Posted: July 25, 2020 | Author: bostonboomer | Filed under: Afternoon Reads, U.S. Politics | Tags: Adolf Hitler, American Catastrophe, authoritarianism, cognitive test, coronavirus pandemic, Donald Trump, Law and Order, Portland OR, profiting from coronavirus, Reichstag fire, Sarah Cooper |
Stressed out cat
The images in today’s post are from Art Pro Cats at Tumblr.com.
I know I shouldn’t be distracted by Trump’s insistent bragging about his cognitive ability, but I just can’t help it. Humor is one of the only ways I can stay sane these days. In my last post, which I mistakenly titled “Tuesday Reads,” I posted a video of Trump describing how well he did on the “test” (it’s not really a test). I don’t know if you watched it, but it’s truly bizarre how messed up this man is and how hard the Fox News interviewer works to hide his incredulity. Here’s Sarah Cooper’s take on it:
Yes, this is a distraction from Trump’s attempt to install an authoritarian dictatorship in the U.S., and his failure to protect us from the coronavirus pandemic, but I think I’m still “cognitively there” enough to both question his mental health and keep up with his authoritarian activities and his bumbling on the virus response. And shouldn’t journalists also be dealing with all of these issues? Susan Glasser at The New Yorker:
The fact that Trump is so manifestly, obviously unfit for office may be one of the most striking aspects of his Presidency, but it is one of the hardest things for journalists to write about—or would be, except that he himself keeps bringing it up. That Trump even took the cognitive test suggests that he, or his doctor, was concerned about his mental decline, as the neurologist who created it, Dr. Ziad Nasreddine, told the Washington Post this week. It’s hard to imagine a candidate in full command of his faculties who would make a point of publicly inviting comment on his mental capacity to do the job. Trump, meanwhile, is doing so in the midst of a campaign that he is already losing, at a time when polls show that a majority of voters do not think he has the “mental sharpness” to be President, as a recent ABC News/Washington Post survey put it. (It is notable in and of itself that the pollsters are even asking this question, which is hardly a routine query. Can you imagine a survey asking voters this question about Barack Obama and Mitt Romney? Or Bill Clinton or Al Gore or the George Bushes?)
Trump’s niece, Mary Trump, is out with a best-selling new book, which claims that, in addition to whatever age-related impairment he may be suffering from, the President has an undiagnosed learning disability that hampers his processing and absorption of information—another elephant in the room that is impossible to ignore when Trump visibly struggles to read written remarks, as he did several times this week. “I don’t think he’s fit for office,” Trump’s former national-security adviser, John Bolton, said while on book tour last month. “I don’t think he has the competence to carry out the job.”
Beyond these ever-harder-to-ignore questions about Trump’s basic fitness to handle the complexities of the Presidency, there is an entire public debate over his mental health. A preening narcissist in the best of times, Trump’s lifelong self-absorption, lack of empathy, chronic untruthfulness, and apparent inability to distinguish right from wrong have led hundreds of psychiatrists to break with their profession’s rule against diagnosis without examination and call Trump mentally ill.
More about Trump’s obsession with proving he’s not cognitively impaired from Jonathan Lemire at the Associated Press: Cognitive Test. Trump. Biden. Campaign. Flashpoint.
It doesn’t quite have the ring of “Morning in America” and “I Like Ike.”
But the phrase “Person. Woman. Man. Camera. TV.” is getting an unlikely moment in the spotlight as President Donald Trump has taken a detour into the politics of dementia three months before the election.
Trump, 74, attempted to demonstrate his mental fitness by reciting five words — in order, importantly — over and over in a television interview broadcast Wednesday night. The president said that collection of nouns, or ones like them, was part of a cognitive test he had aced while declaring that his likely Democratic opponent, 77-year-old Joe Biden, could not do the same.
Lemire talked to an expert about the test that Trump supposedly “aced.”:
Painting by David Martiashvili
The MoCa “is a screening test,” Galvin said. “It’s not a diagnostic test. And more importantly, it’s not an IQ test. It doesn’t tell how smart someone is. It’s designed to be a relatively easy test because what you want to do is pick up people who have problems or possible problems.”
