Thursday, April 30, 2020

Trumpism Finds a Willing Host in Gaston County

Commissioner Philbeck in white
The all-Republican Gaston County Commission, led by Chair Tracey Philbeck, is pushing in a very Trumpian way to encourage local businesses to defy Governor Cooper's shut-down order and is reportedly "exploring ways to sue Cooper over the restrictions." County government issued a statement that appeared to reopen the county for business at 5 p.m. yesterday.

But not so fast, Ralph. The county issued a clarifying statement, perhaps written by its county attorney, who's obviously less "Trumpy" than his bosses: “From a function standpoint, Gaston County Government will continue to follow all state laws, including Gov. Cooper’s executive order,” it said. “At no point would county leadership ask its staff or county residents to break the law.”

From a function standpoint.

From a different "function standpoint," Commish Chair Tracey Philbeck obviously likes grandstanding for the cameras as much as Trump does. And he intends to have the last word: “Legally they [the mayors of Gaston Co. municipalities] can’t and we can’t tell someone to break the law in an official government document,” Philbeck said in an interview. “But that’s why we wanted to also make clear that we support your right to work. We’re not going to stand in the way of people who want to work.”
Philbeck told reporters Wednesday that the commissioners’ reopening order position was based on relatively low coronavirus numbers in the county [140 infections with 3 deaths] and the availability of hospital capacity. Reopening, he said, would help save local businesses that have been decimated by Cooper’s “one-size-fits-all” restrictions. 
“If we continue the stay-at-home order, it will not have a good effect for Gaston County and we will maybe not have anything to come back to,” he told reporters Wednesday morning during a virtual press conference....
Philbeck told reporters the order he signed allows any business to reopen if they follow social distancing and hygiene protocols.
“We’re giving citizens an opportunity to make a choice,” he said. “The government denied them the opportunity to make a choice.”

Philbeck's "ill-conceived, comically executed and ultimately spineless political stunt" drew condemnation in a Charlotte Observer editorial:  "It’s political theater with real consequences. Businesses could endanger public health or risk penalty, all of which doesn’t appear to bother a commission chair who thought he was making a statement, but was really just making a spectacle of himself."

An Important Reason We Need Our Research Universities

Remdesivir, the drug that has shown early positive results for reducing the recovery time for patients with COVID-19, originated in the labs at the Gillings School of Public Health at UNC-Chapel Hill. The drug does not cure COVID-19 nor does it prevent infection, but it does seem to accelerate recovery.

“This is a game changer for the treatment of patients with COVID-19 and provides hope to many infected,” UNC epidemiologist Ralph Baric said.

About 20 coronavirus patients at Duke University Hospital participated in the first national tests. The patients were randomized to receive either the drug or a placebo, and both the doctor and patient were not allowed to know who received the therapy. They were all adults who had serious symptoms, such as breathing difficulties that require supplemental oxygen or a ventilator. The study was run by the National Institutes of Health and involved 1,063 hospitalized coronavirus patients around the world.

Wednesday, April 29, 2020

Got My Gushy Campaign Letter from Trump Yesterday. Did You Get Yours?

Everything is "great." Especially our "greatness." "America will triumph yet again." He came that close to saying MAGA.

The letter on White House stationery, with the man's childish black scrawl of a signature, is a campaign letter masquerading as notification from the IRS that federal money has been deposited in our bank account.

One sentence in his letter stood out: "Our top priority is your health and safety." Yeah, right, in the same week that he ordered meat-processing plants to stay open, which have already become death traps for those workers. Add his meandering "the states should reopen" mixed messaging and his wholly inept response to the whole pandemic from the beginning. We know what his top priority is: Getting his name on relief checks, as though he wrote them himself.

I'm considering which deserving candidates I can make donations to. It'll be people who promise to end this Trumpist nightmare.

