Manic Monday Reads: This is AmericaPosted: November 28, 2022 Filed under: just because | Tags: Gaslighting, Republican pervs, sex trafficking 12 Comments
Good Day Sky Dancers!
The GOP is the party of projection. They gaslight us all the time. It’s not all that ironic that I got to use Merriam-Webster’s word of the year at the top of this post, as reported by PBS Nightly News. You’ll see my point soon enough.
“Gaslighting” — behavior that’s mind manipulating, grossly misleading, downright deceitful — is Merriam-Webster’s word of the year.
Lookups for the word on merriam-webster.com increased 1,740 percent in 2022 over the year before. But something else happened. There wasn’t a single event that drove significant spikes in curiosity, as it usually goes with the chosen word of the year.
The gaslighting was pervasive.
“It’s a word that has risen so quickly in the English language, and especially in the last four years, that it actually came as a surprise to me and to many of us,” said Peter Sokolowski, Merriam-Webster’s editor at large, in an exclusive interview with The Associated Press ahead of Monday’s unveiling.
“It was a word looked up frequently every single day of the year,” he said.
There were deepfakes and the dark web. There were deep states and fake news. And there was a whole lot of trolling.
Merriam-Webster’s top definition for gaslighting is the psychological manipulation of a person, usually over an extended period of time, that “causes the victim to question the validity of their own thoughts, perception of reality, or memories and typically leads to confusion, loss of confidence and self-esteem, uncertainty of one’s emotional or mental stability, and a dependency on the perpetrator.”
More broadly, the dictionary defines the word thusly: “The act or practice of grossly misleading someone especially for one’s own advantage.”
Gaslighting is a heinous tool frequently used by abusers in relationships — and by politicians and other newsmakers. It can happen between romantic partners, within a broader family unit and among friends. It can be a corporate tactic, or a way to mislead the public. There’s also “medical gaslighting,” when a health care professional dismisses a patient’s symptoms or illness as “all in your head.”
Despite its relatively recent prominence — including “Gaslighter,” The Chicks’ 2020 album featuring the rousingly angry titular single — the word was brought to life more than 80 years ago with “Gas Light,” a 1938 play by Patrick Hamilton.
It’s also a great movie from 1944.
Gas light is a 1944 American psychological thriller film directed by George Cukor, and starring Charles Boyer, Ingrid Bergman, Joseph Cotten and Angela Lansbury in her film debut. Adapted by John Van Druten, Walter Reisch, and John L. Balderston from Patrick Hamilton‘s play Gas Light (1938), it follows a young woman whose husband slowly manipulates her into believing that she is descending into insanity.
We lost the late great Angela Lansbury this year on October 11th. I loved her in The Manchurian Candidate, which is also apropos viewing to accompany the last few years. It was filmed in 1962, But Gaslight was filmed during the same period that Rachel Maddow’s Ultra covered when many Republicans in the country became enamored with Hitler. Everything old becomes new again.
One of the strangest narratives and most deadly that Right Wing Republicans have come up with is that the Democratic party is rampant with “groomers” and pedophiles. This has primarily been used to attack the GLBTX community and to suggest anything that talks to the love that dares not speak its name focuses on children. This conspiracy really took off a right-wing conspiracy disinformation campaign, #PizzaGate. It has its own hashtag and just never goes away. Here’s a little review of its relevance from the SPLC. “‘There’s nothing you can do’: The Legacy of #PizzaGate.” The story is from last year.
The Washington City Paper, a small D.C. outlet, ran a story called “Alt Right Conspiracy Theorists Obsess Over Comet Ping Pong” on Nov. 6, 2016. A phone call requesting comment for the article marks the moment that restaurateur James Alefantis’ life changed.
The online disinformation campaign now known as #Pizzagate, which extremists blasted into mainstream visibility on such sites as Twitter and Reddit, targeted Alefantis with a storm of harassment and lies, falsely suggesting that liberal elites abused children in the basement of his pizza restaurant. The #Pizzagate fable ultimately inspired a man to drive across state lines from North Carolina to Washington, D.C., to “save” fictitious victims. He fired a gun inside Comet Ping Pong in December 2016, when the restaurant was full of families eating lunch. Trolls continue to target Alefantis and his staff with harassment even now, as the event approaches its fifth anniversary.
Researchers of the far right still talk about #Pizzagate, but for different reasons: #Pizzagate influenced the politically charged disinformation campaigns that followed it in significant, often underreported ways. #Pizzagate helped birth the sprawling, pro-Trump conspiracy #QAnon, which in turn led to a number of violent crimes. #Pizzagate represents a watershed moment for Trump-era extremists, and its popularity united such figures as the actress Rosanne Barr with open neo-Nazis and, potentially, the Russian government. It can be viewed as a forerunner to the so-called Big Lie, wherein millions of Americans falsely came to believe that former President Trump won reelection in 2020 but liberal elites colluded to change the outcome.
Hatewatch published a detailed analysis of Twitter’s enabling of the far right on July 7. The analysis frequently references #Pizzagate due to the degree to which once-obscure extremists who pushed those lies went on to achieve fame on the website without ever facing consequences for their actions. Hard-right disinformation peddlers such as Jack Posobiec, Mike Cernovich and Cassandra Fairbanks, who hyped #Pizzagate on Twitter, also later used the site to push lies about the 2020 election in the runup to the violent insurrection attempt on the U.S. Capitol building on Jan. 6. Twitter has enabled these figures for years and even recommended to readers Posobiec’s misleading content about the trial of Derek Chauvin, despite the sensitivity around the trial and his connections to the white supremacist movement.
As Vox notes, “The right’s moral panic over “grooming” invokes age-old homophobia. “Groomer” accusations against liberals and the LGBTQ community are recycled Satanic Panic.” This is from last April.
A renewed moral panic, stoked by the far right and trickling into mainstream conservatism, has come on the heels of an abrupt shift in the fight for gay rights in America. Following the recent passage of Florida’s “Don’t Say Gay” law and a wave of other homophobic and transphobic legislation throughout the country, current right-wing rhetoric has focused on accusations of “grooming.” The term — which describes the actions an adult takes to make a child vulnerable to sexual abuse — is taking on a conspiracy-theory tone as conservatives use it to imply that the LGBTQ community, their allies, and liberals more generally are pedophiles or pedophile-enablers.
