Lazy Caturday Reads

Portrait of the Cat Armellino With a Sonnet by Bertazzi , Giovanni Reder, 1750

Portrait of the Cat Armellino With a Sonnet by Bertazzi , Giovanni Reder, 1750

Good Morning!!

As we get closer to Joe Biden’s inauguration, Trump is acting crazier than ever. I have to wonder if he can avoid a complete psychotic breakdown before he’s finally forced to leave the people’s house. With each passing day, he becomes more of an embarrassment to the country. Here’s the latest, along with some 18th Century cats in art:

The Daily Beast: Trump Plans to Fight the Election Even After ‘Stop the Steal’ Rally Ends.

Many of Donald Trump’s most dogmatic supporters see a mass protest in Washington, D.C., on Jan. 6—just two weeks shy of Inauguration Day 2021—as their last chance to disrupt President-elect Joe Biden’s win. But for the president himself, it’s just another day to complain.

Two people familiar with the matter say that in recent days, Trump has told advisers and close associates that he wants to keep fighting in court past Jan. 6 if members of Congress, as expected, end up certifying the electoral college results.

“The way he sees it is: Why should I ever let this go?… How would that benefit me?” said one of the sources, who’s spoken to Trump at length about the post-election activities to nullify his Democratic opponent’s decisive victory.

(c) National Galleries of Scotland; Supplied by The Public Catalogue Foundation

A Girl Holding a Cat by Philippe Mercier, c.1750 (c) National Galleries of Scotland

The president’s exact plans for the Jan. 6 events remain unclear, and it has been common for him to lend his support to these rallies or protests via enthusiastic-sounding tweets, only to then stop short of doing much else. Since last week, Trump has asked certain aides and allies what they think would be good ideas for him to mark the occasion, such as a speech, a flyover, or a recorded video, the sources said….

On the day itself, protesters plan to meet in the northeast corner of the Capitol complex, where they’ll hear from a list of speakers that includes Rep. Paul Gosar (R-AZ), Trump adviser Roger Stone, and Rep-elect Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA), who has supported the QAnon conspiracy theory. Trump has promoted the protest on Twitter, urging his supporters to attend.

“Be there, will be wild!” Trump tweeted on Dec. 19.

CNN: Trump attacks No. 2 Senate Republican as the President turns on allies in his final days in office.

President Donald Trump is spending his final days in office attacking leadership within his own party, this time the second-highest ranking Republican in the Senate, offering a possible preview of his broader post-presidential strategy to use his influence in the 2022 midterm elections and beyond.

Trump, back at the White House after his Mar-a-Lago holiday with no public events on his schedule, attacked Sen. John Thune, a South Dakotan who is the No. 2 Senate Republican, in an afternoon tweet on New Year’s Day.

“I hope to see the great Governor of South Dakota @KristiNoem, run against RINO @SenJohnThune, in the upcoming 2022 Primary. She would do a fantastic job in the U.S. Senate, but if not Kristi, others are already lining up. South Dakota wants strong leadership, NOW!” he wrote in a tweet.

Trump has railed against Republican leadership broadly multiple times this week, but this time is naming names. Thune, the Senate majority whip, had been one of the top Republicans to speak in favor of accepting the Electoral College results and President-elect Joe Biden’s victory, drawing Trump’s ire.

“Once somebody gets 270, I understand they’re ruling right now, but I think that’s the process we have, yes. … In the end at some point you have to face the music. And I think once the Electoral College settles the issue today, it’s time for everybody to move on,” Thune said ahead of the formal electoral college voting process last month.

Trump’s tweet comes just 19 days before he leaves the White House and days before a joint session of Congress is set to formally certify the Electoral College results, with some Trump allies planning to join his baseless efforts to overturn the results of the election.

(c) Paintings Collection; Supplied by The Public Catalogue Foundation

A Little Girl Nursing a Kitten by James Northcote, 1795 (c) Paintings Collection

Trump’s childish tantrums threaten to disrupt GOP hopes of holding onto the Senate majority by winning two runoff elections in Georgia. Politico: Trump’s attacks on Senate Republicans complicate his Georgia message.

Trump’s last-minute moves to close out his presidency — from his demand for increased stimulus payments to his unsubstantiated claims about the 2020 election — have put Republicans in a bind ahead of the state’s runoffs next week that will determine which party controls the Senate. And the president’s messaging is ironically aligned with that of Democrats, who see a renewed opening on their broader push for more coronavirus relief aid after President-elect Joe Biden takes office.

Though he is actively campaigning for the state’s two incumbent GOP senators Kelly Loeffler and David Perdue, holding a Monday night rally to drive turnout to help save the Republican majority, Trump is continuing to run roughshod all over the party’s message for Tuesday’s must-win runoffs and, some Republicans worry, giving Democrats a perfect opening.

On Friday, Trump called the Republican-controlled Senate “pathetic” for failing to deliver on the $2,000 stimulus checks and other demands he wanted to pair with it after the Senate voted to override his veto of the $741 billion defense policy bill.

“Now they want to give people ravaged by the China Virus $600, rather than the $2000 which they so desperately need,” Trump tweeted, referring to Senate Republicans. ”Not fair, or smart!”

Indeed, Democratic challengers Raphael Warnock and Jon Ossoff have been jumping all over the president’s demand to boost the pandemic relief payments by $1,400. It’s a major closing argument for them — especially on the heels of Senate Republicans blocking a stand-alone bill to increase the value of the checks.

For some unknown reason, reports The New York Times: Trump Calls Georgia Senate Races ‘Illegal and Invalid’

ATLANTA — President Trump took to Twitter Friday evening to make the unfounded assertion that Georgia’s two Senate races are “illegal and invalid,” an argument that could complicate his efforts to convince his supporters to turn out for Republican candidates in the two runoff races that will determine which party controls the Senate.

The president is set to hold a rally in Dalton, Ga., on Monday, the day before Election Day, and Georgia Republicans are hoping he will focus his comments on how crucial it is for Republicans to vote in large numbers for Kelly Loeffler and David Perdue, the state’s two incumbent Republican senators.

Jean-Baptiste Perronneau, Portrait of Magdaleine Pinceloup de la Grange and kitty.

Jean-Baptiste Perronneau, Portrait of Magdaleine Pinceloup de la Grange and kitty.