Tuesday, April 28, 2020

Movement Grows in Boone Against Predatory Apartment Rental Practices

An AppState student named Dalton George took his concerns about "predatory" apartment rental application fees in Boone to the Town Council member Sam Furgiuele. George had compiled a list of seven grievances against high-volume rental companies which he thought were targeting college-age renters. His list of seven complaints eventually found their way into a resolution which Furgiuele presented for action to the Boone Town Council on April 21st. It passed unanimously. The resolution presented seven grievances:
WHEREAS, the Boone Town Council has been advised of a number of practices that it believes are predatory or unfair, but for which it lacks apparent authority to regulate, including but not limited to the following:
That landlords are charging as much as $800 per apartment in non- refundable fees, purportedly to pursue credit checks on prospective tenants and their parents, but may not actually be paying such high amounts for credit checks or in some cases checking credit with these funds at all;
That certain landlords do not publish or disclose either their actual rental charges and/or the additional application, credit check and other non- refundable fees they impose until the tenant is in the process of applying for housing, neither advising the tenant in advance of such fees so that fair comparison shopping can take place, nor allowing the tenant a way to determine if the amounts quoted are customary for the landlord or unique with respect to that particular applicant, thus leaving open questions regarding possible discrimination against potential tenants to whom the landlord might not wish to lease;
That it has become a practice in some multi-family complexes to impose a series of fines on tenants which are not disclosed or directly included in the leases, but at most incorporated by reference, the lease providing that the tenant agrees to abide by “rules and regulations promulgated by the management” which themselves are freely altered and impose exorbitant fines for such things as placing a pumpkin outside the tenant’s door at Halloween;
That some landlords have made it a practice to rent by the bedroom, but require each tenant to guarantee full payment of the monthly rent for an entire four-bedroom apartment, even though the tenant may not have any prior relationship or knowledge about the other tenants, also requiring the tenant’s parents to not only guarantee the individual tenant’s share of the full apartment rent, but also the other tenants’ shares;
That there are many multi-family housing complexes in Boone which have been built in flood zones and which have been subject to devastating flooding in which the personal possessions of tenants have been destroyed, but the tenants were not properly or effectively advised of the propensity for the property to flood, nor of the landlord’s refusal to take responsibility for damages caused to the tenant’s property by flooding until after the loss;
That some landlords are regularly deducting amounts from security deposits that represent charges for normal wear and tear; and
That many landlords are using leases which are so complex that no person untrained in the law is capable of deciphering their many predatory and one-sided provisions....
The resolution requests that Attorney General Josh Stein "investigate and take action to stop unfair and deceptive rental housing practices in the Town of Boone" and further appeals to Rep. Ray Russell and state Senator Deanna Ballard to "initiate amendments to the North Carolina Residential Rental Agreements Act and the North Carolina Tenant Security Deposit Act to prohibit or establish appropriate parameters and prohibitions addressing the aforesaid practices." Because there is no home rule in North Carolina, the Town Council can't take its own action to regulate unfair practices. It'll take action in Raleigh to fix the problems (and until we have another election, how likely is that?).

The passing of this resolution sparked a concurring outcry among Boone's college-age renters (and others), particularly after The Appalachian reported the news (see the comments) and most especially on the Appalachian State Classifieds Facebook page, which is one of the more active local forums. The abuse of young renters in Boone appears widespread if not entirely universal.

Sunday, April 26, 2020

Sunday Morning Laughs

The uncannily spot-on impression by J-L Cauvin. Comedians are our town criers and our Greek choruses for the plague called "Trump."

Friday, April 24, 2020

"How To Medical," By Sarah Cooper

We Have a Complete Dumbass for President

And a dangerous dumbass. When you encounter a headline like this one:

"Trump comments prompt doctors, and Lysol, to warn against injecting disinfectants"

Thursday, April 23, 2020

The Body Count -- Rick Bright

A Reoccurring Feature on Who's Jumping Being Pushed Off Luxury Liner Trump

[Source: AP]
Rick Bright, former director of the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority (BARDA), said in a statement that he was summarily removed from his job on Tuesday and reassigned to a lesser role. His lawyers, Debra Katz and Lisa Banks, called it “retaliation plain and simple.”

Controversy has swirled around the malaria drug hydroxychloroquine since Trump started promoting it from the podium in the White House briefing room.

BARDA is a unit of the Department of Health and Human Services created to counter threats from bioterrorism and infectious diseases. It has recently been trying to jump-start work on a vaccine for the coronavirus.

“I am speaking out because to combat this deadly virus, science — not politics or cronyism — has to lead the way,” Bright, who has a doctoral degree in immunology, said in his statement, which was released by his lawyers.

“Specifically, and contrary to misguided directives, I limited the broad use of chloroquine and hydroxychloroquine, promoted by the administration as a panacea, but which clearly lack scientific merit,” Bright said.

“I also resisted efforts to fund potentially dangerous drugs promoted by those with political connections,” he added.

Asked about Bright at yesterday's virus briefing and sideshow, Trump said he “never heard of him.”

