To the extent that there’s someone to blame here, the blame is on poor, chaotic management from the White House and failure to acknowledge the big picture.”

Earlier this week, Anthony Fauci, the widely-respected director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases whose reputation for honesty and integrity have been only enhanced during this crisis, admitted in a congressional testimony that the United States is still not providing adequate testing for the coronavirus. “It is failing. Let’s admit it.” He added, “The idea of anybody getting [testing] easily, the way people in other countries are doing it, we’re not set up for that. I think it should be, but we’re not.”

 

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BB’s featured many articles about the absolute ineptitude of the Trumpist Regime to alleviate any of the current problems many which they have created. We have the usual call for the Republican cure all economic apple cider vinegar economic tool–tax cuts for large companies and rich folks–being bandied about when retail stores already have suffered a lack of customers and just about every major sporting and entertainment venue in the country has shut down taking jobs for minimum wage workers. Hmmm, no income no income taxes so what good are tax cuts to the rich at this point other than to gratuitously point out the you want the rest of us dead? However, if you can’t work and you don’t get paid, how you going to eat, pay the water bill, or keep a roof over your head?

So, tough luck for every one depending on Medicaid to get through this. “Trump administration blocks states from using Medicaid to respond to coronavirus crisis” via the LA Times. As usual, we get to eat moon pies which is probably the Trumpvian versio of eating cake.

Despite mounting pleas from California and other states, the Trump administration isn’t allowing states to use Medicaid more freely to respond to the coronavirus crisis by expanding medical services.

In previous emergencies, including the 9/11 terrorist attacks, Hurricane Katrina and the H1N1 flu outbreak, both Republican and Democratic administrations loosened Medicaid rules to empower states to meet surging needs.

But months into the current global disease outbreak, the White House and senior federal health officials haven’t taken the necessary steps to give states simple pathways to fully leverage the mammoth safety net program to prevent a wider epidemic.

That’s making it harder for states to quickly sign up poor patients for coverage so they can get necessary testing or treatment if they are exposed to coronavirus.

And it threatens to slow efforts by states to bring on new medical providers, set up emergency clinics or begin quarantining and caring for homeless Americans at high risk from the virus.

“If they wanted to do it, they could do it,” said Cindy Mann, who oversaw the Medicaid program in the Obama administration and worked with states to help respond to the H1N1 crisis in 2009.

One reason federal health officials have not acted appears to be President Trump’s reluctance to declare a national emergency. That’s a key step that would clear the way for states to get Medicaid waivers to more nimbly tackle coronavirus, but it would conflict with Trump’s repeated efforts to downplay the seriousness of the epidemic.

 

 

I guess Trumpvian national emergencies are only tools to get walls built through wild life refugees and chop up people’s cattle ranches to stop women with children from seeking asylum. However, several people testing positive for the virus got access to Trump who is still holding rallies and eagerly jerking hands around including Brazil’s president. And Ivanka may have got it from an Aussie official. William Barr also met with that same Australian official who tested positive.

Crown Virus GIF by Muyloco

Really, it’s likely time we talk massive bailouts and not just those aimed at Wall Street. Yes, I know we’re already bailing out farmers and others in deep because of Trump’s awful trade policies but what are we going to do with all these folks that don’t have paid leave or can’t just telecommute?

We do have some information coming from the NYT on a possible stimulus package that is supposedly nearing agreement between the administration and congress.

The legislation, according to a letter Ms. Pelosi sent to her members, will include enhanced unemployment benefits, free virus testing, aid for food assistance programs and federal funds for Medicaid. The package also ensures 14 days of paid sick leave, as well as tax credits to help small- and medium-size businesses fulfill that mandate. Language was still being drafted for provisions related to family and medical leave, according to a Democratic aide, as staff members worked through the night to prepare the bill.

Ms. Pelosi, in her letter to lawmakers, also said that the House would soon pursue another package “that will take further effective action that protects the health, economic security and well-being of the American people.”

The fast-moving measure reflected a sense of urgency in Washington to enact a fiscal stimulus in the face of a pandemic that has wreaked havoc on the financial markets, which have proved impervious to other interventions. The Federal Reserve, in a drastic attempt to ensure Wall Street remained functional as volatility roiled even normally staid bond markets, said it would promptly inject as much as $1.5 trillion in loans into the banking system and broaden its purchases of Treasury securities. But neither the Fed’s actions, nor a plan by the European Central Bank to offer cheap loans to banks and step up its bond-buying campaign, were enough to assuage investors, who sent the S&P 500 down 9.5 percent.

Amanda Marcotte–writing for Salon–believes the Republican Party’s ideology brought us to this point and I agree.  Republicans have become rabid take no prisoner free marketeers for every one but their buddies and total suck ups to religious nuts and science deniers.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell smelled an evil liberal conspiracy on Thursday, one designed to steal away his decades of tireless work to kneecap the federal government. The Democratic-majority House had passed a large emergency bill, designed to combat the coronavirus pandemic, and McConnell was absolutely certain Democrats, led by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, were trying to pull one over on him.

