Thursday Reads: Why Is Trump Choosing to Kill Americans?

Five Puppies on the Carpet, by Edvard Munch

Good Morning!!

Yesterday Eric Boehlert asked an important question that the mainstream media never will: Memo to media: We still don’t know why Trump is doing this.

Why?

One month into our mounting crisis and we still don’t know why Trump won’t help key states secure desperately needed medical equipment to deal with the growing coronavirus pandemic. Or why Trump is touting a dubious miracle cure, fills marathon pandemic briefings with ceaseless contradictions and lies, and has silenced scientists. Why he purposefully ignored detailed intelligence warnings about Covid-19, placed his unqualified son-in-law in charge of a national emergency, and refused to invoke the Defense Production Act to compel private companies to manufacture needed medical supplies. Or why the government airlifted 18 tons of donated respirator masks, surgical masks, gowns and other medical supplies to China in February.

Woman with a dog, Fernando Botero, 1997

If Trump had done just one of these things, it would’ve been considered shortsighted and represented a shocking lack of leadership. Trump’s done them all. Yet that still doesn’t prompt most journalists to address the bigger picture and ask disturbing questions about a president who seems to be okay with watching America crumble and decay, in very real ways, on his watch.

As I stressed last week, the media’s preferred storyline that suggests Trump is simply incompetent doesn’t add up because Trump has made the wrong decision every single time in terms of how crises like this are supposed to be dealt with. (i.e. Be consistent, transparent, factual, and credible.) It’s increasingly not believable for the press to suggest Trump has been distracted or inept during this crisis, in part because of the level of White House uselessness has become so staggering.

Maybe Trump’s vengeful. Maybe he wants to wreck the economy to create investment opportunities? He’s under the thumb of a foreign entity? He wants to cause panic and cancel the November elections? He’s a fatalist? Who knows. And honestly, the specific “why” isn’t what matters now. What matters is asking the difficult questions and pondering what the Trump presidency is truly about, no matter what lurks in the shadows.

Read the rest at Press Run.

The evidence is piling up that Trump is helping red states and choosing to let people in blue states die because of equipment shortages.

Los Angeles Times: Hospitals say feds are seizing masks and other coronavirus supplies without a word.

Although President Trump has directed states and hospitals to secure what supplies they can, the federal government is quietly seizing orders, leaving medical providers across the country in the dark about where the material is going and how they can get what they need to deal with the coronavirus pandemic.

Pierre_Bonnard, Woman with Dog and Still Life, 1917

Hospital and clinic officials in seven states described the seizures in interviews over the past week. The Federal Emergency Management Agency is not publicly reporting the acquisitions, despite the outlay of millions of dollars of taxpayer money, nor has the administration detailed how it decides which supplies to seize and where to reroute them.

Officials who’ve had materials seized also say they’ve received no guidance from the government about how or if they will get access to the supplies they ordered. That has stoked concerns about how public funds are being spent and whether the Trump administration is fairly distributing scarce medical supplies.

“In order to have confidence in the distribution system, to know that it is being done in an equitable manner, you have to have transparency,” said Dr. John Hick, an emergency physician at Hennepin Healthcare in Minnesota who has helped develop national emergency preparedness standards through the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine.

The medical leaders on the front lines of the fight to control the coronavirus and keep patients alive say they are grasping for explanations. “We can’t get any answers,” said a California hospital official who asked not to be identified for fear of retaliation from the White House.

In Florida, a large medical system saw an order for thermometers taken away. And officials at a system in Massachusetts were unable to determine where its order of masks went.

“Are they stockpiling this stuff? Are they distributing it? We don’t know,” one official said. “And are we going to ever get any of it back if we need supplies? It would be nice to know these things.”

Maybe it’s not just blue states if it happened in Florida. So why are they doing this? We need explanations.

Another example from CNN: Colorado Democrat believes Trump awarded ventilators as political favor to vulnerable GOP senator.

Still Life With Puppies, Paul Gaugin

Rep. Diana DeGette, a veteran Democrat, said that President Donald Trump’s announcement that he would send 100 ventilators to Colorado smacks of a political favor to vulnerable GOP Sen. Cory Gardner after the federal government had not fulfilled the delegation’s request for the devices.