But Mr. Trump has continued to make the false claim that Georgia’s election system was rigged against him in the Nov. 3 general election. Some Republican leaders are afraid that his supporters will take the president’s argument seriously, and decide that voting in a “corrupt” system is not worth their time, a development that could hand the election to the Democrats.

Some strategists and political science experts in the state have said Mr. Trump’s assault on Georgia’s voting system may be at least partly responsible for the relatively light Republican turnout in the conservative strongholds of northwest Georgia, where Dalton is, in the early voting period that ended Thursday.

Mr. Trump made his assertion about the Senate races in a Twitter thread in which he also made the baseless claim that “massive corruption” took place in the general election, “which gives us far more votes than is necessary to win all of the Swing States.”

The president made a specific reference to a Georgia consent decree that he said was unconstitutional. The problems with this document, he argued further, render the two Senate races and the results of his own electoral loss invalid.

Mr. Trump was almost certainly referring to a March consent decree hammered out between the Democratic Party and Republican state officials that helped establish standards for judging the validity of signatures on absentee ballots in the state.

Meanwhile, Trump continues to ignore the racing coronavirus pandemic.

CNN: US surpasses 20 million Covid-19 cases while experts foresee tough times in January.

The US surpassed 20 million total recorded Covid-19 cases on Friday, hours after the country ushered in 2021 and left behind its deadliest month of the pandemic.

The nation also has set a Covid-19 hospitalization record for four straight days. The high counts are a grim reminder that even with 2020 behind us, the pandemic continues to ravage parts of the country. And some leaders warn the worst is still ahead.

“We are still going to have our toughest and darkest days,” Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti told CNN on Thursday.

More than 125,000 coronavirus patients were in US hospitals Friday, Covid Tracking Project data shows. 

(c) National Trust, Fenton House; Supplied by The Public Catalogue Foundation

‘Psyche’, a White Persian Cat by Francis Sartorius I, 1787 (c) National Trust, Fenton House

Don’t miss this devastating piece on Trump’s epic failure at The New York Times: Trump’s Focus as the Pandemic Raged: What Would It Mean for Him?

It was a warm summer Wednesday, Election Day was looming and President Trump was even angrier than usual at the relentless focus on the coronavirus pandemic.

“You’re killing me! This whole thing is! We’ve got all the damn cases,” Mr. Trump yelled at Jared Kushner, his son-in-law and senior adviser, during a gathering of top aides in the Oval Office on Aug. 19. “I want to do what Mexico does. They don’t give you a test till you get to the emergency room and you’re vomiting.”

Mexico’s record in fighting the virus was hardly one for the United States to emulate. But the president had long seen testing not as a vital way to track and contain the pandemic but as a mechanism for making him look bad by driving up the number of known cases.

And on that day he was especially furious after being informed by Dr. Francis S. Collins, the head of the National Institutes of Health, that it would be days before the government could give emergency approval to the use of convalescent plasma as a treatment, something Mr. Trump was eager to promote as a personal victory going into the Republican National Convention the following week.

“They’re Democrats! They’re against me!” he said, convinced that the government’s top doctors and scientists were conspiring to undermine him. “They want to wait!”

Throughout late summer and fall, in the heat of a re-election campaign that he would go on to lose, and in the face of mounting evidence of a surge in infections and deaths far worse than in the spring, Mr. Trump’s management of the crisis — unsteady, unscientific and colored by politics all year — was in effect reduced to a single question: What would it mean for him?

The result, according to interviews with more than two dozen current and former administration officials and others in contact with the White House, was a lose-lose situation. Mr. Trump not only ended up soundly defeated by Joseph R. Biden Jr., but missed his chance to show that he could rise to the moment in the final chapter of his presidency and meet the defining challenge of his tenure.

Read the whole thing at the NYT link.

The cat's lunch, Marguerite Gerard

The cat’s lunch, Marguerite Gerard

More stories to check out today:

Axios: Trump, the GOP arsonist.

The Washington Post: Judge dismisses Gohmert lawsuit seeking to stymie Biden electoral college count.

The New York Times: As Understanding of Russian Hacking Grows, So Does Alarm.

The New York Times: In Abrupt Reversal of Iran Strategy, Pentagon Orders Aircraft Carrier Home.

Times of Israel: Iran says killers of top general Soleimani, including Trump, ‘not safe on Earth’

ABC7 Los Angeles: Nancy Pelosi’s home vandalized with graffiti, fake blood on New Year’s Day.

The Los Angeles Times: Coughing, sneezing, vomiting: Visibly ill people aren’t being kept off planes.

Jay Rosen at PressThink: The Christmas Eve Confessions of Chuck Todd.

Lois Beckett at The Guardian: Facts won’t fix this: experts on how to fight America’s disinformation crisis.


New Year’s Eve Reads: So Long 2020

Revelers recovering from New Years Eve celebrations on the steps of Grand Central Station, New York, circa 1940.

Revelers recovering from New Years Eve celebrations on the steps of Grand Central Station, New York, circa 1940.

Good Afternoon!!

It has been a long, torturous year; thank goodness it’s almost over. In 20 days, Trump will be gone and we’ll have a normal president again. Unfortunately, tens of thousands of Americans will die as long as an irresponsible, uncaring narcissistic madman remains in control of the U.S. government.

Zachary B. Wolf at CNN: Trump absent as vaccine distribution lags and thousands continue to die.

A closing indignity on the final day of this horrendous year is that nobody actually seems to expect Donald Trump, who is still the President, to be paying much or any attention to the actual nightmare underway in the country he still leads.

At 341,000 and growing, more people have died from Covid-19 in the US this year than died in battle in World War II and Vietnam combined, according to data on casualties in those wars from the Department of Veterans Affairs. There were many more noncombat deaths in those conflicts. But the point here is the country is at war with a global pandemic and the President spent the week on the golf course and tweeting about his election loss instead of trying to save Americans.

It’s worth mentioning, in case nobody has told him, that more than 3,700 US Covid deaths were reported Tuesday, a frightening new record that will soon be eclipsed since the country notched a record number of new hospitalizations on the same day, which was soon broken on Wednesday.

American actress Clara Bow holds up a large card while actor Larry Gray inscribes a New Year's greeting with a giant pen, 1935.

American actress Clara Bow holds up a large card while actor Larry Gray inscribes a New Year’s greeting with a giant pen, 1935.

The 3,700 deaths in one day, for context, is more than half the US casualties on D-Day and more than the entire Tet Offensive in Vietnam.

