Thursday Reads: The Trump PsychosisPosted: September 3, 2020 Filed under: morning reads, U.S. Politics | Tags: Bill Barr, conspiracy theories, coronavirus pandemic, Covid-10, delusions, Donald Trump, mail-in voting, psychosis, QAnon, thugs on a plane, Tom Seaver 25 Comments
Yesterday the news broke that Tom Seaver had died, but for some reason the cause of his death wasn’t immediately emphasized. He died because he had Covid-19. He also had dementia, but the coronavirus is what killed him. Today that fact is appearing in headlines.
NBC News: Hall of Fame pitcher Tom Seaver dies of COVID-19, dementia at 75.
Hall of Fame pitcher Tom Seaver has died of complications of Lewy body dementia and COVID-19, the National Baseball Hall of Fame said in a statement Wednesday. He was 75.
He died peacefully in his sleep Monday, the organization said.
“We are heartbroken to share that our beloved husband and father has passed away,” said a family statement from Seaver’s wife, Nancy, and daughters, Sarah and Anne. “We send our love out to his fans, as we mourn his loss with you.”
Seaver played 12 seasons with the Mets, winning the National League Cy Young Award, honoring the league’s best pitcher, three times.
Why am I calling attention to this? Because the latest conspiracy that Trump has begun pushing is that somehow people who died of Covid-19 who also had other medical conditions shouldn’t be counted in the coronvirus death totals.
The Daily Beast: CDC Deluged With ‘Insane’ Number of Calls About Coronavirus Conspiracy Theory.
Officials at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have been deluged with a flood of media requests about a conspiracy theory promulgated by QAnon—an increasingly violent far-right group praised by President Donald Trump that is widely known for spreading disinformation.
As the agency attempted to manage the fallout of a controversial Health and Human Services announcement that it had revised testing guidelines to exclude individuals who do not exhibit symptoms, officials were sidetracked by a barrage of inquiries about whether the CDC had lied about the number of Americans who died as a result of the coronavirus. Over the weekend QAnon, a movement whose believers often push out falsities on a myriad of subjects, promoted a bogus theory that only 6 percent of people listed as having died from the coronavirus had “actually died” from COVID-19.
Officials at the CDC said they spent the last several days fielding questions or requests for comment from dozens of local and national outlets asking to clarify whether the agency had falsified its data. The wave of emails and calls about the conspiracy theory caught officials off-guard….
The CDC effort to combat accusations from QAnon, a relatively new, increasingly unhinged movement that’s making inroads into online health communities, shows the power that conspiracy theorists can have during the pandemic—especially when boosted by the president. It also shows just how permeable the barrier between conspiracy cranks and established media outlets can be.
“In all my time working in the government I’ve never had to deal with something this crazy. The level of disinformation spread by this group has grown in recent months and now we’re having to actively debunk it through the press.”
The “six percent” claim was embraced by conservatives, who have been eager for ways to downplay the virus’ American death toll and have claimed for months that the CDC and hospitals were overcounting COVID-19 deaths. To QAnon supporters, the claim purports to show that COVID-19 has killed only 9,000 people, with the vast majority of the roughly 183,000 COVID-19 casualties actually killed by another ailment.
The simple truth is that Tom Seaver wouldn’t have died if he hadn’t contracted the virus and neither would thousands of other Americans who also may have had high blood pressure, asthma, obesity, or some other secondary condition.
Another crazy conspiracy that Trump has been pushing for a long time is the notion that mail-in ballots cannot be trusted. Yesterday, Trump actually recommended that voters in North Carolina should try to vote twice. NBC News: Trump encourages North Carolina residents to vote twice to test mail-in system.
President Donald Trump suggested that people in North Carolina should vote twice in the November election, once by mail and once in person, escalating his attempts to cast confusion and doubt on the validity of the results.
“So let them send it in and let them go vote, and if their system’s as good as they say it is, then obviously they won’t be able to vote. If it isn’t tabulated, they’ll be able to vote,” Trump said when asked whether he has confidence in the mail-in system in North Carolina, a battleground state.