“The guy says he was pushed out of a job,” Trump said. “Maybe he was. Maybe he wasn’t. ... I don’t know who he is.”

Bright and his lawyers are requesting investigations by the HHS inspector general and by the Office of Special Counsel, an independent agency that has as part of its charge the protection of government whistleblowers.

Wednesday, April 22, 2020


April 19, 1993 -- another day that will live in infamy. The day that some 76 followers of David Koresh, including 25 children, died in an assault by the FBI on the Koresh sect's compound near Waco, Texas.

Just watched the Paramount Network's mini-series "Waco" (which is streaming on Netflix), and over 20 years of assumptions and FBI falsehoods have been sufficiently swept away. The series was based on two books, "A Place Called Waco" by Branch Davidian survivor David Thibodeau, and "Stalling for Time: My Life as an FBI Hostage Negotiator," written by the FBI's Special Agent in Charge of Negotiations Gary Noesner, so the series has the advantage of inside information for dramatizing what went on inside the compound during the 51-day siege and also what went on between Agent Noesner, who was trying to coax Koresh to give up, and the FBI command structure whose superior fire power was a big hammer looking for every nail.

The FBI doesn't come off well, but even worse in this presentation were the macho cowboys in the ATF, who launched the whole tragedy by initially raiding the compound with guns blazing on February 28. The ATF was fighting bad publicity over the previous Ruby Ridge fiasco, when an ATF sniper killed Randy Weaver's wife, and they were itching for some grand show of efficient law enforcement to recoup their image. They'd even hired a press agent, according to the mini-series script, and without question they fired the first shots at Mount Carmel which led to the gun battle that killed four ATF agents and wounded a dozen more. That battle sealed the fate of Koresh and his followers. Law enforcement was motivated by vengeance as much as by upholding the law.

David Koresh was no saint -- he was an egotistical and probably unstable self-appointed prophet who had decided that only he could have sex with the women while all the other men following him had to remain celebate -- but was he a dangerous cult leader (emphasis on dangerous)? Probably not. He was obsessed with the end of days and the Book of Revelation and was amassing small arms at his compound, which drew the interest of the ATF, but the FBI appeared to be lying when it announced that Koresh was planning a mass suicide. They also obviously lied when they claimed that Koresh was abusing the children in the compound.

Hostage negotiator Noesner had reached a deal with Koresh, allowing him time to write a manifesto about the end of time. Koresh promised to give himself up when he had his manuscript finished, but the writing -- like all writing -- took longer than expected. The FBI honchos in charge grew increasingly frustrated, and forced the reassignment of Noesner, and with the one calming personality  gone that Koresh would talk to, the FBI unleashed hell. It appears that a combination of tear gas and flash grenades pumped into the building caused the devastating fire, although the FBI apparently maintains to this day that the fire was set by suicidal Branch Davidians.

Tuesday, April 21, 2020

North Carolina Is Bordered on the South and West By Governors Playing Russian Roulette

According to Jeffrey Billman and the Indy Week Primer, "Confirmed coronavirus cases in North Carolina are doubling about every 12 days—which, all things considered, is good news. When cases first started popping up in early March, they were doubling every two or three days. At this pace, we’ll clip 100,000 cases right around June 1—we’re a little under 7,000 now—but the important thing is that the pace of increase is slowing."

We hope that Governor Roy Cooper won't follow the weak waffling of governors to the south and west of North Carolina who are caving to pressure from Trumpists, who parade their loud opinion that the virus is a bunch of nothing. "Open us up!" they're screaming, and some governors are complying. Foolishly complying? Time will tell.

Georgia governor Brian Kemp announced that—despite the state's missing its reopening benchmarks— gyms, fitness centers, bowling alleys, body art studios, barbers, cosmetologists, hair designers, nail care artists, aestheticians, their respective schools, and massage therapists can reopen this Friday. Restaurants and movie theaters can reopen on Monday. Kemp had already reopened the state's beaches over two weeks ago.

Tennessee Governor Bill Lee is allowing the “vast majority” of businesses in 89 of Tennessee’s 95 counties to reopen on May 1. South Carolina Governor Henry McMaster is reopening South Carolina beaches as of noon today, along with "non-essential" retail stores.

They're listening to people who literally don't know what they're screaming about or people who don't give a royal shit, and never have, about anything but their immediate wants. I'd prefer to listen to people who are deep into the science of a pandemic and who have spent some quality time examining the dynamics of this particular pandemic.