“Unfortunately, it appears at this hour that the speaker and House Democrats instead chose to produce an ideological wish list that was not tailored closely to the circumstances,” McConnell said. He accused Democrats of exploiting this situation, saying the bill addresses “various areas of policy that are barely related, if at all, to the issue before us.”

There’s a lot at stake here, but apparently the big sticking point for McConnell was a provision requiring employers to offer paid sick leave to employees, which McConnell claims would “put thousands of small businesses at risk.”

In reality, of course, this is just common sense. As the New York Times editorial board noted, companies that don’t offer paid sick leave “are endangering their workers and customers.” A lot of workers with public-facing jobs — such as food service workers and retail employees — come into close contact with dozens or hundreds of people a day. But they are the people least likely to be allowed to stay home without losing their jobs, or at least losing a paycheck.

McConnell is so poisoned by his right-wing ideology that he can’t see this, or chooses not to. Instead, he’s standing firm on the long-standing Republican tendency to view employers as feudal lords who should be allowed to treat employees however they wish — even, apparently, if that means allowing a deadly disease to rip through the population, potentially killing hundreds of thousands of people if it is not checked.

This is another reminder that the Republican party is hardly pro-life.

 

So, the pharmacy undid whatever tech problems my order was having and has informed me I can go pick the damn pills up.  I probably should buy new underwear so I can impress any medics that have to show up on my street which according to my mother was much more important than a stockpile of tp.  This post also turned up late due to the blue screen of death which was basically Microsoft’s way of crashing my computer to update it.  And I will be back with a few things from the grocery store  beans, root vegetables and stuff that keeps like my depression surviving okie Nana taught me. Stews for every one!!!  This is the new reality! Or maybe it’s just  the old with internet.

Have a great time hunkering down with some on healthy you love!

What’s on your reading and blogging list today?

 

 


Friday Reads: Disassembling the People’s Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Justice

Good Day Sky Dancers!

The Republicans are doing everything they can to appoint unqualified judges and agency and cabinet heads to ensure nothing  more than white, straight, “christian” hegemony with a radical right bend. Many appointments are political and strictly related to monetizing public goods for the very few.  What has gone on in the Department of Justice, the Department of State, and most of the other institutes of major importance should be criminal and quite possibly is.  Today, the headlines tell us we see the failure of our agencies and the failure of the Trumpist regime. However, isn’t this what they–under the influence of the likes of Steven Bannon– planned all along?  Wasn’t the destruction of our democratic institutions the plan and not the bug?

So much relies on the courts these days that it’s now quite apparent that Moscow Mitch’s wrangling to dominate SCOTUS may pay off big in the fall.  But today, we still see some good coming out of some Federal Judges and today’s news shows that Barr’s justice department may be headed for some trouble.  “Judge cites Barr’s ‘misleading’ statements in ordering review of Mueller report redactions” is the headline from WAPO.

A federal judge in Washington sharply criticized Attorney General William P. Barr on Thursday for a “lack of candor,” questioning the truthfulness of the nation’s top law enforcement official in his handling of last year’s report by special counsel Robert S. Mueller III.

U.S. District Judge Reggie Walton, overseeing a lawsuit brought by EPIC, a watchdog group, and BuzzFeed News, said he saw serious discrepancies between Barr’s public statements about Mueller’s findings and the public, partially redacted version of that report detailing the special counsel’s investigation of Russian interference in the 2016 election.

Because of those discrepancies, Walton ruled, the judge would conduct an independent review of Mueller’s full report to see whether the Justice Department’s redactions were appropriate

“In the Court’s view, Attorney General Barr’s representation that the Mueller Report would be ‘subject only to those redactions required by law or by compelling law enforcement, national security, or personal privacy interests’ cannot be credited without the Court’s independent verification in light of Attorney General Barr’s conduct and misleading public statements about the findings in the Mueller Report,” Walton wrote.

It is highly unusual for a federal judge to publicly question the honesty of the attorney general, but Walton’s opinion comes amid growing rancor between the judicial branch of the government and the executive and legislative branches. Earlier on Thursday, Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) said he regretted comments he had made about two conservative Supreme Court justices — comments that drew a rare rebuke from Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. after many Republicans called them threatening. President Trump, meanwhile, has repeatedly attacked federal judges, drawing condemnation from Democrats.

 

 

From the NYTimes’ Charlie Savage:

A federal judge on Thursday sharply criticized Attorney General William P. Barr’s handling of the report by the special counsel, Robert S. Mueller III, saying that Mr. Barr put forward a “distorted” and “misleading” account of its findings and lacked credibility on the topic.

Mr. Barr could not be trusted, Judge Reggie B. Walton said, citing “inconsistencies” between the attorney general’s statements about the report when it was secret and its actual contents that turned out to be more damaging to President Trump. Mr. Barr’s “lack of candor” called into question his “credibility and, in turn, the department’s” assurances to the court, Judge Walton said.

The judge ordered the Justice Department to privately show him the portions of the report that were censored in the publicly released version so he could independently verify the justifications for those redactions. The ruling came in a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit seeking a full-text version of the report.

Read Judge Walton’s ruling.

Image: In 1980, President Jimmy Carter met with members of the new National Association of Women Judges, many of whom he had appointed to the federal bench.