The last questions are not the hardest for most people, and they are usually naming the day of the week, date, month, year and where the person being tested is, Galvin said. The test does not get harder as it goes along but measures different parts of cognition, like memory, attention, spatial awareness and language. Additionally, the words the president cited would not be grouped together because they are all in some way related to one another, he said.
And the real concern would be if a subject did not do well on the test.
“I think he’s thinking of it like some sort of IQ test or SAT test, something along those lines. But it’s not anything like that. It’s just basic,” said Dr. Raymond Turner, professor of neurology and director of Georgetown University’s Memory Disorders Program. “It’s kind of a low bar to jump over. It’s not necessarily something to brag about unless you are worried about decline or something.”
I don’t know about you, but I think having a “president” who acts like a confused child is a serious issue and I’m glad journalists are finally writing about it. Anyway, on to other news.
Here’s the latest on the pandemic from Reuters: U.S. records 2,600 new coronavirus cases every hour as total surpasses 4 million.
U.S. coronavirus cases topped 4 million on Thursday, with over 2,600 new cases every hour on average, the highest rate in the world, according to a Reuters tally.
Infections in the United States have rapidly accelerated since the first case was detected on Jan. 21. It took the country 98 days to reach 1 million cases. It took another 43 days to reach 2 million and then 27 days to reach 3 million. It has only taken 16 days to reach 4 million at a rate of 43 new cases a minute….
Of the 20 countries with the biggest outbreak, the United States ranks second for cases per capita, at 120 infections per 10,000 people, only exceeded by Chile.
With over 143,000 deaths, or 4.4 fatalities per 10,000 people, the United States ranks sixth globally for the highest deaths per capita. It is exceeded by the United Kingdom, Spain, Italy, Chile and France.
Globally, the rate of new infections shows no sign of slowing, with the disease accelerating the fastest in the United States and South America, according to the Reuters tally, based on official reports.
It’s breathtaking, and Trump is responsible for all this sickness and death. It didn’t have to be this way.
Meanwhile, the rich are getting richer on the backs of sick and dying Americans. The New York Times: Corporate Insiders Pocket $1 Billion in Rush for Coronavirus Vaccine.
On June 26, a small South San Francisco company called Vaxart made a surprise announcement: A coronavirus vaccine it was working on had been selected by the U.S. government to be part of Operation Warp Speed, the flagship federal initiative to quickly develop drugs to combat Covid-19.
Vaxart’s shares soared. Company insiders, who weeks earlier had received stock options worth a few million dollars, saw the value of those awards increase sixfold. And a hedge fund that partly controlled the company walked away with more than $200 million in instant profits.
The race is on to develop a coronavirus vaccine, and some companies and investors are betting that the winners stand to earn vast profits from selling hundreds of millions — or even billions — of doses to a desperate public.
“Hello” Acrylic painting on Canvas by Victoria Coleman
Across the pharmaceutical and medical industries, senior executives and board members are capitalizing on that dynamic.
They are making millions of dollars after announcing positive developments, including support from the government, in their efforts to fight Covid-19. After such announcements, insiders from at least 11 companies — most of them smaller firms whose fortunes often hinge on the success or failure of a single drug — have sold shares worth well over $1 billion since March, according to figures compiled for The New York Times by Equilar, a data provider.
In some cases, company insiders are profiting from regularly scheduled compensation or automatic stock trades. But in other situations, senior officials appear to be pouncing on opportunities to cash out while their stock prices are sky high. And some companies have awarded stock options to executives shortly before market-moving announcements about their vaccine progress.
Read more at the NYT link.
The battle between Federal agents and protesters continues in Portland. The New York Times: Federal Agents Push Into Portland Streets, Stretching Limits of Their Authority.
PORTLAND, Ore. — After flooding the streets around the federal courthouse in Portland with tear gas during Friday’s early morning hours, dozens of federal officers in camouflage and tactical gear stood in formation around the front of the building.
Then, as one protester blared a soundtrack of “The Imperial March,” the officers started advancing. Through the acrid haze, they continued to fire flash grenades and welt-inducing marble-size balls filled with caustic chemicals. They moved down Main Street and continued up the hill, where one of the agents announced over a loudspeaker: “This is an unlawful assembly.”