“If it’s as good as they say it is, then obviously they won’t be able to vote. If it isn’t tabulated, they’ll be able to vote. So that’s the way it is. And that’s what they should do,” he said.
It is illegal to vote more than once in an election.
But Bill Barr, who is supposedly the Attorney General of the United States isn’t sure that voting twice is illegal. Newsweek: Bill Barr Mocked After ‘Playing Dumb’ Over Legality of Voting Twice.
Appearing on CNN on Wednesday, Barr said the president was trying to make the point that election monitoring was not good enough to prevent people from voting at polling stations if they already cast their ballots by mail.
But when he was pressed on the fact that such an action would be illegal, he said he was unaware of what state laws said about the legality of voting twice.
“I don’t know what the law in the particular state says, and when that vote becomes final,” Barr told CNN.
The network host Wolf Blitzer then asked: “Is there any state in which you can vote twice?”
“Maybe you can change your vote up to a particular time, I don’t know what the law is,” the attorney general replied.
Barr might as well come out and say that he’s the chairman of Trump’s reelection campaign. In the CNN interview, he also claimed that “voting by mail is ‘playing with fire'”
“This is playing with fire. We’re a very closely divided country here,” Barr said on CNN’s “The Situation Room with Wolf Blitzer” of changes this year where states are allowing more voting by mail because of the pandemic.
“People trying to change the rules to this, to this methodology — which, as a matter of logic, is very open to fraud and coercion — is reckless and dangerous and people are playing with fire,” Barr added.
Barr provided no evidence for his claims.
These comments contradict the views of bipartisan election officials and a wide array of voting experts who say voting-by-mail is a safe option with protections in place to prevent systematic fraud. There is no widespread fraud in US elections, even in states with a history of heavy mail-in voting, running directly counter to Barr’s assertions.
Barr’s comments seem to play into Trump’s attempts to stoke fear and add chaos to the coming election. Several states have expanded their mail-in voting options this year because of the coronavirus pandemic, but the Trump campaign and Republican Party are fighting more widespread options for voters.
And then there’s Trump bizarre story about thugs, looters, and anarchists on planes flying around to cause “big trouble.” Salon: Thugs on a plane? Trump’s bizarre yarn echoes viral Facebook rumor — and Rudy Giuliani’s rants.
President Trump pushed a baseless and bizarre conspiracy theory on Monday that a plane “almost completely loaded with thugs” was sent to disrupt the Republican National Convention, a claim that appears almost identical to a rumor that traveled across Facebook three months ago.
Trump made the claim in an interview with Fox News host Laura Ingraham, alleging without evidence that “we had somebody get on a plane from a certain city this weekend, and in the plane it was almost completely loaded with thugs, wearing these dark uniforms, black uniforms, with gear and this and that.”
While the president would not divulge more details, he assured Ingraham that the incident is “under investigation right now.”
There is no evidence of such a flight. When Ingraham asked Trump to say more, the president replied, “I’ll tell you sometime.” The unidentified black-clad “thugs,” the president said, were headed to Washington D.C., to disrupt the RNC….
NBC News’ Ben Collins later reported that the rumor lines up with a viral Facebook post from June 1, which falsely claimed to have observed a similar sinister contingent on board a flight from Seattle to Boise, Idaho: “At least a dozen males got off the plane in Boise from Seattle, dressed head to toe in black.”
Seriously, Trump is beginning to sound truly delusional. I’m not sure he’s in touch with reality much of the time. The White House doctor might need to prescribe and antipsychotic drug.
From Justin Baragona at The Daily Beast: Devin Nunes May Be Trump’s ‘Person’ Who Witnessed the Antifa Plane ‘Firsthand.’
President Donald Trump’s latest outlandish conspiracy about a “person” he refuses to name having “firsthand” witnessed a commercial flight full of “thugs” and “looters” clad in “black uniforms with gear” may seem ripped directly from an unhinged relative’s Facebook page. But before this bizarre theory was being pushed by the president, another GOP lawmaker was spouting a nearly identical story….