Attempting to reframe the controversial Florida law, Gov. Ron DeSantis’s press secretary Christina Pushaw described it as “the Anti-Grooming Bill” in early March, tweeting that if you’re against it, “you are probably a groomer or at least you don’t denounce the grooming of 4-8 year old children.” Those familiar with QAnon will recognize this bizarre leap in logic. Pushaw adopted language that QAnon conspiracy theory believers and the related #SaveTheChildren crusaders have used to imply that liberals are, if not pedophiles themselves, advocates of pedophilia.
This rhetoric has long existed among fringe conspiracy-theory-mongers and extremists, but Pushaw’s usage helped turn grooming into a mainstream conservative talking point.Fox News has run several segments devoted to pedophilia throughout March and April. During the same period, numerous Fox pundits began describing the behavior of parents and teachers who want to allow children to express their transgender identity as grooming; one Fox and Friends guest suggested children were “being ripened for grooming for sexual abuse by adults,” while America Reports guest Charlie Hurt said affirmative care for trans children “goes beyond just predatory grooming” into “psychological torture.”
Accusations of pedophilia were also a refrain during the March 2022 confirmation hearings for new Supreme Court Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson. After Sen. Josh Hawley (R-MO) falsely accused Jackson of giving child pornographers unusually lenient sentences and “soft” treatment, other conservatives, like Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA) and the Federalist’s Mollie Hemingway, ran with the idea that Jackson and anyone who supported her confirmation was supporting or sympathetic to pedophilia.
The result of this fear-mongering is grim: Vice reports that users of extremist right-wing websites like Patriot.win recently tried to publicize the address of a school superintendent who they claimed was “grooming” children. In March, the superintendent placed a school nurse on leave for allegedly making inappropriate statements on Facebook about a student who may have been receiving gender-affirming care.
Claiming the superintendent was “supporting leftist grooming in her schools” by implicitly protecting the welfare of a potentially trans student, one Patriot.win user wrote that she “needs to be executed by our judicial system.” Other users made violent references to hangings and gallows in response to various debates over trans identity. There’s concern that these online threats could lead to real-world physical violence; as Vice noted, many of the platforms pushing this current narrative are home to extremist communities, including some that were involved in planning the January 6, 2021, insurrection.
Framing homosexuality as a wicked specter and queer people as pedophiles is one of the oldest narratives in the homophobic playbook; proponents of the “Don’t Say Gay” bill and other recent anti-gay and anti-trans legal actions across the US have been all too happy to recycle it. Only now, due to the paranoiac tendency of the modern right wing, it’s also being expanded and applied to LGBTQ allies, to educators whose work gets caught in the cultural crossfire, and to liberals writ large.
One of the heroes of these freaks is Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, who has whistled every dog whistle and pushed every possible law to support these false accusations and narratives. It is Gas Lighting. And, it’s odd that whenever we get into the history of any of these folks, we find their policies and lack of action endanger children. Living, breathing, sentient, feeling, and vulnerable children suffer under Republican regimes.So, I’ve taken quite a bit to set this up. No, it’s not the usual pedophile Republican pol or judge caught in the act. It’s Ron DeSantis’ own government doing it. “Innocence Sold: Florida’s foster system provides dangerous sex traffickers with easy access to vulnerable children.” This article is behind a strict paywall, so I will try to share it with you as much as possible. It is also a part of the South Florida Sentinel’s podcast series “Felonius Florida.” It’s the story of 15-year-old Sophie Reeder, who walked out of her bedroom one night 5 1/2 years ago and never returned.
Somebody knows what happened to Sophie Reeder. But not the police. Not her parents. Not the private investigators who tried to find her.
Despite powerful evidence that she fell into the hands of a sex trafficker, the Fort Lauderdale Police Department’s handling of her case diminished the chance she’d ever be found.
Sophie’s case was part of the South Florida Sun Sentinel’s year-long investigation into child sex trafficking, a vile crime that is relatively easy to get away with in Florida.
Sophie wasn’t a runaway, or a foster child, or an abused daughter, like many girls who fall under a predator’s sway. She was a middle-class girl with two parents who loved her — parents who had the means to help. Friends and family saw red flags, but no one realized quite what they were seeing.
Her case shows that sex trafficking is common, hiding in plain sight.
In Sophie’s cell phone, police found messages she sent a friend, discussing prices charged for commercial sex acts.
“There are so many cases in our local community, and the average person has no clue,” said John Rode, a former South Florida cop who has searched for Sophie for five years. “If I ask 10 people, ‘What is human trafficking?,’ most are going to say it’s a container on a ship, and there’s 50 Haitian people packed into the container like the movies. Most of the cases are just young runaway girls that get mixed up with the wrong person and sooner or later they can’t get out or they can’t be found.”
Although most of their stories aren’t told, children are reported missing every day in Florida. Last year, 2,166 kids were reported missing in Florida, according to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children. All but 145 of them were found.
These children — runaways and other missing kids — are among the most vulnerable to sex trafficking, researchers have proven.
Their stories are eerily similar: a girl with low self-esteem meets an attentive older man. He may offer gifts, compliments, promises of a better life — or even love.
Sophie suffered from anxiety and depression. Many teens do. I was one of them.
It’s not just the institutions in governments like Ron Desantis that cause these inefficiencies. Their attitudes toward living, breathing children who are now subjected to school programs make them feel like outsiders. It also is a program that provides no solutions, no information, and no help. You’re on your own, kid.
And I will go there. This is from Salon. It’s also from last April, and I’m so sorry I missed reading all this then. It took Sophie’s story to get me to dig into it all. “So, Let’s Talk About Republicans and Sex Crimes. This seems like an appropriate moment.” Paging anyone that can prosecute Matt Gaetz! Floriduh pervert.
Because American politics are now just one, long, low-rent nightmare, Republican culture warriors have spent the past few weeks slandering their various enemies as being soft on pedophilia. For some time, this sort of raving was mostly confined to adherents of QAnon, the Trump-idolizing conspiracy cult that believes Democratic politicians and other elites are secretly operating a global child trafficking ring.
But a confluence of events has helped bring a version of it mainstream.