By the time the security forces halted their advance, the federal courthouse they had been sent to protect was out of sight — two blocks behind them.
The aggressive incursion of federal officers into Portland has been stretching the legal limits of federal law enforcement, as agents with batons and riot gear range deep into the streets of a city whose leadership has made it clear they are not welcome.
“I think it’s absolutely improper,” Oregon’s attorney general, Ellen Rosenblum, said in an interview on Friday. “It’s absolutely beyond their authority.”
The state lost its bid on Friday for a restraining order against four federal agencies on the grounds that the state attorney general lacked standing, but several other challenges are still making their way through the courts.
I’ll end with this sobering piece from opinion columnist Roger Cohen at The New York Times: American Catastrophe Through German Eyes.
PARIS — No people has found the American lurch toward authoritarianism under President Trump more alarming than the Germans. For postwar Germany, the United States was savior, protector and liberal democratic model. Now, Germans, in shock, speak of the “American catastrophe.”
A recent cover of the weekly magazine Der Spiegel portrays Trump in the Oval Office holding a lighted match, with a country ablaze visible through his window. The headline: “Der Feuerteufel,” or, literally, “the Fire Devil.”
Germans have a particular relationship to fire. The Reichstag fire of 1933 enabled Hitler and the Nazis to scrap the fragile Weimar democracy that had brought them to power. Hitler’s murderous fantasies could now become reality. War, Auschwitz and the German catastrophe followed….
Michael Steinberg, a professor of history at Brown University and the former president of the American Academy in Berlin, wrote to me this week:
“The American catastrophe seems to get worse every day, but the events in Portland have particularly alarmed me as a kind of strategic experiment for fascism. The playbook from the German fall of democracy in 1933 seems well in place, including rogue military factions, the destabilization of cities, etc.”
Steinberg continued, “The basic comparison involves racism as a political strategy: a racist imaginary of a pure homeland, with cities demonized as places of decadence.”
Trump provokes outrage in a cascade designed to blunt alarm. He deadens reactions through volume and repetition. But something about the recent use of unmarked cars and camouflage-clad federal agents without clear identifying insignia detaining protesters shattered any inclination to shrug.
From the deployment of those federal units in Portland, Oregon’s largest city, where protesters have been demanding racial justice and police accountability, it’s not a huge leap to the use of paramilitaries (like the German Freikorps in the 1920s) to buttress a “Law and Order” campaign. The Freikorps battled communists. Today, Trump claims to battle “anarchists,” “terrorists” and violent leftists. It’s the leitmotif of his quest for a second term.
Take care of yourselves Sky Dancers, and enjoy the weekend as best you can.
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Posted: July 14, 2020 | Author: bostonboomer | Filed under: morning reads, U.S. Politics | Tags: Anthony Fauci, CDC, coronavirus pandemic, Covid-19, Criminal Intent, Donald Trump, face masks, Law and Order, opening schools, Stephen Moore |
As I sat down to write this post, the sound of a jackhammer began somewhere inside or outside my building. Just what my frazzled nerves needed at 7:30AM in Trump’s dystopian nightmare America.
After midnight last night Trump sent out one his idiotic all-caps tweets:
And this morning, “Criminal Intent” is trending on Twitter. A sampling of the mocking replies:
This is the world we live in now. A killer virus is running rampant, the economy is a dumpster fire, and the “president” is a doddering but corrupt fool who is mocked unmercifully in the media and on-line forums.
Yesterday, Dakinikat told us about a study that suggests that recovering from Covid-19 probably doesn’t provide us with long-term immunity. Today another researcher tells us that cloth masks probably do nothing to protect us from the virus. The Asahai Shimbun: Cloth face masks offer zero shield against virus, a study shows.
Kazunari Onishi, an associate professor at St. Luke’s International University in Tokyo, found that cloth masks had a 100-percent leakage rate in terms of airborne particles penetrating the fabric and through the gap between masks and faces, substantially raising the risk of infection.
Onishi, a specialist in environmental epidemiology, tested numerous types of masks to ascertain which ones are effective in preventing infection from COVID-19.