“So, these people that descended on Washington, D.C., most of them were not local,” Nunes declared. “In fact, I flew in with a bunch of them where I got on a plane in Salt Lake City where I had to commute through and I saw maybe two dozen BLM people.”
Nunes continued: “The irony is they were all white people, they weren’t even Black, but somebody was paying for those people to go there—they were coordinated, paying for that, and then what they did was they were not protesting. This is not protesting when you block the exits of the White House.”
Neither Nunes’ office nor the White House returned a request for comment. But the congressman’s interview with Breitbart represents a type of missing puzzle piece to the mystery of just where Trump got the idea of an antifa plane packed with geared-up looters.
Chicago Tribune columnist Rex Huppke hilariously satirizes the “thugs on a plane” narrative: Column: Trump’s ‘Air Antifa’ plane story is true (maybe). I know because I was there (maybe). A brief excerpt:
Which plane traveling to Washington, D.C., was this, and who were these black-clad thugs and who relayed this information?
Trump wouldn’t say. But I will: It was me. I was on that black-clad thug plane. I am President Trump’s source for this harrowing tale of rioters flying commercial….
I’ll explain the whole thing. And like the president, I’ll do it in a way that lacks specific details, sounds wildly unhinged and makes you wonder if you should start slowly walking away, careful not to make any sudden movements.
It was August-whatever, and I was catching the Air Leftist “looters & anarchists” flight out of O’Hare at a time I will not reveal. I try to avoid that airline — they try to turn you socialist by evenly redistributing peanuts among the passengers — but it was the cheapest fare I could find.
Just before I got on board, someone in a dark shadow of the terminal started talking to me about the coronavirus and how Trump had mishandled the pandemic and made America a global laughingstock. I shouted, “LAW AND ORDER!” at the guy, and that made him go away.
Next we boarded the plane in order from each according to his ability, to each according to his needs.
I sat down and took out some meat I had killed with my gun earlier in the day, and that’s when I noticed it: black-clad thugs, everywhere. I felt very uncomfortable, particularly when two of them sat down in my row.
I asked the first one what he does, and he said: “I’m a looter. I just bought this $300 plane ticket so I could travel to wherever and steal $100 worth of clothes, which is something that definitely happens because it makes sense.”
The other guy nodded and said, “I’m an anarchist. And I’m hoping to destroy America while also collecting valuable mileage points for future travel.”
I kept silent for a moment, afraid they would beat me up or destroy my suburb. Then I asked: “So what are you all looking for?”
They both said: “Trouble.”
Read the whole thing at the link.
I also recommend reading two general articles on Trumpist conspiracy theories:
Daniel Dale at CNN: Fact check: A guide to 9 conspiracy theories Trump is currently pushing.
BBC News: How Covid-19 myths are merging with the QAnon conspiracy theory.
Just two more months until the election. I only hope we can rid ourselves of the lunatic in the White House, but will sanity be restored to the country as a whole if he loses? We can only hope.
Take care Sky Dancers! Stay safe and sane and check in if you can.
Tuesday Reads: Old Man Trump’s Crazy Axios InterviewPosted: August 4, 2020 Filed under: morning reads, U.S. Politics | Tags: 2020 presidential election, Axios, Donald Trump, John Lewis, Jonathan Swan, mail-in voting 21 Comments
This morning I forced myself to watch and listen to Trump’s full interview with Jonathan Swan of Axios. It wasn’t easy. Of course it was characterized by Trump’s lying, obfuscating, and excuse-making, but oddly my biggest takeaway was that Trump truly sounds like a feeble old man now. His voice seems very different from the way he sounded during the 2016 campaign–it sounds weak and reedy. I think the difference after four years is really striking. Here’s the interview:
I found this 2013 article at NBC News about what happens to our voices as we age: The wavery, shaky ‘old person’s voice,’ explained.