Many people have pointed out the US is suffering a 9/11 every day. But the sad truth of that comparison has worn off as the Covid-19 numbers have grown more unfathomable. And while 9/11 was a single attack that changed the way Americans live, this war with coronavirus is still surging….

The vaccine program — Operation Warp Speed — which Trump put in place, has deployed millions of doses of vaccines for the disease, but that’s falling further and further behind schedule, which means it could take years at the current rate to vaccinate enough Americans to halt the pandemic.

Christina Maxouris at CNN: US sets daily Covid-19 death record for the second straight day. Another 80,000 could die in next 3 weeks, new forecast says.

More than 80,000 Americans could die of Covid-19 over the next three weeks, a new US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention ensemble forecast projects — offering a stark reminder the nation is still facing challenging times.

The new prediction comes amid ongoing vaccine distributions — a rolloutexperts say has been slower than they’d hoped. Vaccines will only make any meaningful impact once they’re widely available to the public, possibly not until summertime, experts have said.

In the meantime, Covid-19 hospitalizations are soaring. The US set a record Wednesday for number of Covid-19 patients in hospitals on a given day, at 125,200, according to the COVID Tracking Project….

Seasonal greetings from the original Hollywood sex symbol, Mae West, 1936.

Seasonal greetings from the original Hollywood sex symbol, Mae West, 1936.

California’s Los Angeles County hit a grim milestone Wednesday, surpassing 10,000totalCovid-19 deaths, and one health official there said any progress made over the summer had “completely evaporated.” Texas reported a record number of hospitalizations for the third day in a row. Mississippi and Louisiana saw their highest single-day casecountsNew Orleans officials urged “extreme caution” during New Year’s Eve, announcing bars, breweries, and live adult entertainment venues must close indoor facilities starting at 11 p.m. Wednesday….

In Nevada, a similar message: Gov. Steve Sisolak urged residents to avoid high-risk activities to slow the spread of the virus in the state….

Celebratory gatherings and travel could help drive another surge of infections — followed by hospitalizations and deaths — health officials have warned. But millions have opted to spend the holidays away from home. More than a million people passed through airport security checks Tuesday, for the fourth straight day after the Christmas holiday.

Here in Massachusetts, I just got a text and a recorded phone call from the state asking me to stay home. That’s no problem for me, of course. Even if there weren’t a pandemic, I wouldn’t be out celebrating on “amateur night.” I’ve been happily sober for 38 years.

Trump is still hoping someone will help him stage a coup, and Sen. John Hawley has volunteered. The Charlotte Observer:

Missouri Republican Sen. Josh Hawley became the first senator to say he’ll object to the certification of President-elect Joe Biden’s Electoral College victory when Congress meets on Jan. 6 to accept the results of the presidential election.

Several House Republicans have previously signaled their intention to do the same. With members of both the House and Senate bringing objections, it’ll set off a dramatic scenario requiring a roll call vote in both chambers.

The January votes are unlikely to change the outcome of the election, but they will cap off a prolonged effort by President Donald Trump’s allies seeking to overturn the president’s defeat and hinder Biden’s transition.

Great! This will force Republican lawmakers to go on the record supporting or opposing sedition. Ruth Marcus at The Washington Post: Let Josh Hawley put Republicans to the uncomfortable test.

Sen. Josh Hawley (R-Mo.) — Yale Law School, Supreme Court clerk, Missouri attorney general and, according to the first line of his Twitter bio, “constitutional lawyer” — surely knows better.

American jazz musician and bandleader Benny Goodman and his orchestra play for an enthusiastic audience during a New Year's Eve dance at the Waldorf Astoria, New York City, 1938.

American jazz musician and bandleader Benny Goodman and his orchestra play for an enthusiastic audience during a New Year’s Eve dance at the Waldorf Astoria, New York City, 1938.

His plan to challenge the certification of President-elect Joe Biden’s electoral college victory when Congress convenes for that purpose on Jan. 6 has no basis in the facts or the law. That is putting it too charitably, actually. It is, if anything, anti-constitutional — inconsistent with the Constitution’s vision of the ceremonial role of Congress in ratifying the election results.

It is doomed to fail — except, perhaps, at its scarcely disguised purpose of winning Hawley favor in the eyes of the Trumpian base. Think of it as the first act of Hawley’s all-but-inevitable 2024 presidential campaign. Think of it as what it is: a stunt.

Yet while irresponsible, Hawley’s move is not necessarily a terrible development. It forces a vote that will have the salutary effect of requiring his Republican colleagues to decide — and to put on the record —whether their loyalty is to President Trump or to the Constitution. Better to know than to guess. Better to inflict some accountability rather than to enable dodging.

Put another way: Any vote that Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) fervently wishes to avoid is one I’m for. Put every member of the House and Senate on the record, and let them reap the consequences, for good and for ill, in the short term of political fallout and in the long view of history. Those who vote against certifying Biden’s victory can explain it to their grandchildren.

Trump apparently still thinks he has a shot, so he’s cutting short his two-week golf vacation and coming back to DC to watch the show. 

Kailin Collins and Kevin Liptak at CNN: Trump to return to Washington early ahead of Republican plan to disrupt certification of Biden’s win.

Trump is now slated to leave Palm Beach before his annual New Year’s Eve party, even though guests had already gathered at his south Florida club and were told Trump would be in attendance, according to three people familiar with the matter. The President typically relishes appearing on the red carpet in front of the press and his friends, but is skipping the event altogether this year in what will be an unusual move.

In the President’s daily public schedule for Thursday, the White House stated the President and first lady Melania Trump will leave Florida at 11 a.m. ET to return to the White House.

British actress Ida Lupino smiling at a friendly sailor as she cuts a cake which reads Happy Victory Year, 1944.

British actress Ida Lupino smiling at a friendly sailor as she cuts a cake which reads Happy Victory Year, 1944.

Over the course of his stay in Florida, Trump has been single-mindedly focused on the election results and the upcoming certification process in Congress, set for January 6. After losing dozens of court cases and having his appeal rejected by the Supreme Court, Trump has viewed the January 6 event as his best opportunity to overturn the election he lost.

He has been in an irritated mood during most of the trip and fumed about everything from the election outcome to first lady Melania Trump’s renovations to his private quarters, according to multiple people who spoke with him.