During the Supreme Court confirmation hearings of judge Ketanji Brown Jackson in March, Republican Senators Josh Hawley and Ted Cruz attempted to smear the nominee by inaccurately claiming that she had a record of handing out unusually light sentences in cases where defendants were accused of viewing child pornography. The issue descended deeper into absurdity after three moderate Republicans voted to confirm Jackson this week and Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene—the walking id of MAGA-America—tweeted about them, saying “Murkowski, Collins, and Romney are pro-pedophile.”
Meanwhile, defenders of Florida’s new “don’t say gay” law, which strictly limits public school teachers’ ability to discuss LGBTQ people and issues in the classroom, began referring to the legislation as an “anti-grooming” bill—evoking the deeply homophobic idea that an adult would only talk about these topics with a child in order to prime them for abuse. After Disney, one of Florida’s largest employers, called for the law to be repealed, conservative social media influencers and Fox News personalities like Laura Ingraham launched a wild crusade against the company accusing it too of being complicit in “grooming.”
This is all galling. But it’s especially rich considering that, of the two major parties, the GOP has many more notable and recent scandals involving the sexual abuse of minors and young students—as well as a recent track record of reacting to them with a shrug.
Let’s review some of that history …
In 2006, Florida Rep. Mark Foley was forced to resign after it was revealed that he’d sent sexually explicit messages and propositioned teenage congressional pages via email and text.
In 2015, former Rep. Dennis Hastert, the longest-ever serving Republican speaker of the House, pleaded guilty to making illegal hush-money payments in order to cover up his history of sexually abusing high school wrestlers he had coached decades before.
“Nothing is more stunning than having ‘serial child molester’ and ‘speaker of the House’ in the same sentence,” the judge said at his sentencing.
During and after the 2016 presidential race, among the dozens of women who accused former president Donald Trump of being a sexual predator were several contestants in the 1997 Miss Teen USA pageant, who reported that he barged into their dressing room while girls as young as 15 were changing. (Trump allegedly told them, “Don’t worry, ladies, I’ve seen it all before.”)
His campaign denied the accusation, but CNN unearthed a 2005 Howard Stern interview where Trump bragged about walking into backstage dressing rooms at the pageants he ran.
During the 2018 midterms, Alabama Senate candidate Roy Moore was accused of preying on girls as young as 14 and 16; the New Yorker reported that his habit of trying to pick up high schoolers was so notorious that it actually got him banned from a local mall.
Also in 2018, Rep. Jim Jordan, one of Trump’s fiercest allies and a co-founder of the hardline conservative Freedom Caucus, became embroiled in a scandal over his time as a wrestling coach at Ohio State University, where a team doctor named Richard Strauss, who committed suicide in 2005, was found to have sexually abused more than 177 male student athletes.
An investigation commissioned by the university found that Strauss regularly used examinations as an excuse to grope and fondle the students, sometimes to the point of ejaculation; often ordered them to strip nude unnecessarily; and in two cases, attempted to perform oral sex. Numerous former wrestlers told reporters that Jordan was personally aware of the abuse during the early 1990s but chose to turn a blind eye. The Congressman simply denied having any knowledge of it—and suggested at least one of the accusers claiming otherwise was acting on a personal vendetta against him.
And finally, Rep. Matt Gaetz of Florida is currently the subject of a literal sex-trafficking investigation, which is looking into whether he had sex with an underage 17-year-old girl, among other issues. (Greene is close with Gaetz, who denies the allegations, and has defended him.)
On Twitter, liberals have taken to rattling off this list of scandals—among others—in response to conservative accusations of grooming (in a somewhat apt turn of events, a former Republican National Committee staffer was sentenced for a child pornography conviction the same day Jackson was confirmed to the court).
Some have gone further, remarking that the GOP is particularly afflicted with a pedophilia problem. “Every accusation is a confession,” goes one popular refrain. (Some large social media accounts have been trying to make the phrase “pedocon” stick.)
So, the word gas lighting seems appropriate, don’t you think? There are many vulnerable populations in this country. Just think of our amazing backlog of testing rape kits! You can check the backlog in your own state at the link.
While the press fritters its print away on the psychosis of Elon Musk or the hapless pursuit to be Speaker of the House by Kevin, the pandemic continues. Women cannot get accessible and affordable reproductive healthcare. Voting Rights are being decimated. Folks are trying to vote in Georgia as we speak. We’ve got a few days past a mass shooting, and it goes out of the national consciousness that quickly. But, hey, that football game!
And the republican gaslighting and victim-blaming, and projection keep going on. Donald Trump meets with a White Supremacist, and Stephen Miller trots to the Capitol to speak to Kevin. Nobody presses a potential presidential candidate for the Republican Party on it. Lindsay Graham was omnipresent on the Sunday Talk shows at one time. Where is he now? Plus, why don’t they have a platform and a list of planned policies? We need a much more involved press to get to answers. I’m not sure if they just took Thanksgiving weekend off to watch football and eat turkey or what. But these things demand answers. And only a few regional newspapers with fewer reporters go after the stories about our community problems and solutions. The repeats of whatever on the new stations were maddening. Why all the time spent yammering on about clogged airports?
It’s more than just covering the bullets after they’ve torn through a nightclub, a second-grade classroom, or a place of worship. Why are our children so vulnerable? Why have we still not taken back the night? Who is following droughts all over the world? Check where big money goes, and you’ll find the answer. It goes from gun manufacturers to Republicans. It goes from Wall Street and Silicon Valley to Republicans. It goes from the Fossil Fuel Industry to Republicans. Everything old is new again.
What’s on your reading and blogging list today?
Lazy Caturday Reads: Trump Administration Gaslights As Coronavirus SpreadsPosted: March 7, 2020 Filed under: morning reads, U.S. Politics | Tags: Barry McCaffrey, CDC, Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations, coronavirus, coronavirus testing, Donald Trump, Gaslighting, Juan Andres, Moderna, Richard Hatchett, Robert Redfield, vaccine development, WHO 27 Comments
After Trump’s disgraceful performance at the CDC yesterday, along with the pathetic sicophancy of the CDC director Robert Redfield, I’m beginning to get really frightened about growing spread coronavirus here in the U.S. Please watch this video of Richard Hatchett, Chief Executive of the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations.
Now take a look at how the Trump administration is responding to the crisis. First, the CDC Director sucking up to the idiot in chief.
I know it’s hard to watch Trump, but please do watch these clips. He is getting more dangerous.