In 1979, 23 women were appointed to the federal bench—more than doubling the number of women appointed to life-tenured judgeships in the previous 190 year history of the United States. The doors they opened never swung shut again. Forty years later, women make up one-third of the courts’ full-time, active Article III judges

Here’s some further analysis from Marcie Wheeler of Empty Wheel.

Where this ruling may matter, though, is in four areas:

  • DOJ hid the circumstances of how both Trump and Don Jr managed to avoid testifying under a grand jury redaction. Walton may judge that these discussions were not truly grand jury materials.
  • DOJ is currently hiding details of people — like KT McFarland — who lied, but then cleaned up their story (Sam Clovis is another person this may be true of). There’s no reason someone as senior as McFarland should have her lies protected. All the more so, because DOJ is withholding some of the 302s that show her lies. So Walton may release some of this information.
  • Because Walton will have already read the Stone material — that part that most implicates Trump — by the time Judge Amy Berman Jackson releases the gag in that case, he will have a view on what would still need to be redacted. That may mean more of it will be released quickly than otherwise might happen.
  • In very short order, the two sides in this case will start arguing over DOJ’s withholding of 302s under very aggressive b5 claims. These claims, unlike most of the redactions in the Mueller Report, are substantively bogus and in many ways serve to cover up the details of Trump’s activities. While this won’t happen in the near term, I expect this ruling will serve as the basis for a similar in camera review on 302s down the road.

 

 

And we continue to learn that that the Trumpist response to the Coronoa Virus was doomed from the start.  This is from Time magazine.

 

“We have contained this. I won’t say airtight but pretty close to airtight,” White House economic adviser Larry Kudlow said in a television interview on Feb. 25, echoing Trump’s tweeted declaration that the virus was “very much under control” in the United States.

But it wasn’t, and the administration’s rosy messaging was fundamentally at odds with a growing cacophony of alarm bells inside and outside the U.S. government. Since January, epidemiologists, former U.S. public health officials and experts have been warning, publicly and privately, that the administration’s insistence that containment was—and should remain—the primary way to confront an emerging infectious disease was a grave mistake.

In congressional testimony, in medical webcasts and in private discussions with health officials, they warned that the unique features of this flu-like virus made it impossible to control, and that the administration must use any time that containment measures might buy to prepare the country for an inevitable outbreak. The administration was using all its resources to blockade the doors, they warned, but the enemy was likely already in the house.

“The current U.S. policy to deny visas to travelers from China and to quarantine returning Americans is not the right approach,” Jennifer Nuzzo, an epidemiologist and expert in disease outbreak detection and response at the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security, testified to Congress on February 5. “I am deeply concerned that these measures will make us less safe by diverting public health resources from higher priority disease mitigation approaches.”

Two days earlier, former FDA commissioner Scott Gottlieb had warned “we have to assume it’s already here and circulating.”

When it finally became indisputable that an outbreak was underway in Washington state, the administration was slow to catch up. There were not enough COVID-19 testing kits, hotlines were overwhelmed, and hospitals and public health departments were hobbled by a lack of reliable statistics on the spread of the disease. Experts say the U.S. response is now likely weeks—if not months—behind schedule.

Taking the Political view point is this from WAPO: “The Trump administration’s greatest obstacle to sending a clear message on coronavirus may be Trump himself”.By  Toluse Olorunnipa 

As leading public health experts from across the government have tried to provide clear and consistent information about the deadly coronavirus, they have found their messages undercut, drowned out and muddled by President Trump’s push to downplay the outbreak with a mix of optimism, bombast and pseudoscience.

Speaking almost daily to the public about an outbreak that has spread across states and rocked the markets, Trump has promoted his opinions and at times contradicted the public health experts tasked with keeping Americans safe.

The president has repeatedly misstated the number of Americans who have tested positive for the virus and claimed it would “miraculously” disappear in the spring. He has given a false timeline for the development of a vaccine, publicly questioned whether vaccinations for the flu could be used to treat the novel coronavirus and dismissed the World Health Organization’s coronavirus death rate estimate, substituting a much lower figure and citing a “hunch.”

On Wednesday night, Trump made an uncritical reference to people who continue to go to work while infected with the coronavirus — placing himself at odds with doctors who have strongly urged those with even minor symptoms to stay home.

“If, you know, we have thousands or hundreds of thousands of people that get better just by sitting around, and even going to work — some of them go to work, but they get better,” Trump said in an interview with Fox News host Sean Hannity in which he disputed the WHO fatality rate.

On Thursday morning, Trump said his comments were misconstrued and blamed the Democrats and the media. “I NEVER said people that are feeling sick should go to work,” he tweeted.

Why can’t he just shut up?

So that’s the two stories I’m following today.  I have to go have lunch with a colleague but I’ll be back to check the thread!

My photo choices today mostly come from the article “1979: The Year Women Changed the Judiciary” and is honor of our topic today and Women’s History month.

In 1979, the number of women serving as federal judges more than doubled. In this series, learn more about the trailblazers who reshaped the Judiciary.

What’s on your reading and blogging list today?