At one point, Trump also said he was concerned Iran could retaliate in the coming days for the US drone strike that killed Iran’s top general, Qasem Soleimani, one year ago. A person speculated that could be a contributing factor in his early departure. Trump was at Mar-a-Lago when he ordered the Soleimani strike on January 3, 2020.

Before leaving for Palm Beach, he learned of Vice President Mike Pence’s role in the certification proceedings on Capitol Hill, which is mostly ceremonial. As he was flying to Florida for his vacation, Trump retweeted a call from one of his supporters for Pence to refuse to ratify the Electoral College count on January 6.

While in Florida, Trump has repeatedly raised the January 6 date with members of Congress and other associates, according to people familiar with the conversations. He lobbied senators on whether they would go along with House conservatives in objecting to the results.

GOP Senators may be failing another test after Mitch McConnell block Democrats’ effort to increase Covid relief payments from $600 to $2,000. Eric Levitz at New York Magazine: The GOP Just Let Democrats Have Their Stimulus and Campaign On It Too.

Next week, voters in Georgia will determine which party controls the U.S. Senate in 2021 — and thus, quite plausibly, the future of macroeconomic, climate, and health-care policy in the United States….

If Perdue and Loeffler prevail, Biden will likely struggle to so much as get his own Cabinet nominees confirmed, let alone judicial appointees. Meanwhile, his capacity to legislate will be contingent upon the good-faith cooperation of Mitch McConnell, which is about as dependable a resource as the empathic self-restraint of Donald Trump, or the commitment to ethical consumption of Jeffrey Dahmer.

Debbie Reynolds, wearing a 1953 tiara and a costume with tinsel, blows a horn while sitting atop a star-shaped clock in a promotional portrait for New Year's Eve.The stakes are high, is what I’m saying. And earlier this month, it looked like the GOP was intent on gifting Democratic candidates Jon Ossoff and Raphael Warnock a potent message for the Georgia runoffs: Our races are referenda on a second large stimulus package. As of a few weeks ago, Republicans were insisting on a $500 billion stimulus bill that was bereft of cash assistance or long-term federal unemployment benefits. Democrats, for their part, were backing a $2.2 trillion stimulus that included a $600 a week federal unemployment benefit, another round of $1,200 relief checks, funding for states and cities, housing assistance, small business aid, and a variety of other social supports. All available polling indicated that the voting public favored the Democratic position.

But Trump upset the applecart by calling for $2,000 cash payments. Seeing that the $2,000 payments could help them in the run-off elections, Purdue and Loeffler announced support for them. But McConnell chose to block Trump’s proposal. In the end, the Senate would only support $600 direct payments and a $300 unemployment supplement. 

So the Senate Majority Leader blocked an up-or-down vote on $2,000 checks, opting instead to wed the proposal to two of Donald Trump’s other demands — the repeal of the law that insulates social-media platforms from being sued for libel on the basis of statements their users post, and the formation of a commission to investigate voter fraud in the 2020 election. It is far from clear that most Republicans actually wish to repeal the former law, which would have a wide variety of chaotic consequences, many of which seem contrary to the interests of a political movement whose media has thrived on unmoderated social-media platforms. The point of rolling these demands together isn’t to ensure that they all pass, but rather, that they all fail — because Democrats blocked them.

This gambit is clever but flawed. For one thing, Trump is still refusing to play his part. Instead of insisting that his three demands are inseparable, the president called for the immediate passage of $2,000 checks alone on Wednesday morning.

It’s very possible that McConnell’s game-playing could help Democrats win in Georgia.

…polling suggests these races are going to be very close. Which means flipping even a tiny fraction of voters could be decisive. And there is some evidence that Democrats can win over skeptical voters by communicating the fact that they are the party more supportive of $2,000 relief payments: A new national Data For Progress poll, shared exclusively with Intelligencer, found that Independent voters initially said they preferred the Republicans to prevail in Georgia by a margin of 41 to 38 percent — but when told that the Democratic candidates would pass another round of stimulus checks if elected, while the Republicans would not, these voters shifted their allegiance, favoring Ossoff and Warnock over Perdue and Loeffler by 52 to 37 percent.

There’s much more analysis at the New York Magazi ne link.

That’s all I have for you on this last day of a nightmarish year. Here’s hoping 2021 will be better. At least we’ll be rid of Trump. Have a Happy New Year, however you choose to celebrate tonight.


Tuesday Reads

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Good Morning!!

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

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

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

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

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

Click the link to read the whole thing.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

ANthony-Warner-FBI

The FBI released this photo of Anthony Q. Warner.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Lazy Caturday Reads: Trump Treated Americans Like “Lab Rats.”

ea219f3e6d37428556addf3271c7434d

Good Afternoon!!

As Christmas approaches, we are beginning to see the aftereffects of Thanksgiving travel and get-togethers. Today The New York Times reports: The U.S. has recorded over 250,000 cases in a day for the first time.

As the United States welcomed the news Friday that a second vaccine, by Moderna, had been authorized by the federal government for emergency use, the country confronted another stark reminder of how desperately vaccines are needed: a single-day caseload of over 251,000 new coronavirus cases, a once-unthinkable record.

It’s been only a week since the Food and Drug Administration first approved a Covid-19 vaccine, the one created by Pfizer and BioNTech. As trucks have carried vials across the country and Americans began pulling up their sleeves for inoculations, more ominous numbers have piled up:

  • Monday: 300,000 total dead in the United States.

  • Wednesday: 3,611 deaths in a single day, shattering the previous record of 3,157 on Dec. 9.

  • Thursday: Over 1 million new cases in just five days, pushing the country’s total of confirmed cases past 17 million.

Three months ago, new cases were trending downward and death reports were flat, but those gains have been lost. Now there are nearly six times as many cases being reported each day, and three times as many deaths, according to a New York Times database.

The South is on a particularly worrisome trajectory. GeorgiaArkansas and South Carolina have all set weekly case records. Tennessee is confirming new cases at the highest per capita rate in the country.

As cases continue to spike, officials are warning that hospitals, which now hold a record of nearly 115,000 Covid-19 patients, could soon be overwhelmed. More than a third of Americans live in areas where hospitals are running critically short of intensive care beds, federal data show. A recent New York Times analysis found that 10 percent of Americans — across a large swath of the Midwest, South and Southwest — live in areas where I.C.U.s are either completely full or have less than 5 percent of beds available.