He is treating an epidemic like he did the Russia investigation–lying and covering up. He couldn’t care less how many people get sick and die; he just wants to keep the numbers down so he doesn’t look bad. He doesn’t seem to understand that this won’t work with a public health crisis.
This is quite literally insane, and yet the people around Trump are afraid to correct him or ask him to step back and let the experts handle the situation.
Retired General Barry McCaffrey doesn’t mince words.
Phillip Bump at The Washington Post: Which is Trump more worried about: Coronavirus numbers or coronavirus patients?
A comment President Trump made during his visit to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Friday brought into focus a unifying theory of his administration’s fumbling response to the growing spread of the coronavirus.
He was asked if passengers on a cruise ship anchored near San Francisco, some of whom have been exposed to the virus, should be brought ashore.
“From my standpoint, I want to rely on people. I have great experts, including our vice president who is working 24 hours a day on this stuff. They would like to have the people come off,” he said, wearing a baseball cap promoting his reelection campaign. “I’d rather have the people stay, but I’d go with them. I told them to make the final decision.”
“I would rather because I like the numbers being where they are,” Trump continued. “I don’t need to have the numbers double because of one ship that wasn’t our fault. And it wasn’t the fault of the people on the ship either, okay? It wasn’t their fault either and they’re mostly Americans. So, I can live either way with it. I’d rather have them stay on, personally.”
Trump can live with patients with coronavirus staying on a cruise ship with uninfected passengers. Whether those patients or future patients can live with that decision is entirely the point.
David Nakamura at The Washington Post: ‘Maybe I have a natural ability’: Trump plays medical expert on coronavirus by second-guessing the professionals.
President Trump likes to say that he fell into politics almost by accident, and on Friday, as he sought to calm a nation gripped with fears over coronavirus, he suggested he would have thrived in another profession — medical expert.
“I like this stuff. I really get it,” Trump boasted to reporters during a tour of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta, where he met with actual doctors and scientists who are feverishly scrambling to contain and combat the deadly illness. Citing a “great, super-genius uncle” who taught at MIT, Trump professed that it must run in the family genes.
“People are really surprised I understand this stuff,” he said. “Every one of these doctors said, ‘How do you know so much about this?’ Maybe I have a natural ability.” [….]
Sporting his trademark red 2020 campaign hat with the slogan “Keep America Great,” the president repeatedly second-guessed and waved off the actual medical professionals standing next to him. He attacked his Democratic rivals — including calling Washington Gov. Jay Inslee a “snake” for criticizing his response — and chided a CNN reporter for smiling and called her network “fake news.”
And he described coronavirus testing kits — which his administration has been criticized for being slow to distribute — as “beautiful” and said they were as “perfect” as his Ukraine phone call last summer that led him to be impeached.
Read the rest at the WaPo.
Trump appears very worried about the U.S. economy, but he thinks he knows better than the experts about that too. John Harwood at CNN: Trump waves off economists’ prescriptions for preventing US coronavirus slowdown.
President Donald Trump sent a message Friday to anyone expecting major economic aid to head off a coronavirus recession: Don’t hold your breath.
With financial markets reeling, some economists back direct bailouts for affected workers and businesses to prevent a contraction of the already-slowing American economy. But as he signed the $8.3-billion emergency coronavirus spending bill passed by Congress — more than triple the amount the White House had requested — Trump waved off the idea of a new fiscal stimulus to protect America’s record-breaking economic expansion, again calling on the Federal Reserve to use its monetary policy tools.
“The Fed should cut and the Fed should stimulate,” Trump told me before leaving the White House to tour tornado damage in Tennessee. And he evinced little concern about the chance of recession anytime soon, declaring, “I think we’re in great shape.”
The President’s characteristically upbeat assessment does not match the darkening mood among business analysts as the coronavirus crisis deepens in the US and around the world. Mark Zandi, an economist with Moody’s Analytics, now pegs the odds of recession this year at 50%.
Economic stimulus is going to be needed, but Trump thinks he knows better.
Offsetting the coronavirus threat would require a package in the range of $100 billion, Swonk says — comparable to what President George W. Bush and Congress enacted to combat the effects of Hurricane Katrina. Jason Furman, President Barack Obama’s former top economic adviser, has called for a $350 billion stimulus that would send $1,000 to every taxpaying US resident and $500 to each of their children.
Yet comments by Trump and his top economic aide made clear the White House does not currently back anything close to that scale.
“We’re not looking at these massive, federal, throw-money-at-people plans,” National Economic Council director Larry Kudlow told reporters. “We are looking at timely and targeted (efforts) where we can do the most good.”
With airlines already suffering from canceled flights, Kudlow cited “micro forms of assistance” that could help sectors including transportation, manufacturing, farming and small businesses. He offered no details.
What we need most of all is widespread testing, but the Trump administration doesn’t seem interested in letting that happen. It looks like they are just going to try to keep gaslighting us.
The New York Times: With Test Kits in Short Supply, Health Officials Sound Alarms.
President Trump claimed again on Friday that anyone who needed a coronavirus test “gets a test.” But from Washington State to Florida to New York, doctors and patients are clamoring for tests that they say are in woefully short supply, and their frustration is mounting alongside the growing number of cases around the country.
In California, where thousands are being monitored for the virus, only 516 tests had been conducted by the state as of Thursday. Washington health officials have more cases than they can currently process. And in New York, where cases have quadrupled this week, a New York City official pleaded for more test kits from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
“The slow federal action on this matter has impeded our ability to beat back this epidemic,” the official said in a letter Friday.
More than 300 cases have been confirmed, at least 17 have died, and thousands are in self-quarantine. Public health officials are warning that no one knows how deeply the virus will spread, in part because the federal government’s flawed rollout of tests three weeks ago has snowballed into an embarrassing fiasco of national proportions.
The latest two deaths were announced late Friday night in Florida, marking the first time fatal cases were not on the West Coast.
In the last week, Mr. Trump and his top officials repeatedly promised that 1 million to 1.5 million tests would be sent around the country, even though labs — government and private ones alike — have struggled to get the tests running amid a growing number of infections and rising demand for tests. Despite an order Wednesday by the C.D.C. to greatly expand criteria for who can be tested, many hospitals and state health authorities continued to limit tests to those at the highest risk for infection, adding to the confusion and frustration, especially in hot spots like California and Washington.