“I think this thing that happened with Sen. Gardner and President Trump is very disturbing,” the Colorado Democrat told CNN Wednesday evening. “What is the process here?”

DeGette said that while she wants the state to get every ventilator it can — after initially requesting 10,000 — the process employed by the White House shows that the President appears to be doling out the ventilators to his allies at a time when the virus is affecting people of all political persuasions.

“It seems that way to me,” DeGette said when asked if it appeared to be a political favor to Gardner. “I was totally outraged.”

DeGette said that the decision to award 100 ventilators followed a tortured process after the state’s delegation and Democratic Gov. Jared Polis had been asking for 10,000 ventilators.
But while they were waiting for an answer from the Federal Emergency Management Agency, Polis reached a deal with a private company for 500 ventilators to be sent to the state. Once FEMA got word of the state deal, the federal agency stepped in to prevent that contract from going through so it could acquire the ventilators instead, Polis said on CNN last week.

Gardner then called Trump on Tuesday night, and the President tweeted Wednesday that the state would get 100 ventilators from the federal stockpile at the Republican senator’s request. Gardner is one of the most vulnerable Republican senators up for reelection.

Trump seems to think that rural areas will not be overwhelmed by coronavirus infections, but the places where most Trump voters live will likely be the next hot spots, and they aren’t likely to be as prepared as the big cities.

Nancy LeTourneau at Washington Monthly: Some Coronavirus Hot Spots Are in Rural America.

Pablo Picasso, Woman with a dog

Most of the reporting on coronavirus has focused on its spread in major urban areas, especially New York City. But I was spurred into looking at what is happening in rural America by the fact that the “hot spot” in my home state of Minnesota is not the Twin Cities metro area. The disease has taken hold in the city of Fairmont, which is located in Martin County—an agricultural community in the southwestern part of the state.

While the number of cases and deaths related to coronavirus in Martin County is fairly low (34 cases and 4 deaths), it dwarfs those in the metro counties on a per capita basis. For example, per 100,000 people, Martin County’s numbers represent 170 cases and 20 deaths, compared to 17 cases and 0.7 deaths per 100,000 in Hennepin County, which includes Minneapolis.

No one knows why this virus has taken hold in Martin County, but that hasn’t stopped speculation. Here is what Tim Langer, public health sanitarian with Martin County Human Services, ventured.

“My personal opinion is there are some folks listening to some media outlets that were not taking this seriously. That can be a factor, too. It’s hard to prove that. I don’t want to get political. But there were outlets saying it’s a hoax, it’s no worse than a cold, and those are things people listen to.”

Martin County, Minnesota isn’t the only rural area that is facing a coronavirus outbreak. In hotspots like Blaine County, Idaho and Eagle County, Colorado, the explanation is clear: rich ski towns have some of the highest infection rates in the country. But what explains the fact that Greer County, Oklahoma is the hot spot of that state, with an infection rate of 520 and death rate of 50 per 100,000?

Click the link to read the rest.

Susan on a balcony holding a dog, Mary Cassatt

NPR: Small-Town Hospitals Are Closing Just As Coronavirus Arrives In Rural America.

By this time next week, Decatur County, Tenn., will have lost its only hospital, Decatur County General, which has been serving the rural community of about 12,000 people along the Tennessee River since 1963.

The hospital’s human resources director, Melinda Hays-Kirkwood, has already begun laying off people, and she says by next week only a skeleton staff will remain….

The closure will have a huge economic toll locally — with more than 100 on staff, the hospital was one of the county’s largest employers. But the ironic timing isn’t lost on its staff either. Because of the COVID-19 crisis, most nonessential businesses in the area were already closed.

“It’s a difficult time to be shutting down a hospital in the middle of the coronavirus,” Hays-Kirkwood says.

There are currently no known cases in Decatur County, but she says every county around it has reported infections.

Small-town hospitals were already closing at an alarming rate before the COVID-19 pandemic. But now the trend appears to be accelerating just as the disease arrives in rural America. When Decatur County General Hospital shuts down indefinitely by April 15, it will be the ninth small-town hospital to close in 2020 alone. According to a report released this month by the Chartis Center for Rural Health, nearly half of rural hospitals were already operating in the red before the COVID-19 crisis.