“Voice can depend on general health. In general, we start seeing aging problems at age 65,” says Claudio Milstein, associate professor of surgery at Cleveland Clinic Lerner College of Medicine. “The typical change as we get older, is that we get thin, breathy voices … [and] those are the characteristics that make it sound like a person has an old voice.”
Evidence confirms that voices do change with age. The vocal chords should vibrate between 90 and 230 times per minute, with young people experiencing the most movement and older people experiencing the least, explains Amee Shah, associate professor and director of the Research Laboratory in Speech Acoustics and Perception at Cleveland State University.
“In my lab we look at acoustic data because perception can be misleading and the hard numbers confirm it. It is true that as we age our voices change,” says Shah.
When we age our vocal chords weaken and become drier. Our respiratory systems and torsos change, too, with our lungs and chest cavities becoming more rigid, while our spines curve, causing us to stoop over (for some a little, others a lot). Weakened and dry vocal chords become stringy, which prevent normal vibration, causing higher pitched voices that sound thin. And the transformations in the respiratory system and chest mean we have less power behind our voices. Even the joints in our vocal chords can become arthritic, contributing to problems.
“The vocal folds are made up of muscle and collagen among other things. Just like other muscles thin out or atrophy, the vocal folds do as well,” says Gina Vess, a speech pathologist and director of the Clinical Voice Programs at Duke University Medical Center.
As for the content of the interview, I thought it was interesting that Swan began with a question about Trump’s commitment to Norman Vincent Peale’s positive thinking. Like his wealth, this was something that Trump got from his father, according to his niece Mary Trump.
From NPR on July 25: 2020 Crises Confront Trump With An Outage In The Power Of Positive Thinking.
“Affirm it, believe it, visualize it, and it will actualize itself.” Such mantras have characterized much of the Trump story from his childhood when he first absorbed it from the man who first spoke it, Norman Vincent Peale.
Peale was a minister and author much admired by Trump’s father. His most famous book, The Power of Positive Thinking, sold millions of copies in multiple languages and helped spawn a self-help movement and industry that has flourished ever since.
The Trumps attended Peale’s Marble Collegiate Church on Fifth Avenue in Manhattan, and Peale officiated at the first of Donald Trump’s three marriage ceremonies.
Emulating Peale’s ferocious focus on attitude probably helped Trump plow ahead when his presidential prospects seemed hopeless just weeks before Election Day in 2016. The candidate appeared behind in polls and a now-infamous audio recording revealed his toxic comments about women.
But “there are no hopeless situations,” Peale had counseled, “only people who take hopeless attitudes.”
Obstacles, Peale taught, should never be a deterrent: “You will find they haven’t half the strength you think they have.”
Until this year, it is possible Trump took this literally. Arguably, he was getting away with it far more often than not.
He seemed to have been experimenting with this parallel universe approach all his life.
Trump is trying to apply the “power of positive thinking to the coronavirus pandemic, and it’s obviously not working for him, because a virus can’t be hoodwinked like people can.
So what happens when positive thinking fails? What happens when the power goes out? In common experience, when the power goes out, it gets darker.
Trump’s critics and opponents say that is exactly what we are seeing in America today.
Unable to conquer the combination of pandemic effects and civil unrest by the force of his will and a Twitter blizzard of “alternative facts,” Trump is now turning to a set of alternative powers.
Now Trump has turned to outright fascist tactics–sending federal agents into U.S. cities to put down protests against police brutality, trying to delegitimize the upcoming presidential election, working to suppress votes by destroying the Post Office and sabotaging the U.S. Census.
USA Today: ‘It is what it is,’ Trump says of rising coronavirus deaths as he insists outbreak is ‘under control.’
Axios National Political Correspondent Jonathan Swan began the interview by asking Trump if his sometimes “wishful thinking” and “salesmanship” was suitable in a crisis that has killed more than 155,000 people in the U.S.