Cat_Versus_Snow_FeaturedBusiness Insider: The Thanksgiving surge in coronavirus deaths is here. It’s ‘horrifically awful,’ a hospital chaplain said.

On Wednesday, the US reported a record of 3,448 deaths. In total, more than 312,000 have died in the country since the beginning of the pandemic (though that’s almost certainly an undercount).

This week alone, two school teachers in Texas who’d been married 30 years died together, holding hands. A convent in Wisconsin lost eight nuns. COVID-19 claimed a Chicago paramedic — the fire department’s third coronavirus death. An elder of the Standing Rock Sioux tribe died of the virus, just a month after his wife.

This unprecedented and tragic surge in fatalities is, in part, a product of pandemic fatigue, cold weather that has led people indoors, and the patchwork nature state policies on masks and closures — many of which are quite lax. But these recent record-breaking days of death, in particular, are the result of infections contracted around Thanksgiving.

Despite CDC warnings to the contrary, an NPR analysis of mobile phone data found that 13% of Americans ventured more than 31 miles from home on Thanksgiving Day. That’s not a huge drop from last year, when it was 17%.

But it’s common knowledge that the most Thanksgiving travel comes in the days before and after the holiday. The Transportation Security Administration screened 9.5 million airline passengers during the 10-day Thanksgiving travel period. That’s less than half of what the TSA reported in 2019, but it still included some of the busiest days since the pandemic began.

Cases generally take about two weeks to appear in official tallies, since the virus incubates in the body for an average of five days, then people usually wait a few days to get tested after symptoms appear. Then there’s the multiday wait for results, and the subsequent process of reporting them to health agencies.

Deaths, in turn, generally follow one to three weeks after a rise in cases.

Like clockwork, that is what we’re seeing now. 

Read much more–with individual stories–at the BI link.

Waffles-1-of-2More on the horrific situation in California at The Guardian: California sees record 379 coronavirus deaths as ICU capacity plummets. State has 1.7m cases, nearly as many as Spain, with ICU capacity in southern California at 0%.

The coronavirus toll in California reached another frightening milestone on Thursday, with health officials announcing a one-day record of 379 deaths and a two-day total of nearly 106,000 newly confirmed cases.

The most populous US state has recorded more than 1,000 deaths in the last five days. Its overall case total now tops 1.7m, a figure nearly equal to Spain’s and only surpassed by eight countries. The state’s overall death toll has reached 21,860.

Many of California’s hospitals are running out of capacity to treat the severest cases, and the situation is complicating care for non-Covid patients. ICU capacity in southern California hit 0% on Thursday.

“It’s pretty much all Covid,” said Arlene Brion, a respiratory therapist at Fountain Valley regional hospital in Orange county, where she is assigned six or seven patients rather than the usual one to three. “There’s probably two areas that are clean but we’re all thinking eventually it’s all going to be Covid.”

The Los Angeles mayor, Eric Garcetti, who is quarantining after his daughter was exposed, gave a stark briefing to city residents, warning that within days LA county may declare a systemwide crisis, with all hospitals out of usual space and staffing. The hospitals are planning by identifying areas such as parking lots and conference rooms that can be used for patient care.

He also reminded residents that the governor earlier announced the state had ordered 5,000 additional body bags and has dozens of refrigerated trucks ready to use as temporary morgues to handle bodies too numerous for existing morgues. “That frightens me, and it should frighten you,” Garcetti said.

funniest-cats-in-the-snow-compilThe Washington Post has a video and photo essay on a struggling California hospital. Is this what other states will face soon? Overwhelmed: Covid patients are treated in parking lots, hallways and lobbies of a California
hospital that, like the nation, is struggling to keep pace with the pandemic.

APPLE VALLEY, Calif. — The hospital spreads over a block along Happy Trails Highway, which splits this high-desert town in half as it runs low and wide down a gentle hill.

All around St. Mary Medical Center is a new silence.

Fat Jack’s Bar & Grill is shuttered, never to reopen. The Chamber of Commerce, featuring a rearing, life-size model of the mid-century movie-star horse Trigger, is empty.

“Intermission,” reads the marquee of the High Desert Center for the Arts, which sits at the edge of this longtime home of antique Hollywood royalty, the singing cowboy Roy Rogers and his co-star wife, Dale Evans.

The hospital, though, is alive with the dying.

Head over to the WaPo to experience it.

I wonder how many people boarded planes to visit relatives last month? How many of those people were carrying the virus? Check out this story at The New York Times: United Helps to Contact Passengers After Possible Covid-19-Related Death on Flight.

United Airlines said on Friday that it was working with health officials to contact passengers who might have been exposed to the coronavirus by a male passenger who died after a medical emergency on a recent flight.

The four flight attendants who responded to the emergency on board the flight, United 591, also went into quarantine for 14 days after the plane landed at its destination in Los Angeles, the flight attendants’ union said.

The flight, which took off from Orlando, Fla., and was diverted to New Orleans, prompted widespread alarm on social media after reports indicated that the man’s wife had told emergency medical workers that he had tested positive for the virus.

Snow-cat-logo-72United Airlines said on Friday that the man’s wife was overheard telling an emergency medical worker that her husband had symptoms of Covid-19, including loss of taste and smell.

But United officials said medical professionals did not confirm at the time that the man had tested positive for the virus, and they are still not sure if he was infected. When the flight was diverted to New Orleans, the airline said, it was told that the passenger had experienced cardiac arrest.

Nevertheless, United Airlines said it had been contacted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. “We are sharing requested information with the agency so they can work with local health officials to conduct outreach to any customer the C.D.C. believes may be at risk for possible exposure or infection,” the airline said.

But the U.S. Government is coming to the rescue with vaccines, right? Wrong.

The Daily Beast: Pence Said Pfizer Vaccine Distribution Was Going ‘Strong.’ States Are Calling Bullshit.

As Vice President Mike Pence sat for his COVID-19 vaccine shot on Friday morning, governors’ offices across the country were fuming, confused as to why their states were set to receive significantly fewer Pfizer doses than originally expected.

For months, states worked with the federal government to iron out plans for how many doses they’d receive, where and when they’d be distributed, and who would get the shots first. Senior officials with Operation Warp Speed, a public-private partnership to fast-track a vaccine, touted the administration’s planning as a success, saying that the Centers for Disease and Control and Prevention (CDC) had worked with states to make the distribution go smoothly.