What will happen when it becomes clear that Trump is killing his own supporters? Lloyd Green at The Guardian, April 5: ‘Trump is killing his own supporters’ – even White House insiders know it.

On Sunday, initially at least, there was no White House briefing on the president’s public schedule. But the bad news kept coming. Coronavirus deaths continued to climb and reports of the heartland being unprepared for what may be on its horizon continued to ricochet around the media.

In the words of one administration insider, to the Guardian: “The Trump organism is simply collapsing. He’s killing his own supporters.”

By Edouard Vuillard

Members of the national guard, emergency workers, rank-and-file Americans: all are exposed. Yet Trump appears incapable of emoting anything that comes close to heart-felt concern. Or just providing straight answers.

Rather, he is acting like Jefferson Davis, the president of the Confederate States of America: repeatedly letting governors know the burden of shoring up their sick, their doctors and their people falls on their shoulders first. The national government? It’s the world’s greatest backstop.

Remember when the Republican party freaked out about Barack Obama and the US “leading from behind” abroad? Remember the howls that evoked from GOP leaders? Those days are gone. Welcome to what Martin O’Malley, a Democratic former governor of Maryland, calls the “Darwinian approach to federalism”.

Trump is telling NFL owners he wants the season to start on time. He is disregarding Centers for Disease Control and Prevention advice on wearing facemasks in public. And he is touting untested coronavirus cures live on national TV.

Think Trump University on steroids, only this time we all stand to be the victims.

When Dr Anthony Fauci says there is no evidence to back up Trump’s claims surrounding hydroxychloroquine, an anti-malaria drug, pay attention. The fact Jared Kushner is on the case is hardly reassuring. He’s the guy who thought firing James Comey was win-win politics and promised Middle East peace in our time.

While all this is going on, the Wisconsin Republican party is giving America a taste of the campaign to come in the fall. Right now, the Badger State GOP is fighting in the US supreme court efforts to extend mail-in voting for this Tuesday’s Democratic primary.

In other words, voters will be forced to choose between foregoing their rights and risking their lives. Democracy shouldn’t work that way.

Read the rest at The Guardian.

What’s happening where you live? And what stories are you following today?


Thursday Reads

Good Morning! It has been dark and dreary here for weeks it seems. I know the sun has come out a few times, but most of the time it has been either raining or about to rain. I think I’m beginning to suffer from seasonal affective disorder (SAD). Or maybe it’s just watching the 2012 presidential campaign. Either way, we’re talking dark and depressing.

On Tuesday Newt Gingrich told Larry Kudlow (yeah, I know) of CNBC that Obama is the “food stamp president,” and he (Gingrich) will be running against him as the “candidate of paychecks.”

“We are going to have the candidate of food stamps, the finest food stamp president in the American history in Barack Obama and we are going to have a candidate of paychecks.”

The former House Speaker went on to say Obama represents a hard-left radicalism. He, on the other hand, wants big tax cuts and big cuts in the federal government.

LOL! Obama is the furthest thing from a radical, and I doubt if he gives a damn about food stamps. I don’t know how Gingrich gets away with this stuff. Oh yeah, the media sucks. He spewed more lies too:

Gingrich also reiterated his claim that he is not a lobbyist. While he’s been steadily rising in the polls, he’s also been under scrutiny for his consulting work with mortgage giant Freddie Mac.

“I do no lobbying; I’ve never done any lobbying. It’s written in our contracts that we do not do any lobbying of any kind. I offer strategic advice,” he said. “The advice I offered Freddie Mac was, in fact, aimed at how do you help people get into housing.”

Gingrich also referred to himself in the third person in talking about the sad ending of his career as Speaker of the House.

“The job of the Democrats was to get Newt Gingrich. They couldn’t beat any of our ideas so they decided to try to beat the messenger,” he said. “I think it actually will help people understand what happened in that period and how much of it was partisan.”

Poor Newt. He’s filthy rich, but he can’t stop obsessing about the paltry help poor and unemployed people get from food stamps. Last week he claimed that food stamp use has increased dramatically under Obama and that recipients use their food stamp money to take vacations in Hawaii. According to Politifact as reported in USA Today:

PolitiFact, a fact-checking project of the Tampa Bay Times, noted in May that Bush made “more aggressive efforts to get eligible Americans to apply for benefits,” and new rules took effect to broaden eligibility for the assistance. At the time, PolitiFact said:

Gingrich oversimplifies when he suggests that Obama should be considered “the most successful food stamp president in American history,” because much — though probably not all — of the reason for the increase was a combination of the economic problems Obama inherited and a longstanding upward trend from policy changes. On balance, we rate Gingrich’s statement Half True.