Non-woven masks which passed filtering performance tests had a 100-percent leakage rate when not worn properly. Worn correctly, the leakage rate dropped to about 50 percent….
Onishi tested a range of masks: those made from cloth, non-woven masks, dust masks which met the N95 standard and other types, even the “Abenomasks” made of gauze distributed to every household in Japan by the central government.
Given that non-woven masks and dust masks have largely different leakage rates depending on whether they are worn correctly or not, they were compared on the basis of when they were worn casually and perfectly.
Onishi found that cloth and gauze masks had 100-percent leakage rates.
Dust masks had the lowest rate, 1 percent, when they were worn correctly. When they were worn casually, the rate was 6 percent.
With regard to non-woven masks, the type that passed the filtering performance tests had a 52-percent leakage rate when worn correctly. Masks that did not undergo the tests had an 81-percent rate.
We also recently learned that the virus is very likely spread through airborne particles. This is from MIT’s Technology Review: If the coronavirus is really airborne, we might be fighting it the wrong way.
This was the week airborne transmission became a big deal in the public discussion about covid-19. Over 200 scientists from around the world cosigned a letter to the World Health Organization urging it to take seriously the growing evidence that the coronavirus can be transmitted through the air. WHO stopped short of redefining SARS-CoV-2 (the virus that causes covid-19) as airborne but did acknowledge that more research is “urgently needed to investigate such instances and assess their significance for transmission of COVID-19.”
“I honestly don’t know what people are waiting for,” says microbiologist Chad Roy of Tulane University in the US. “It doesn’t take WHO coming out to make a proclamation that it’s airborne for us to appreciate this is an airborne disease. I don’t know how much clearer it needs to be in terms of scientific evidence.” [….]
The evidence that this type of transmission is happening with SARS-CoV-2 arguably already exists. Several big studies point to airborne transmission of the virus as a major route for the spread of covid-19. Other studies have suggested the virus can remain in aerosolized droplets for hours. One new study led by Roy and his team at Tulane shows that infectious aerosolized particles of SARS-CoV-2 could actually linger in the air for up to 16 hours, and maintain infectivity much longer than MERS and SARS-CoV-1 (the other big coronaviruses to emerge this century).
We still don’t know what gives SARS-CoV-2 this airborne edge. “But it may be one reason this is a pandemic, and not simply a small outbreak like any other coronavirus,” says Roy.
What can we do to be safer? The gist is that we need to be wearing masks and staying away from crowded spaces; and repeatedly cleaning surfaces is a big waste of time and energy. Head over to Tech Review to read the details.
Naturally, Trump is doing nothing to help us deal with the pandemic and everything he can think of to make things worse. Right now the focus seems to be on attacking Dr. Fauci.
Stephen Collinson at CNN: White House turns on Fauci as disaster grows out of aggressive state openings.
Instead of focusing on the out-of-control coronavirus disaster in Florida and other early opening states, the White House is trying to destroy the reputation of one of America’s most respected public servants, Dr. Anthony Fauci, for telling the truth about how bad things are getting.
President Donald Trump is meanwhile highlighting claims that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, doctors, media and the Democrats are lying about the country’s pandemic — the world’s worst — in order to crush the economy on which he is relying for reelection.
The new campaign of deception is accelerating a day after Florida recorded the highest-ever single daily caseload of new infections for any US state and as the daily total of confirmed cases nationwide hits a staggering 60,000. The surge is raging across southern and Western heartlands, also including Texas, Georgia and Arizona which tried to get back to normal before the curve of infections was suppressed. The resulting torrent of new cases is exposing Trump’s call for early openings, embraced by many Republican governors in defiance of CDC guidelines, as one of the worst political and economic decisions in modern history….
The campaign against Fauci, who has been one of America’s most highly regarded public health officials for decades and was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by George W. Bush, tells an extraordinary tale of administration priorities amid a national crisis and of the brutal approach it uses to discredit any official who challenges Trump’s false narratives.
On Sunday, a White House official told CNN that several top aides to Trump were concerned about “about the number of times Dr. Fauci has been wrong on things” citing his past comments on the threat from the virus and the use of masks. Sources told CNN’s Kaitlan Collins on Monday that the President, who hasn’t met Fauci for weeks, was annoyed with the top infectious disease specialist’s public statements and “good press.”