But within days of declaring an unambiguous triumph, things have gone seriously awry.

As vaccines have made their way from warehouses to hospitals across the country, state officials from Iowa, Kansas, Maryland, Michigan, Missouri, Nebraska, Georgia, and Washington State, among others, have been notified that they will receive thousands fewer doses than expected. Officials with two states told The Daily Beast that they would receive 30 percent less vaccine than planned. And when officials approached the federal government for answers, they said they were greeted with more confusion.

The search for answers extended up the ranks of the Trump COVID task force as well, where top members copped to being unaware as to why there were discrepancies between the numbers originally communicated to states and the number of doses shipped. As of Friday, the task force has not convened to discuss the issue, according to people familiar with the matter, even as a second vaccine from Moderna received its own emergency-use authorization.

Click the link to read the rest.

USA Today says they know what the problem is: States were left scrambling after finding out they’d get 20-40% less vaccine than promised. We now know why.

States were given estimates that turned out to be based on vaccine doses produced, not those that had completed quality control and were releasable.Only on Wednesday and later were states informed of the actual numbers.

544400253“The ripple effect is huge,” said Claire Hannan, executive director of the Association of Immunization Managers. “The planning piece is critical. We cannot roll this vaccine out on the fly.”

After three days of confusion, the source of the problem was finally clarified Friday night by Gov. Jay Inslee of Washington state. He tweeted he’d had a “very productive” conversation with Gen. Gustave Perna, chief operating officer for Operation Warp Speed, the administration’s COVID-19 treatment and vaccine program. 

“That discrepancy was the source of the change in allocations,” Inslee tweeted. “It appears this is not indicative of long-term challenges with vaccine production.”

The sudden shift represents a huge headache for states as they scramble to adjust their vaccination programs. 

A letter sent to governors Friday night from Heath and Human Services explained the discrepancy as confusion. 

“We want to provide further perspective on the planning numbers generated in mid-November that are being compared with official weekly allocations. Official allocation numbers are only made available the week prior to distribution as they are based on the number of vaccine doses that have met FDA certification standards and have been released to the U.S. government,” it said.

“We hoped it was clear that those figures and the underlying projections from the companies were for planning purposes and could be refined, and that if the number of releasable doses from a manufacturer changed, the allocations to jurisdictions would change, too,” the letter went on to say. 

That was in fact not clear to states. Governors nationwide have been asking for details and explanations since Wednesday.

Whatever. The truth is we don’t have a president right now, and even when the Trump people were paying attention, they didn’t really know what they were doing. Guess who was allowed to tell the CDC what to do during the pandemic?

25182051-1163682767099043-8615531411976155426-oBess Levin at Vanity Fair: Ivanka Trump, Famed Public Health Expert, Screened CDC Guidance to Make Sure It Was Nice to Her Dad.

In an interview with The New York Times about how the administration manipulated the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, two former Trump political appointees say what they saw during their time at the Atlanta agency shocked them, the newspaper writes: “Washington’s dismissal of science, the White House’s slow suffocation of the agency’s voice, the meddling in its messages and the siphoning of its budget.” According to Kyle McGowan, a former chief of staff at the CDC, and his deputy, Amanda Campbell, the White House insisted on reviewing, and often editing, the agency’s COVID-19 guidance documents, “the most prominent public expression of its latest research and scientific consensus on the spread of the virus.” The guidance was not just vetted by the administration’s coronavirus task force but “an endless loop of political appointees across Washington.” The White House, McGowan says, was obsessed with the economic implications of the public health crisis. For example, the White House’s budget director took issue with the agency’s specific spacing guidelines for restaurants. “It is not the CDC’s role to determine the economic viability of a guidance document,” McGowan told the Times. That battle ultimately led to the agency simply offering a vague recommendation of “social distancing,” which could, really, mean anything, instead of strongly suggesting restaurants ensure six feet between patrons.

And then there were the times the CDC’s scientists were screened by a former purveyor of shoes and purses, Ivanka Trump, in addition to the White House’s undersecretary for lies, Kellyanne Conway:

“Often, Mr. McGowan and Ms. Campbell mediated between [CDC director] Dr. [Robert] Redfield and agency scientists when the White House’s guidance requests and dictates would arrive: edits from [White House budget director Russell] Vought and Kellyanne Conway, the former White House adviser, on choirs and communion in faith communities, or suggestions from Ivanka Trump, the president’s daughter and aide, on schools. “Every time that the science clashed with the messaging, messaging won,” Mr. McGowan said.”

Part of Campbell’s job was to help get approval for the agency’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report—a closely watched and previously apolitical guide on infectious diseases. However, political appointees at the Department of Health and Human Services repeatedly requested that the CDC “revise, delay, and even scuttle drafts” they thought might be viewed as somehow critical of Donald Trump. “It wasn’t until something was in the MMWR that was in contradiction to what message the White House and HHS were trying to put forward that they became scrutinized,” Campbell said.

One more from The Daily Beast: History Will Agree That Trump Used Americans as Lab Rats.

Wednesday was a bad day in the fight against COVID-19. The government announced a record number of deaths, more than 3,600. Meanwhile, a House committee released internal Trump administration messages, which demonstrated that Americans were unknowing lab rats in the president’s grail-quest for herd immunity.

cat-snow-9In a July 4, 2020 email, Paul Alexander, a political appointee at the Department of Health and Human Services, spelled it all out. In his words, infants, young adults, and middle-aged folks with no conditions had “zero risk,” and were there to take the hit as America marched off a cliff. “We want them infected,” declared Alexander.

Unfortunately, the administration never asked their permission to become human guinea pigs. Indeed, as fate would have it, younger Americans are now dying at historic rates, according to a study recently published in the Journal of the American Medical Association. As for herd immunity, it’s a lot like waiting for Godot.

But then again, Alexander is the same fellow who also tried to muzzle Anthony Fauci and criticized the CDC as alarmist. In fact, he even commented that the agency’s COVID warning to pregnant women read as if it were designed to frighten as opposed to inform. As Alexander saw things, the agency was portraying the president and his administration as if they “can’t fix this” and that things are “getting worse.”

For the record, Alexander got it wrong on both counts. Donald J. Trump and his minions failed to fix things, and the situation has gone from bad to horrific. The CDC’s worries were borne out.