As for Gingrich’s claim that food stamps can be used to go to Hawaii, the federal government has clear rules about the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (or SNAP). Basically, you can buy groceries or the seeds and plants from which you can grow your own food.

Right now Gingrich is the clear front runner for the Republican nomination. According to a new CNN poll, he has double-digit leads in three of the first four primaries, Iowa, South Carolina, and Florida. And he is catching up with Romney in New Hampshire. According to the poll, much of Gingrich’s support is coming from tea party types.

I wonder if these folks realize that when back in the day, when Newt was one of the most powerful people in DC, his fellow Conservatives worked hard to get rid of him? And some of them still don’t want him back in power.

As former House Speaker Newt Gingrich trumpets his leadership skills in his quest for the 2012 Republican presidential nomination, a different picture of his stewardship emerges from some GOP lawmakers who served with him during a failed 1997 coup attempt against the controversial speaker.

Twenty disgruntled Republicans in the House of Representatives squeezed into then-Rep. Lindsey Graham’s office in July 1997 and rebelliously vented about Gingrich. They were tired of his chaotic management style, worried that he was caving in to then-President Bill Clinton, and sick of constantly having to defend him publicly on questions about his ethics or his latest bombastic statement.

“Newt Gingrich was a disaster as speaker,” said Rep. Peter King, R-N.Y.

As Gingrich seeks to gain the world’s most powerful office, it’s worth recalling that when he once held great power in Washington, his own conservative Republican lieutenants rebelled against his rule less than four years after he led them to House majority status for the first time in 40 years. And their disaffection evidently helped persuade him to step down as speaker the next year and leave office.

King, for one, still believes that Gingrich’s widely disparaged egotistical complaining about the poor treatment he perceived from then-President Clinton on an Air Force One flight in 1995 is why Republicans suffered blame for federal government shutdowns later that year.

“Everything was self-centered. There was a lack of intellectual discipline,” King said

Karl Rove has an op-ed in today’s Wall Street Journal in which he blasts Gingrich’s pathetic campaign organization.

In the short run, Mr. Gingrich must temper runaway expectations. For example, his lead in the RealClearPolitics average in Iowa is 12 points. But what happens on Jan. 3 if he doesn’t win Iowa, or comes in first with a smaller margin than people expect?

That could happen in part because Mr. Gingrich has little or no campaign organization in Iowa and most other states. He didn’t file a complete slate of New Hampshire delegates and alternates. He is the only candidate who didn’t qualify for the Missouri primary, and on Wednesday he failed to present enough signatures to get on the ballot in Ohio. Redistricting squabbles may lead the legislature to move the primary to a later date and re-open filing, but it’s still embarrassing to be so poorly organized.

That’s because Gingrich had no expectation of doing this well. He just entered the race so he could sell his books and his wife’s films. But it turns out Gingrich will be on the ballot in Ohio after all. As for Missouri, Gingrich claims he didn’t want to be on the ballot there because the primary is non-binding.

In a press conference in New York City today, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich declared that he never intended to qualify for the ballot in Missouri and that failing to meet the deadline was “a conscious decision, not an oversight.”

The primary is non-binding; it is followed a month later by caucuses where Missourians pick their convention delegates. But every other major candidate is participating in the primary, which gives the public an idea of where Show Me State voters stand.

“We have never participated in beauty contests,” Gingrich said when asked about his failure to qualify for the ballot. “We didnt participate in Ames [the Iowa straw poll], we didnt participate in P5 [a Florida straw poll].” ….

But failing to qualify for the ballot was widely seen as a sign of Gingrich’s lack of campaign organization.

Another sign is the papers he filed in New Hampshire. His papers were sloppily written in pen and he fell 13 short of the required 40 delegates.

It’s going to be interesting to see what happens. I think Romney should still win New Hampshire, but the question is how many Southern states he can carry. Of course I’d be enjoying watching the Republican primary mess a lot more if there were a liberal Democratic candidate to vote for.