“I think you have to have a positive outlook, otherwise you would have nothing,” Trump said. As he frequently has done in defending his record on the pandemic, the president pointed to the travel restrictions he imposed on China and Europe, arguing hundreds of thousands – a number he later put in the “millions” – more would have died without those actions. He added that even one death was too many.
“Those people that really understand it, that really understand it, they said it’s incredible the job that we’ve done,” Trump said.
“Who says that?” Swan asked, but Trump continued to talk about the China travel ban. Swan pointed out that the virus was already in the U.S. by the time Trump issued the ban.
Swan pressed Trump on whether his positive spin on outbreak – telling people the outbreak is under control and not to worry about wearing masks – could be putting people in danger by “giving them a false sense of security.” [….]
Trump responded to that criticism by saying he thinks the outbreak is “under control.” Swan asked how he could say that as the average number of daily deaths had climbed back up to over 1,000.
“They are dying, that’s true. And it is what it is,” Trump said. “But that doesn’t mean we aren’t doing everything we can. It’s under control, as much as you can control it.”
More Takeaways from the Axios interview:
Jonathan Ross at The Daily Beast: Trump Reveals Self-Delusion Over COVID Statistics in Mind-Blowing Argument With Reporter.
It’s sometimes hard to determine whether President Trump is being willfully misleading or if he truly believes what he’s saying. But an astonishing interview clip from Axios appears to show that Trump has genuinely managed to convince himself that his response to the coronavirus pandemic has been effective—because he only considers partial and deceptively flattering statistics to be true. Brandishing childishly simplistic, brightly colored COVID-19 graphs presumably provided to him by aides trying to keep him happy, Trump proudly tells Axios’ Jonathan Swan that the U.S. is “lower than the world,” without elaborating. When Swan looks at the chart, it becomes clear Trump is only considering death as a proportion of coronavirus cases—not as a proportion of population, which shows the U.S. is faring very badly. Trump snaps back: “You can’t do that.” Holding out his charts, he goes on: “You have to go by where… look, here is the United States… You have to go by the cases.” Asked why South Korea has lower deaths by population, Trump hints that he believes the country is faking its stats, without providing any evidence to support himself.
Axios: Trump stokes fears of election-night mail voting fraud.
President Trump raised new alarms about the alleged danger of election fraud in an interview with “Axios on HBO,” warning that “lots of things can happen” with voting by mail if the presidential race isn’t decided on election night.
Why it matters: Trump’s comments — which contradict the lengthy history and widespread use of mail-in voting — could be a preview of the claims he’ll make on election night to undermine trust in the results if he appears to be losing.
- Election experts say there’s a good chance that the presidential race won’t be decided on election night, and could drag on for days, because so many people will vote by mail to protect themselves from the coronavirus.
- One expert’s scenario suggests that the early returns could favor Trump because most Republicans will vote in person, but that the later returns will swing toward Joe Biden because many Democrats will vote by mail.
Axios: Trump declines to praise John Lewis, citing inauguration snub.
President Trump dismissed the legacy of the late Rep. John Lewis in an interview with “Axios on HBO,” saying only that Lewis made a “big mistake” by not coming to his inauguration.
The big picture: Trump’s comments were a glaring contrast with the praise Republicans and Democrats showered upon Lewis this week, and a default to personal grudges during a week of mourning for a civil rights hero….
When asked if he found Lewis’ life impressive, Trump responded, “He didn’t come to my inauguration. He didn’t come to my State of the Union speeches. And that’s OK. That’s his right. And, again, nobody has done more for Black Americans than I have.” [….]
Trump also declined to say whether he found Lewis personally impressive: “I can’t say one way or the other. I find a lot of people impressive. I find many people not impressive.”
There’s much more to the interview, which was a disaster for Trump. I have to say that Swan did an excellent job. If you can stand to, I hope you’ll watch the whole thing. It’s around 30 minutes long. I’d really like to know what you think about Trump’s old-man voice too.
Have a great day everyone! I’ll post some news links in the comment thread below.