Politico: How testing failures allowed coronavirus to sweep the U.S.
On Saturday Jan. 11 — a month and a half before the first Covid-19 case not linked to travel was diagnosed in the United States — Chinese scientists posted the genome of the mysterious new virus, and within a week virologists in Berlin had produced the first diagnostic test for the disease.
Soon after, researchers in other nations rolled out their own tests, too, sometimes with different genetic targets. By the end of February, the World Health Organization had shipped tests to nearly 60 countries.
The United States was not among them.
Why the United States declined to use the WHO test, even temporarily as a bridge until the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention could produce its own test, remains a perplexing question and the key to the Trump administration’s failure to provide enough tests to identify the coronavirus infections before they could be passed on, according to POLITICO interviews with dozens of viral-disease experts, former officials and some officials within the administration’s health agencies.
The slowness of the testing regimen — which, administration officials acknowledged this week, is still not producing enough tests to meet the national demand — was the first, and most sweeping, of many failures. So far there have been confirmed cases in at least 23 states, and at least 15 deaths, while the stock market plunged and an otherwise healthy economy braced for a major disruption.
But neither the CDC nor the coronavirus task force chaired by Vice President Mike Pence would say who made the decision to forgo the WHO test and instead begin a protracted process of producing an American test, one that got delayed by manufacturing problems, possible lab contamination and logistical delays.
I’ll end with this long piece at the Financial Times on the efforts to develop a coronavirus vaccine: Coronavirus and the $2bn race to find a vaccine.
Juan Andres woke up three times during the night after putting his precious vials of vaccine on the back of a delivery lorry. In late February, Moderna, a biotech group based outside Boston, smashed the record for the fastest time between identifying a virus — in this case Covid-19 coronavirus — and creating a vaccine ready to test in humans: just 42 days.
In the lab, the team had been excited but in the early hours Mr Andres, a 30-year pharma veteran in charge of manufacturing, was nervously checking his phone to track the lorry carrying the potential vaccine to a discreet location. There the US National Institutes of Health would start the trial to test whether it works.
“The pride comes from this [being] a race,” he says. “Doing this as fast as possible is something that is a duty.” Once they were sure the vaccine had arrived safely, the team celebrated with ice cream. At least 100 Moderna staff worked on the project but Mr Andres says everyone is excited to be involved, even people’s families. “I can’t remember the last time my 15-year-old thought I did something cool,” he laughs.
Moderna is one of more than 20 companies and public sector organisations worldwide racing to develop a vaccine against Covid-19, which in little more than two months has exploded from a few people suffering from respiratory disease in the Chinese city of Wuhan to a near-pandemic with 95,000 cases and 3,300 deaths worldwide so far….
The Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations [see the first video in this post] — a partnership of governments, industry and charities, created three years ago to fight emerging diseases that threaten global health — is already sponsoring four Covid-19 vaccine projects, including Moderna’s. It is also on the point of signing contracts for four more, says Richard Hatchett, CEPI chief executive. He estimates that developing Covid-19 vaccines at the speed required will cost about $2bn over the next 12-18 months.
Moderna is off to the fastest start, Dr Hatchett believes, but several others are close behind. “We received 48 applications from all over the world following our call for proposals in February,” he adds. “There is a real sense of urgency . . . because the threat we are facing is unprecedented in the last 100 years in terms of its speed and potential severity,” he says, referring to the 1918 Spanish flu pandemic.
That’s it for me. Sorry I’m so obsessed with coronavirus. Feel free to discuss any other topic in the comments! This is an open thread.
Tuesday Reads: Toni Morrison, Trump’s Gaslighting, and Other NewsPosted: August 6, 2019 Filed under: Barack Obama, morning reads, U.S. Politics | Tags: Donald Trump, Gaslighting, George W. Bush, Google, hypocrisy, Racism, Toni Morrison, white supremacist terrorism, xenophobia 22 Comments
The news just broke that Toni Morrison has died. I’m sorry to say that I haven’t read her work; maybe now would be a good time to start. The Washington Post: Toni Morrison, Nobel laureate who transfigured American literature, dies at 88.
Toni Morrison, the Nobel Prize-winning novelist who conjured a black girl longing for blue eyes, a slave mother who kills her child to save her from bondage, and other indelible characters who helped transfigure a literary canon long closed to African Americans, died Aug. 5 at a hospital in the Bronx. She was 88….
Ms. Morrison spent an impoverished childhood in Ohio steel country, began writing during what she described as stolen time as a single mother, and became the first black woman to receive the Nobel Prize in literature. Critically acclaimed and widely loved, she received recognitions as diverse as the Pulitzer Prize and the selection of her novels — four of them — for the book club led by talk-show host Oprah Winfrey.
Ms. Morrison placed African Americans, particularly women, at the heart of her writing at a time when they were largely relegated to the margins both in literature and in life. With language celebrated for its lyricism, she was credited with conveying as powerfully, or more than perhaps any novelist before her, the nature of black life in America, from slavery to the inequality that went on more than a century after it ended.
Morrison begins the essay, published in 2015 in the 150th anniversary edition of The Nation, by recalling her despairing thoughts after George W. Bush was reelected in 2004. Was she foreshadowing our future under Trump?
Dictators and tyrants routinely begin their reigns and sustain their power with the deliberate and calculated destruction of art: the censorship and book-burning of unpoliced prose, the harassment and detention of painters, journalists, poets, playwrights, novelists, essayists. This is the first step of a despot whose instinctive acts of malevolence are not simply mindless or evil; they are also perceptive. Such despots know very well that their strategy of repression will allow the real tools of oppressive power to flourish. Their plan is simple:
1. Select a useful enemy—an “Other”—to convert rage into conflict, even war.
2. Limit or erase the imagination that art provides, as well as the critical thinking of scholars and journalists.
3. Distract with toys, dreams of loot, and themes of superior religion or defiant national pride that enshrine past hurts and humiliations.
The Nation could never have existed or flourished in 1940s Spain, or 2014 Syria, or apartheid South Africa, or 1930s Germany. And the reason is clear. It was born in the United States in 1865, the year of Lincoln’s assassination, when political division was stark and lethal—during, as my friend said, times of dread. But no prince or king or dictator could interfere successfully or forever in a country that seriously prized freedom of the press. This is not to say there weren’t elements that tried censure, but they could not, over the long haul, win.