Oh, Romney did come in first in one poll: the one that counted the number of jokes told about the Republican candidates on late night TV.

OK, I’ll let go of my obsession with Republican nomination campaign for now and give you some other things to read.

Last Friday, Eric Boehlert of Media Matters may have been the intended victim of a right wing James O’Keefe-type scam designed to make him look like hypocrite for writing in support of the Occupy movement.

It was the middle of the day on Friday, and Eric Boehlert heard a knock on the door. A senior fellow at Media Matters, a nonprofit watchdog that challenges conservative news outlets, Boehlert works from his Montclair, N.J., home.

A short, bearded man stood outside, holding a clipboard and wearing a Verizon uniform. He asked Boehlert if he’d be willing to take a customer survey. Verizon had, perhaps coincidentally, been at the house a week earlier to handle a downed wire. Boehlert quickly agreed and noted that a Verizon worker had actually failed to show up when he said he would.

But the interview questions got weird and then weirder. The man kept talking about Boehlert being rich and being able to work at home, Boehlert began to smell a ratf*ck.

“After he mentioned my salary and that I work from home, all the bells went off, and this is not who this guy says he is. Therefore, I kind of lost track of the exact wording of the question, but it definitely was like very accusatory of me and I’m a hypocrite and how do I have this supposedly cushy job while I’m writing about real workers and the people of the 99 percent,” said Boehlert.

“So there was this pause, and I said, ‘You work for Verizon?’ And he just sort of looks back at me and [says], ‘Will you answer the question? Will you answer the question?’ And I said, ‘Can I see your Verizon ID?’ And he wouldn’t produce any Verizon ID, and I think he asked me another time to answer the question. And basically I just said, ‘I’m done so you can leave now.'” ….

By now he [Boehlert] had realized that the man was likely pulling a political stunt, and James O’Keefe’s notorious “To Catch a Journalist” project came to mind as a possibility.

“The only sort of comical part was he forget which way he was supposed to run in case I started following. He ended up sort of in the road, and he sort of turned left and then right,” said Boehlert. “The last I saw him he was in a full sprint down my street running away from my house.”

In the Massachusetts Senate race, Elizabeth Warren is ahead of Scott Brown 49% to 42%, her biggest lead so far. But some people are *very concerned* because at a recent candidate’s event Warren was asked if she knew in which recent years the Red Sox had won the World Series, and she answered 2004 and 2008 instead of 2004 and 2007. Horrors! Paul Waldman has a very funny piece about it in The American Prospect.

In today’s election news, a candidate for the World’s Most Deliberative Body is facing an earth-shattering scandal because she said “2008” when she should have said “2007,” demonstrating to all that she is utterly incapable of representing the interests of ordinary people. As the normally even-tempered Taegan Goddard indignantly described it, “Elizabeth Warren (D) and the rest of the Democratic field for U.S. Senate in Massachusetts couldn’t answer a simple question about the Boston Red Sox at a forum yesterday. Apparently, they learned nothing from Martha Coakley’s (D) defeat two years ago…”

Here’s what Waldman had to say about this nonsense:

I don’t think anyone in Massachusetts could in good conscience vote for someone who is unable to identify both the state’s fourth-largest city and its third most commonly spoken language. I mean, what are we supposed to do, send someone to the Senate who doesn’t have a command of all master of state-related trivia? The answer is clearly to amend the Constitution so 12-year-old winners of the state geography bee can become senators.

Reporters, I beg you: If you’re going to discuss this “gaffe” and others like it, do your audience a service and explain why this is supposed to matter. And I don’t mean just by saying, “This reminds people of when Martha Coakley called Curt Schilling a Yankee fan, damaging her candidacy.” I mean explain specifically what exactly misremembering the Sox series victories as 2004 and 2008 instead of 2004 and 2007 tells us about the kind of senator Elizabeth Warren would be. Does it mean that despite all the other evidence to the contrary, she really doesn’t care about ordinary people and will upon taking office immediately introduce legislation to make the purchase of brandy snifters and riding crops tax-deductible? Then what?

Yesterday a got an e-mail from Rep. John Conyers (D-MI) about an attempted Republican takeover of the Detroit city government. Bloomberg had a piece about it yesterday.