Early administration projections of no more than 70,000 dead now read like fantasies or wishful thinking. Come Joe Biden’s inauguration—a month away, as we’re losing around 3,000 Americans every day—the death toll may even surpass 400,000.

I’ve seen projections of 500,000 deaths by spring. And I doubt that will be the end of it, despite the vaccines.

I know this is a long and depressing post, but it’s important to understand how bad things are and how much worse they may get over the upcoming long winter. Take care, Sky Dancers. Please stay home as much as possible and wear your masks when you have to go out. 


Tuesday Reads

Good Morning!!

120120holidaytreerAs Trump continues his coup attempt and Mitch McConnell continues to block relief for struggling Americans, Covid-19 is ravaging our country. 

The New York Times: The U.S. has recorded its most Covid-19 deaths in a week.

With a seven-day average of 2,249 deaths, the country broke the previous mark of 2,232 set on April 17 in the early weeks of the pandemic. Seven-day averages can provide a more accurate picture of the virus’s progression than daily death counts, which can fluctuate and disguise the broader trend line.

The United States is approaching 300,000 total deaths, with nearly 283,000 recorded, according to a New York Times database. The nation is averaging nearly 200,000 cases per day, an increase of 15 percent from the average two weeks earlier, and has recorded over than 15 million total cases.

Much has changed since the previous peak in April. The coronavirus is no longer concentrated in big urban areas like New York City and now envelops much of the country, including rural areas that had avoided it for several months.

Many of the hardest-hit counties on a per person basis are now in the Midwest. North Dakota, where one in every 10 residents has contracted the virus, has the highest total reported cases by population, followed closely by South Dakota, Iowa, Wisconsin and Nebraska.

The latest wave to hit the United States has hospitalized record numbers. Each day since Dec. 2, more than 100,000 Covid-19 patients were in hospitals. That far surpasses the number of people hospitalized during the peaks spring and summer, which at their worst had nearly 60,000 Americans in the hospital daily.

The new peak also comes as the nation prepares for holiday celebrations, and as colder temperatures may push people to congregate indoors. Infectious-disease experts have warned that trends in the United States, which reported a record 2,885 deaths on Wednesday, could continue to worsen over the next several weeks.

cb120520daprWe are getting closer to a vaccine, and the FDA has found that the Pfizer vaccine “worked well” after the first dose “regardless of a volunteer’s race, weight or age.” But yesterday The New York Times revealed that there most likely won’t have enough to go around: Trump administration officials passed when Pfizer offered months ago to sell the U.S. more vaccine doses.

Before Pfizer’s coronavirus vaccine was proved highly successful in clinical trials last month, the company offered the Trump administration the chance to lock in supplies beyond the 100 million doses the pharmaceutical maker agreed to sell the government as part of a $1.95 billion deal months ago.

But the administration, according to people familiar with the talks, never made the deal, a choice that now raises questions about whether the United States allowed other countries to take its place in line.

As the administration scrambles to try to purchase more doses of the vaccine, President Trump plans on Tuesday to issue an executive order that proclaims that other nations will not get the U.S. supplies of its vaccine until Americans have been inoculated.

But the order appears to have no real teeth and does not expand the U.S. supply of doses, according to a description of the order on Monday by senior administration officials.

Read more details at the link.

On Trump’s executive order, Politico reports: ‘I literally don’t know’: Operation Warp Speed scientist can’t explain Trump’s vaccine order.

The chief scientist of the Trump administration’s Operation Warp Speed was unable to explain President Donald Trump’s latest executive order Tuesday, which aims to prioritize shipment of the coronavirus vaccine to Americans over other countries.

Moncef Slaoui, who Trump tapped in May to head up the administration’s efforts to hasten vaccine development, appeared puzzled when asked to clarify the president’s order during an interview on ABC’s “Good Morning America.”

lk112920dapr“Frankly, I don’t know, and frankly, I’m staying out of this. I can’t comment,” Slaoui said. “I literally don’t know.”

“You don’t know?” asked anchor George Stephanopoulos.

“Yes,” Slaoui said.

“But you’re the chief science adviser for Operation Warp Speed,” Stephanopoulos pressed.

“Our work is, you know, rolling,” Slaoui replied. “We have plans. We feel that we can deliver the vaccines as needed. So I don’t know exactly what this order is about.”

Indeed, it remains unclear how Trump’s executive order would be enforced, as drugmakers are already making agreements to deliver supplies for other countries.

Slaoui was similarly dismissive when asked about the executive order in another interview Tuesday, telling Fox News that “what the White House is doing is what the White House is doing.”

The incompetence would be funny if it weren’t going to kill people.

The Washington Post: Pfizer tells U.S. officials it cannot supply substantial additional vaccine until late June or July.

Pfizer has told the Trump administration it cannot provide substantial additional doses of its coronavirus vaccine until late June or July because other countries have rushed to buy up most of its supply, according to multiple individuals familiar with the situation.

That means the U.S. government may not be able to ramp up as rapidly as it had expected from the 100 million doses of the Pfizer vaccine that it purchased earlier this year, raising questions about whether it can keep to its aggressive schedule to vaccinate most Americans by late spring or early summer.\Trump administration officials denied there would be availability issues in the second quarter, citing other vaccines in the pipeline — most immediately, Moderna’s, also expected to be approved in coming weeks. Both vaccines are two-dose regimens, so the 100 million doses purchased of each would cover 50 million people each.

“I’m not concerned about our ability to buy vaccines to offer to all of the American public,” Gen. Paul Ostrowski, who oversees logistics for Operation Warp Speed, the government’s initiative to expedite vaccine development, said in an interview Monday. “It’s clear that Pfizer made plans with other countries. Many have been announced. We understand those pieces.”

But several officials knowledgeable about the contracts said that supplies from other companies may be insufficient to fill the gap.

20201126edhoc-aLet’s hope the Biden administration will be able to deal with the mess that Trump is leaving them. 

Trump and his buddies continue to flaunt warnings about wearing masks and social distancing to prevent spreading the virus. Of course these people will get the best treatments, while others whom they expose may not. The Daily Beast: Rudy Giuliani’s COVID Case Shows There’s No Vaccine to Treat the Disease the GOP Has Become.

Trump’s lawyer needs a doctor. If you saw him gallivanting across the country for the past month trying to overturn the election, it should come as no surprise to you that Rudy Giuliani, once revered as “America’s Mayor,” was hospitalized for COVID-19 this week.