In these demoralizing days and nights in Trump world, we need artists and journalists so much more than in Bush’s awful presidency.
We are still feeling the aftershocks of the latest mass shootings in California, Texas, and Ohio. Yesterday Trump was forced to read someone else’s words from a teleprompter; it didn’t take long for him to go back to tweeting his resentments. We all knew he was gaslighting us. Nothing he could ever say or do will erase the damage he has done with the ugly racism, xenophobia, and hatred he has spewed since he announced his campaign for president in 2015. He words and deeds have enabled white supremacists and encouraged them to act out violently.
Politico: Trump attacks Obama for statement on shootings.
President Donald Trump on Tuesday attacked former President Barack Obama over the latter’s statement on the weekend’s mass shootings in Texas and Ohio, tweeting edited quotes from Fox News hosts to make his point and again claiming he is “the least racist person” in the world.
“‘Did George Bush ever condemn President Obama after Sandy Hook. President Obama had 32 mass shootings during his reign. Not many people said Obama is out of Control,’” Trump wrote online. “’Mass shootings were happening before the President even thought about running for Pres.’ @kilmeade @foxandfriends”
Trump’s message was a distillation of a sentiment “Fox & Friends” co-host Brian Kilmeade expressed on air shortly after 6 a.m. Tuesday morning. The president followed up that tweet with another post paraphrasing a comment from Kilmeade’s morning show colleague, Ainsley Earhardt.
“‘It’s political season and the election is around the corner. They want to continue to push that racist narrative.’ @ainsleyearhardt @foxandfriends,” Trump continued. “And I am the least racist person. Black, Hispanic and Asian Unemployment is the lowest (BEST) in the history of the United States!”
Obama on Monday afternoon lamented the violence that transpired Saturday morning in El Paso, Texas, and early Sunday morning in Dayton, Ohio, which left at least 31 people dead and injured dozens more.
In his statement, Obama called on Americans to “soundly reject language coming out of the mouths of any of our leaders that feeds a climate of fear and hatred or normalizes racist sentiments.” The former president did not mention Trump, or any other politician, by name.
Obama simply did what Trump could not and would not do: act like a president.
Gizmodo: Trump Boosts Fired Google Engineer Who Proposed Richard Spencer Fundraiser, Suggested Skinheads Rebrand.
On Monday morning, President Donald Trump finally took the time to issue a (hollow and thoroughly unconvincing) denunciation of white supremacy in the wake of mass shootings in Dayton, Ohio and El Paso, Texas over the weekend that collectively resulted in at least 31 deaths and scores of injuries—in the latter case involving a gunman whose manifesto clearly reflected Trump’s racist immigration rhetoric and reportedly targeted Hispanics.
Of course, it never takes long for him to return to his usual bullshit. So it’s the opposite of surprising that by Monday evening, Trump was posting clips from a Fox News interview with a former Google engineer who claimed the company discriminated against him for his conservative political views. In reality, said employee had reportedly urged other Googlers to contribute to a “bounty” to find an individual who punched white supremacist Richard Spencer, as well as suggested that the Golden State Skinheads (GSS) rebrand so as to provide better “branding” for the “American nationalist Right.”
In the clip from Lou Dobbs Tonight posted to the president’s feed at 9:33 p.m. ET, former Google engineer Kevin Cernekee parroted debunked claims that the company’s executives “want to use all the power and all the resources that they have to control the flow of information to the public and make sure that Trump loses in 2020.” This dovetails nicely with Trump’s grudge against Google, which along with all of the president’s other perceived political enemies, he has targeted with baseless smears and doctored videos asserting a devious conspiracy against him.
While many news outlets were reporting on the stunning hypocrisy of Trump’s speech on the mass shootings, The New York Times chose to take Trump’s words at face value with a headline that was quickly attacked on Twitter.
The Washington Post: ‘The headline was bad’: New York Times amends front page on Trump’s response to mass shootings after backlash.
The New York Times weathered intense backlash Monday night for its front-page headline about President Trump’s response to the pair of mass shootings that read: “TRUMP URGES UNITY VS. RACISM.”
A preview of Tuesday’s front page shared to social media sparked instant criticism from members of the public, journalists and politicians, including several 2020 Democratic presidential candidates, many of whom took issue with how the publication framed Trump’s comments on the weekend attacks in El Paso and Dayton, Ohio, that left at least 31 people dead and dozens injured. In the aftermath of the tragedies, major media outlets have faced scrutiny from all sides over how they confront Trump and his often inflammatory rhetoric.
About an hour after the headline went viral, the Times announced it had amended its wording.
“The headline was bad and has been changed for the second edition,” a spokesperson for the Times told The Washington Post in an email.
Later editions of the print paper feature the words, “ASSAILING HATE BUT NOT GUNS.” Subheads above the two stories about Trump’s speech were also changed.
It’s the new “but her emails.” It’s time for executive editor Dean Baquet to resign.
The Washington Post story was more in line with reality: Teleprompter Trump meets Twitter Trump as the president responds to mass slayings.
Teleprompter Trump repudiated Twitter Trump in the Diplomatic Reception Room of the White House on Monday.
Speaking in the wake of two mass shootings in less than 24 hours that left at least 31 dead over the weekend, President Trump spoke of “the inherent worth and dignity of every human life” and the scourge of “destructive partisanship.”
“In one voice, our nation must condemn racism, bigotry, and white supremacy,” the president said, reading from a script that scrolled on a teleprompter in front of him. He added, “Now is the time to set destructive partisanship aside — so destructive — and find the courage to answer hatred with unity, devotion and love.”
That unifying message stood in stark contrast tomore than 2½ years of name-calling, demonizing minorities and inflaming racial animus, much of it carried out on Twitter. Just two hours before his White House speech, Trump tweeted an attack on the “Fake News” media for contributing to a culture of “anger and rage.” And in another set of tweets, the president suggested pairing “strong background checks” with “desperately needed immigration reform” — then dropped the matter entirely during his speech.