Detroit has the highest concentration of blacks among U.S. cities with more than 100,000 residents, according to U.S. Census Bureau data. It will exhaust its cash by April and may run up a deficit topping $200 million by June.

Last week, Governor Rick Snyder, a white Republican, ordered a review that may lead to appointment of an emergency manager, rekindling rancor in a city scarred by race riots in 1967. Detroit lost one-quarter of its population since 2000 — much of it to largely white suburbs.

Four Michigan cities are controlled by emergency managers. All have populations that are mostly black. If Detroit joins them, 49.7 percent of the state’s black residents would live under city governments in which they have little say.

Michigan’s emergency managers have sweeping authority to nullify union contracts, sell assets and fire workers. Snyder has said he doesn’t want one for Detroit, though he called the city’s financial condition severe enough to warrant help.

Michigan citizens are currently collecting signatures to put repeal of the law on the ballot in 2012.

A maintenance man Ryan Brunn, 20,has been charged with the brutal sexual assault and murder of 7-year-old Jorleys Rivera, who disappeared on Friday in Canton, GA.

Keenan said Brunn, who has no known criminal record, had keys to both the empty apartment and the trash compactor bin where Rivera’s body was placed.

“We are confident that Brunn is the killer and that is why he is in custody,” Keenan said, declining to detail what evidence investigators have against him….

Keenan said investigators focused on Brunn after receiving information from the public. Brunn had been under police surveillance since Tuesday night. Keenan said the investigation will continue for several months.

“This is a mammoth case,” Keenan told reporters at a news conference in Canton. “We believe that this horrendous crime was planned and calculated, and we’ve recovered a lot of evidence.”

At least he was caught quickly. But another innocent young child is gone.

Yesterday the Obama administration overruled the decision of the FDA to make Plan B available without a prescription to women of all ages.

Wednesday, the Department of Health and Human Services upheld their decision to dispense Plan B One-Step—a one-pill emergency contraceptive—to young women only with a doctor’s prescription, overruling an FDA request to make the drug available over the counter to women of all ages. The restriction only applies to women under the age of 17. In a statement on the HHS website, Secretary Kathleen Sebelius outlined the administration’s reasoning: The FDA’s conclusion that the drug is safe, she says, did not contain sufficient data to show that people of all ages “can understand the label and use the product appropriately.” The outliers, she says, are the 10 percent of girls who are physically capable of child-bearing at 11.1 years old, and “have significant cognitive and behavioral differences.” HHS makes no mention of women older than 11 and younger than 17—statistically, those far more likely to be having sex, according to the Guttmacher Institute.
Wednesday, the Department of Health and Human Services upheld their decision to dispense Plan B One-Step—a one-pill emergency contraceptive—to young women only with a doctor’s prescription, overruling an FDA request to make the drug available over the counter to women of all ages. The restriction only applies to women under the age of 17. In a statement on the HHS website, Secretary Kathleen Sebelius outlined the administration’s reasoning: The FDA’s conclusion that the drug is safe, she says, did not contain sufficient data to show that people of all ages “can understand the label and use the product appropriately.” The outliers, she says, are the 10 percent of girls who are physically capable of child-bearing at 11.1 years old, and “have significant cognitive and behavioral differences.” HHS makes no mention of women older than 11 and younger than 17—statistically, those far more likely to be having sex, according to the Guttmacher Institute.

So if you’re under 17 and you’re raped, you’re going to have to figure out how to see a doctor and get a prescription. Isn’t that just ducky?

I’ll end with some better news for women. The FBI has decided to expand the definition of rape.

An October vote by the Advisory Policy Board’s UCR subcommittee recommended the board at-large change the definition of “rape” to “penetration, no matter how slight, of the vagina or anus with any body part or object, or oral penetration by a sex organ of another person, without the consent of the victim.”

Activists said the new definition was needed because the current one does not recognize that men can be raped, women can rape women, inanimate objects can be used to commit rape or that rapes can occur while the victim is unconscious.

Many local law enforcement agencies use a much broader definition of “rape” than the FBI, causing thousands of sex crimes to go unreported in federal statistics.

The FBI had been under pressure by the Feminist Majority Foundation, which launched an email drive urging the agency to update the definition.

Now let’s start doing more to protect women and children from rapists.

That’s all I’ve got. What are you reading and blogging about today?