And there’s more scapegoating of Fauci to come, according to The Daily Beast: Top Trump Ally Preps a New Assault on Fauci.
Stephen Moore, a conservative economist who informally advises Trump on economic matters, said on Monday evening that he is working on a new policy memo that would “go after Fauci,” not just for the doctor’s proclamations on the still-raging coronavirus pandemic, but for his decades of work for the U.S. government prior to the current crisis.
“We are working on a memo that shows how many times Dr. Fauci’s been wrong during not just [this pandemic], but during his entire career,” Moore told The Daily Beast, adding that he and his team at the Committee to Unleash Prosperity had been working on it for weeks. Moore, whose failures at political and economic prognostication are routine grist for his critics, added that he and his group intend to send their final product to the White House and Trump and to “publicize it,” once ready.
Moore said that the current title of the memo is: “Dr. Wrong.”
“It will document how often his predictions have been not just wrong, but in many cases, fabulously wrong…[and it’ll be] looking at his whole career of making predictions about disease, and trying to show a pattern,” he continued. “Fauci’s been ‘Dr. Doom’… and I don’t have a problem with him being ‘Dr. Doom,’ but I have a problem with him being wrong, wrong, wrong… He’s been a detriment to getting the economy reopened, with a lot of his false predictions.”
At The Washington Post, there’s an op-ed by four former leaders of the CDC, Tom Frieden, Jeffrey Koplan, David Satcher, and Richer Besser: We ran the CDC. No president ever politicized its science the way Trump has.
As America begins the formidable task of getting our kids back to school and all of us back to work safely amid a pandemic that is only getting worse, public health experts face two opponents: covid-19, but also political leaders and others attempting to undermine the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. As the debate last week around reopening schools more safely showed, these repeated efforts to subvert sound public health guidelines introduce chaos and uncertainty while unnecessarily putting lives at risk.
As of this date, the CDC guidelines, which were designed to protect children, teachers, school staffers and their families — no matter the state and no matter the politics — have not been altered. It is not unusual for CDC guidelines to be changed or amended during a clearance process that moves through multiple agencies and the White House. But it is extraordinary for guidelines to be undermined after their release. Through last week, and into Monday, the administration continued to cast public doubt on the agency’s recommendations and role in informing and guiding the nation’s pandemic response. On Sunday, Education Secretary Betsy DeVos characterized the CDC guidelines as an impediment to reopening schools quickly rather than what they are: the path to doing so safely. The only valid reason to change released guidelines is new information and new science — not politics.
One of the many contributions the CDC provides our country is sound public health guidance that states and communities can adapt to their local context — expertise even more essential during a pandemic, when uncertainty is the norm. The four of us led the CDC over a period of more than 15 years, spanning Republican and Democratic administrations alike. We cannot recall over our collective tenure a single time when political pressure led to a change in the interpretation of scientific evidence.
Read the rest at the WaPo.
More stories to check out today:
Jacob Stern at The Atlantic: This Is Not a Normal Mental-Health Disaster. If SARS is any lesson, the psychological effects of the novel coronavirus will long outlast the pandemic itself.
ABC News: Down-ballot races across Alabama, Maine and Texas revolve around Trump: 5 things to watch on Tuesday.
Salon: Dr. John Gartner: “Donald Trump is the most successful bio-terrorist in human history.” Psychologist and former Johns Hopkins professor on Trump’s pandemic conduct: “He is a first-degree mass murderer.”
The New Yorker: The Study That Debunks Most Anti-Abortion Arguments.
Politico: House to quickly revive legal effort to get Trump’s financial records.
Axios: House Judiciary Committee releases transcript of Geoffrey Berman testimony.
Karen Attiah at The Washington Post: The Texas Rangers’ team name must go.
Vox: What the police really believe. Inside the distinctive, largely unknown ideology of American policing — and how it justifies racist violence.
Stay home as much as you can, Sky Dancers. As Dakinikat suggested yesterday, I hope you’ll briefly check in from time to time to let us know how you’re doing. We love you all and want you to be safe!
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