Giuliani, a potential one-man superspreader whose recent visit forced the entire Arizona legislature to close up shop, is being treated at Georgetown University Medical Center. For the rich and powerful, there’s always room at the inn. Or hospital. And while we all hope for his speedy recovery, this is the latest sign that a pattern of privilege has emerged. It goes like this: Having tempted fate by refusing to social distance or wear masks, Trump and his team contract the virus. Next, they receive world-class medical treatment. Last, they quickly recover.

It’s not a victimless advantage. Their miraculous recovery reinforces the resentment of every hoohaw who won’t wear a mask and throws a fit at a bar in Staten Island because last call comes early at 10 p.m. The problem with these quick recoveries is that they demonstrate (to people who are the most susceptible to this message) that COVID-19 isn’t really a big deal.

Trump said yesterday that Giuliani is doing well and doesn’t have a fever. Then why is he in the hospital? I’m 73. Would I be hospitalizes with mild symptoms and no fever?

Meanwhile, there’s still no stimulus coming from Congress; and the one they are working on doesn’t include checks to help us regular folks, but it does include liability protections for corporations that force people to work in unsafe conditions. John Nichols at The Nation:

What the United States desperately needs is a multitrillion-dollar stimulus package to provide the resources to fight the current coronavirus surge, to provide for the unemployed and underemployed, to keep small businesses and small farms afloat, to fund state and local governments and schools, and to organize and implement the distribution of the vaccines that are vital to ending the current crisis.

What the United States does not need is a massive corporate bailout that allows the wealthiest and most powerful businesses in this country to avoid liability for actions they take that sicken and kill Americans.

20201203edshe-bUnfortunately, that is what Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell and his minions have been battling to include in a new Covid-19 “relief” package. And key Democrats could end up going along with the grim reaper’s ghoulish scheme as he again uses federal legislation to insulate irresponsible CEOs from accountability—and, conveniently, to reward the business interests that fund Republican campaigns.

Exploiting the sense of urgency over the peaking pandemic and the prospect of what President-elect Joe Biden refers to as a “long dark winter” for working families, McConnell and his colleagues have for months held relief proposals hostage over the issue of a so-called “liability shield.” Such a shield—even if it is limited, even if it is only temporary—would give corporations immunity from lawsuits related to Covid-19.

Considering the stark evidence of irresponsibility on the part of US corporations since the pandemic hit, the proposal is absurd. Yet the “COVID Emergency Relief Framework” scheme that was initially proposed by corporate-aligned centrists in Congress but has now attracted backing from leading congressional Republicans and Democrats proposes just such a liability shield. The one-page outline of the plan released last week includes among its proposals: “Provide short term federal protection from coronavirus-related lawsuits with the purpose of giving states time to develop their own response.”

Click the link to read the rest.

Today could be the last day for Trump’s stupid coup attempt. Zoe Tillman at Buzzfeed News: Trump’s Desperate Effort To Overturn The Election Is Running Out Of Time.

Tuesday marks the “safe harbor” deadline — the date when states must certify results if they want protection under federal election law against Congress stepping in to decide which candidate gets their electoral votes. The fact that lawsuits are pending won’t prevent states from getting the benefits of certifying results by that date, according to election law experts. Judges are already wary of injecting legal uncertainty into the election and causing chaos and will be even more reluctant to do so after the deadline passes.

lk120420dapr“The doors close significantly after the safe harbor deadline passes,” said Rebecca Green, codirector of the Election Law Program at William & Mary Law School. “It’s going to be a heavy lift to convince a judge to defy federal deadlines. I think it would only happen or be successful if some kind of wild evidence of just unbelievable scale were unearthed that was credible.”

Trump’s campaign has conceded that the Dec. 8 deadline is key to the fate of its legal challenges. It has pushed courts to rush to consider cases by then. In the campaign’s failed constitutional challenge to Biden’s win in Pennsylvania, Trump’s lawyers argued on Nov. 22 that it was “critically important” for a federal appeals court to hear the case before the deadline, which at that point was 16 days away. The court agreed to expedite the case and ruled against Trump in a 3–0 decision just five days later.

Read more at Buzzfeed.

Coming soon: the Trump pardon spree. Once again, this would be hilarious if it weren’t so dangerous. Axios: Trump plots mass pardons, even to people not asking.

President Trump isn’t just accepting pardon requests but blindly discussing them “like Christmas gifts” to people who haven’t even asked, sources with direct knowledge of the conversations told Axios.

Behind the scenes: Trump recently told one adviser he was going to pardon “every person who ever talked to me,” suggesting an even larger pardon blitz to come. As with most Trump conversations, the adviser wasn’t sure how seriously to take the president — although Trump gave no indication he was joking.

The big picture: The president relishes his unilateral authority to issue get-out-of-jail-free cards. Lately, though, he’s been soliciting recipients, asking friends and advisers who they think he should pardon.

Trump has also interrupted conversations to spontaneously suggest that he add the person he’s speaking with to his pardon list, these sources said.

Finally, at The Washington Post, Michael Luttig, a former judge writes: No, President Trump can’t pardon himself.

246223_rgb_768The pardon clause’s language is broad indeed, unambiguously allowing the president to pardon seemingly any other person convicted for any federal criminal offense. But its language does not unambiguously include the president himself. Had the Framers intended to give the president such broad power, we would expect them to have clearly said so. After all, the new nation was in the process of rejecting a monarchical government in favor of a democratic republic.

Instead, the words they chose to confer the pardon power on the president contemplate his granting of reprieves and pardons only to persons other than himself. The word “grant” connotes a gift, bestowal, conferral or transfer by one person to another — not to himself. That would have been the understanding of this word at the time of the Constitution’s drafting, and it is how the term “grant” was understood and is used elsewhere in the Constitution.

At the same time, the “take care” argument against the power to self-pardon merely assumes the very conclusion it reaches: that the pardon clause does not empower the president to pardon himself, and therefore that his self-pardon would be irreconcilable with his responsibility to take care that the laws be faithfully executed. This begs the question just as much as the textual argument made for self-pardons. If the Constitution allows a president to pardon himself, there could be no argument that in pardoning himself the president was not faithfully executing the laws.

Read the full argument at the WaPo.

Hang in there Sky Dancers! We just have to survive 43 more days of this insanity until the Inauguration.