Such is the picture of a divisive leader trying to act as a healer, particularly in the aftermath of Saturday’s anti-immigrant attack in El Paso, where officials are still investigating but believe the alleged gunman posted a manifesto that echoed Trump’s harsh rhetoric on immigrants, including describing his attack as “a response to the Hispanic invasion of Texas.” Trump, in tweets and in rallies, has repeatedly decried the “invasion” of undocumented immigrants across the nation’s southern border.
More stories to check out:
Max Fisher at The New York Times: White Terrorism Shows ‘Stunning’ Parallels to Islamic State’s Rise.
Ali Soufan at The New York Times: I Spent 25 Years Fighting Jihadis. White Supremacists Aren’t So Different.
The Daily Beast: DHS Official: Trump Can’t Admit ‘This Is Terrorism.’
Los Angeles Times: Foreign countries are warning their citizens about U.S. travel after mass shootings.
Los Angeles Times: Trump officials have redirected resources from countering far-right, racism-fueled domestic terrorism.
USA Today: Hypocritical talk, worse action: Trump dismantled tools to fight white supremacist terrorism.
The Dallas News: Donald Trump, who’s going to El Paso this week, owes city more than $500K for his February rally.
The Texas Tribune: A racist manifesto and a shooter terrorize Hispanics in El Paso and beyond.
The Texas Tribune: Running while brown: How Julián Castro is navigating white presidential politics.
The Washington Post: Ex-girlfriend says Dayton shooter heard voices, talked about ‘dark, evil things.
Monday Reads: Gas Lit NationPosted: July 30, 2018 Filed under: Afternoon Reads | Tags: Gaslighting, Rudy Giuliani 12 Comments
Good Afternoon Sky Dancers!
Do you remember the good old’ days of last year when the likes of White House Mommy advanced the concept of ‘alternative facts’ and Sean Spicer announced “This was the largest audience to ever witness an inauguration period!” ?
Well, Gas Lighting never goes out of style in Drumpflandia. Rudy Giuliani has picked up where not even the Huckabeast dares go. And of course the Alt Facts Team at Faux News explored each conspiracy is with zest this morning with him. The bigger zesty bang came later on CNN. This is just psychologically exhausting. When will it end?
Zesty Rudy! Atta Boy!
It’s really hard to explain exactly how much Rudy just told us collusion doesn’t matter, isn’t a crime or whatever because you know, D’oh Hair Furor can’t even use a computer let alone hack one. This is pretty fresh off the keyboard of Aaron Blake of WAPO.
President Trump’s defense in the Russia investigation has been a study in goal-post moving — constantly watering down previous denials and raising the standard for what would constitute actual wrongdoing.
But rarely has it been so concentrated in one morning.
Trump’s lawyer/spokesman Rudolph W. Giuliani appeared on Fox News’s and CNN’s morning shows on Monday to downplay the idea that colluding with the Russians would have even been illegal and to argue against strawmen.
The most notable portion of the interviews was when Giuliani rekindled the idea that collusion isn’t even a crime. Trump’s defenders have occasionally noted that the word doesn’t appear in the criminal code — which is a misnomer — but Giuliani took it a step further: He basically suggested Trump would have had to pay for Russia to interfere on his behalf.
“I don’t even know if that’s a crime — colluding with Russians,” Giuliani said on CNN. “Hacking is the crime. The president didn’t hack. He didn’t pay for the hacking.”
So let’s just look at this for what it is.
Rudy Giuliani made two TV appearances this morning, one on Fox and one on CNN. Both are pretty convoluted and a bit hard to follow. So they’ve led to various interpretations. But there’s what I believe is one pretty big admission that is at least very new to me and I think a pretty big problem for Trump and Giuliani.
As I’ve mentioned a few times before, one of the oddities of Giuliani’s rolling defense of Trump in response to Cohen’s accusations is this: Giuliani says that the meeting where Trump allegedly learned about the Russia meeting never happened and he (Giuliani) has talked to the participants and they agree it never happened and Trump didn’t attend the meeting or know about the Russian offer. Now, there’s sort of a problem here. Cohen never said just what meeting he was referring to. And how can you be a witness to a meeting that never happened about what was said in that meeting?
This makes no sense. But from the start, I’ve had the sense that Giuliani does know specifically what Cohen is talking about but is denying the specifics.
Now let’s get to what Giuliani said this morning. In a back and forth with CNN’s Alisyn Carmerota, he appears to say that two days before the meeting with the Russian lawyer there was a planning meeting to prepare for that meeting. This prep meeting would have been on June 7th, 2016. Giuliani says that meeting included Don Jr., Jared Kushner, Manafort, Rick Gates and others.
Now, I’ve had some off the grid moments in the last ten days. But I don’t think I’d ever heard of this planning meeting. If nothing else, it suggests that the Trump team took the planned encounter with the Russian government emissary much more seriously than they’ve suggested to date. And then there’s Rick Gates, Manafort’s deputy. As we know, Gates is now a cooperating witness. Big problem for the Trump Team, if he was at such a planning meeting.
Giuliani’s key aim throughout is to insist that Trump was not in that meeting. He seems to allow that Cohen was in the meeting, just that Cohen’s lying about Trump’s presence. But that point (Cohen’s presence) is less clear to me. Again, watch the video.
I’m getting tired of the obvious gaslighting and I’m not alone. Betsy Kaplan explores this for WNPR. Listen to the interview with Stephanie Sarkis whose book on gaslighting is due for release in October.
… it’s hard for people to cast informed ballots if President Trump is overtly and boldly lying without fear of repercussion. Some say he’s trying to gaslight us into believing the reality he wants more than the one that exists.
We saw it this weekend when New York Times Publisher A.G. Sulzberger felt the need to correct the record after President Trump tweeted an inaccurate version of what was said in their off-the-record meeting.
Last week, President Trump asked people at a rally in Kansas City, MO to “…stick with us. Don’t believe the crap you see from these people, the fake news.” He went on to say “what you’re seeing and what you’re reading is not what’s happening.”
An Op Ed at Teen Vogue explains the technique of gaslighting and argues that we should care about what’s happening to us. Here’s the term applied by Lauren Duca on what we’re being told on the Seperation of Familes policy.
Gaslighting is a tactic of psychological abuse in which the victim is made to doubt their own sanity, only here the abuser is the White House, and the victim is the American people. The Trump administration is sending up so many conflicting versions of reality that they make us doubt what is and is not real. The past week alone has provided one of the most gruesome examples of this, as it seeks to confuse and distract us from the plight of about 2,300 immigrant children separated from their families with no plan for being reunited. Those children are being held in detention centers, or flown across the country, with no guarantee that they will ever see their parents again. On Thursday, Trump signed an executive order which he claimed would end family separation; it does so only in name. The so-called “zero-tolerance” policy will still be enforced, but now the Trump administration plans to hold families in detention centers together and indefinitely. They have made no statement on efforts for reuniting the families who have already been torn apart — but it doesn’t look like it will be happening anytime soon.
Tina Nguyen at Vanity Fare argues that Trump is gaslighting his staff on Russia.
This sort of opacity toward the press isn’t unusual for the Trump administration, nor is the internal, in-the-dark scramble exactly a novelty—Trump caught his entire communications staff off guard in March, when he almost unilaterally agreed to meet with North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un. The more worrisome possibility is that the president, who has consistently and deliberately lied to the American public regarding Russia, is beginning to employ the same tactics with his own staff. A New York Timesreport published Wednesday reveals the extent of Trump’s obfuscation; per the Times, two weeks before his inauguration, Trump was presented with overwhelming evidence by former C.I.A. director John Brennan, former director of national intelligence James Clapper, and former F.B.I. director James Comey, among others, that Russia had meddled in the presidential election, and that Putin himself had very likely ordered the attack. This evidence reportedly included texts, e-mails, and intel from a source close to Putin, as well as the contents of the controversial Steele dossier. According to those present for the briefing, Trump seemed “grudgingly convinced” of its veracity.
Of course, even if Trump was convinced, he’s shown no sign of it. Moreover, he’s repeatedly trashed the very people who briefed him that day, firing Comey months later, and criticizing Clapper and Brennan. He kept up the tirade as recently as Wednesday night, telling CBS’s Jeff Glor, “Certainly I can’t have any confidence in the past . . . I have no confidence in a guy like Brennan. I think he’s a total lowlife. I have no confidence in Clapper. You know, Clapper wrote me a beautiful letter when I first went to office, and it was really nice. And then, all of a sudden, he’s gone haywire because they got to him and they probably got him to say things that maybe he doesn’t even mean.” He continued, “But no, I certainly don’t have confidence in past people. You look at what’s happened. Take a look at all of the shenanigans that have gone on. Very hard to have confidence in that group.”
Trump also told Glor that in his meeting with Putin, he was “very strong on the fact that we can’t have meddling . . . I let him know we can’t have this, we’re not going to have it, and that’s the way it’s going to be.” Whether or not—and to what extent—he was telling the truth, of course, is impossible to divine.
Now, we’re getting it on the economy. “Team Trump touts GDP growth with gaslighting and brazen lies.” This is from Think Progress’ Aaron Rupar.
President Trump on Friday morning held a press event that amounted to a victory lap for the Gross Domestic Product growing by 4.1 percent in the second quarter of this year.
Trump gave himself all the credit for economic growth, while discrediting the record of his predecessor, Barack Obama.
“We have accomplished an economic turnaround of historic proportions,” Trump said. “Once again we are the economic envy of the entire world.”
Trump went on to tout jobs numbers in particular.
“We have added 3.7 million new jobs since the election,” Trump said. “A number that is unthinkable if you go back to the campaign. Nobody would have said it. Nobody would have even in an optimistic way projected it.”Trump was fibbing. Though he claimed to have “added 3.7 million new jobs since the election,” 3.2 millions jobs have been created since his inauguration.And it is simply not the case that Trump’s jobs record would have been “unthinkable” during the campaign. In fact, Obama’s jobs record during the final 17 months of his administration — a period of time encompassing Trump’s campaign — outperformed Trump’s during his first 17 months.
While Trump attempted to gaslight people, his eldest son touted the GDP number with a brazen lie.
“Incredible numbers,” Donald Trump Jr. tweeted. “I remember when ‘the experts’ laughed about breaking 3%. Just because Obama never broke 2% doesn’t mean that someone with great policies can’t. Let’s keep this going.”
What exactly does it mean when an entire Administration provides “alternative facts” and bobs and weaves to keep up with a continual series of lies and exaggerations?
Now for another random event which happened yesterday. The White House has said that it will no longer provide information about when the president holds conversations with foreign leaders, as it has always done hitherto.
The accounts of the chats may have been anodyne and terse, but they were a useful tool to keep track of foreign policy priorities. And it was always useful to compare and contrast what, say, the Kremlin would have to say about the conversation compared to the White House. Now we will no longer be able to do that.
And so to the final thing. Donald Trump was speaking at a rally in Kansas City. And he came out with a memorable phrase that sounded as though it had been lifted straight from George Orwell’s dystopian novel, 1984. He said: “Just remember, what you are seeing and what you are reading is not what’s happening.”
Or it is. There is just a concerted – and sometimes it would seem – systematic effort to make you think otherwise.
Forget alternative facts. This is rewriting history.
Maybe Stephen Colbert says it best.
“I’m so happy to be with you, you not crazy people,” Stephen Colbert said in his Late Show monologue Tuesday night. “Because you’ve got to remember that you’re not crazy, no matter what Donald Trump says.”
After playing the clip of Trump’s remark, the host feigned relief. “Oh good,” he said. “I was worried, because what I’m seeing and reading is that the president is a racist, horny old burger-goblin who literally steals children from poor people.”
“Oh, I’m being told he’s lying,” Colbert added, “which makes sense, because that’s another one of the things I’m seeing and reading.”
“Every day, just like that, Donald Trump gets a little more brazen,” the host continued, pointing to the announcement that the president wants to revoke the security clearances of several former Obama administration intelligence officials who have criticized him.
“Now, I don’t know if we’ve arrived at dictatorship,” Colbert said. “But we’ve definitely made it to dick.”
Meanwhile, I’m exhausted from all of this. It’s tiring to be continually told stuff that you know is not true and then watch the media go over it and over it. I need a Drumpfcation. I’m not sure if that means he goes some where and there’s a press black out for a week or so or I stay home and watch 1984 over and over and over …
I’m sure it’s not going to get any better when we start getting stuff coming out of the Manafort Trial. Buckle up Sky Dancers! It’s going to be a bumpy ride! Oops! Wrong movie reference! Or is it?
What’s on your reading and blogging list today?