I’m talking to experts. I’m looking at the other pandemics I’ve covered. I’m talking to medical historians and making predictions based on data. And so I think a lot of people think that by May or June or August, we’re going to return to something like normalcy. But all the experts I talk to say, no, that’s a fantasy....

...if we all tried to come out at once, everything would look cool for about three weeks. And a week or two after that the emergency rooms would start to fill again, and people would start to die again. Flattening the curve is a notion that people love, but when we say we’re flattening the curve, no, we’re plateauing at a very high level of the curve. That means a steady rate of deaths. So what we want is to see the lockdown last until we get back down to close to what the normal baseline rate of deaths is....
It's going to be a long game of something Mcneil calls "the hammer and the dance" -- the "hammer" being lockdown and social isolation, followed by periods of "dancing" back out into public to tempt the virus to rage back. Historians keep pointing out that it was the second wave of the 2018 influenza pandemic that was the most deadly and devastating.

So let's hope Roy Cooper hangs tough with the ReOpenNC faction of the NC Republican Party.

Monday, April 20, 2020

Who Is Piers Morgan and What Did He Say About Trump?

Piers Morgan, I gather, is a kind of media celebrity, especially in Great Britain, where he has a regular TV show aggressively interviewing government officials and others, but he used to have a show on CNN, and -- more saliently for what he said about Trump -- he won the 7th season of Trump's "Celebrity Apprentice," was a constant cheerleader for Trump during the 2016 campaign, got the first international interview with Trump after the election, and he's one of only 47 people that Trump follows on Twitter.

So ... ouch:

Knowing that Trump followed his Twitter feed, Piers Morgan then poured the selfsame gall out into social media, attaching the CNN segment to the following tweet, evidently and pointedly for Trump's edification:
“Mr President @realDonaldTrump, you won’t want to watch this, but I hope you do,” Morgan wrote. “Please drop your angry, petty, disingenuous, blame-gaming, self-aggrandising daily briefing antics & start being a proper wartime president.”
This was just yesterday, the same day that Trump, at his daily I'm-So-Great-and-Take-No-Responsibility press briefing, turned the boilers up on his "angry, petty, disingenuous, blame-gaming, self-aggrandising" antics, which included verbally lashing a female CBS reporter for asking why he spent all of February downplaying the virus instead of preparing the country for a devastating pandemic.

It's amazing to me that Trump even has friends. It's not amazing to me that he doesn't listen to them. He's incapable of changing, of growing, of rising above himself, of even expressing an ounce of sympathy or understanding for the people who are dying of the virus he refused to take seriously until it was too late.

Thursday, April 16, 2020

So I Googled "Donald Trump" + "Adderall"

When it's still too cold to get into the garden, and you can't really go anywhere else in this Plague Year, you decide to check out the rumors. Believe it or not, I'd only run across the accusation that Trump snorts the amphetamine Adderall a couple of times, and in no detail, in sources that mentioned there was a rumor without giving it any credence, because, after all, Roseanne's former husband Tom Arnold was a major source for that rumor, and he was no authority to launch a slander campaign.

But I remember remarking on Donald Trump's persistent sniffing myself, way back during the Republican presidential debates in 2015 and 2016, leading up to the primaries. I noted Trump's persistent, heavy, prolonged sniffs that were also very wet, like I am of a morning when my allegies are well deployed. People were saying on social media that those sniffles could be a result of snorting something.

Trevor Noah devoted a whole segment to Trump's slurred speech but hilariously chalked it up to #DentureDonald:

Who can forget a famous dry-mouth moment?

I don't know the symptoms for sniffing Adderall. Maybe Trump exhibits them. Or maybe he's got textbook ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder), which is also a reoccurring rumor with coincidenally a stronger mountain of credible evidence backing it up.

San Francisco psychiatrist John Kruse reviewed the anecdotal rumors about Trump and ADHD:
Reports going back decades assert that doctors prescribed Mr. Trump phentermine. The FDA approved the stimulant medication phentermine for weight-control, but physicians also prescribe it off-label to treat ADHD. Phentermine prescriptions receive less government scrutiny than more tightly controlled stimulants like Ritalin or Adderall. During the presidential campaign two years ago, pundits extensively discussed Mr. Trump’s sniffing, grimacing and hyperactivity....
But Kruse takes us to a different set of Trump behaviors, with an entirely different presidential affect that gives Kruse hope that Trump is indeed on something like Adderall, and an even bigger hope he stays on it. Kruse, like any licensed therapist, has eyes to see what's obvious:
I examined video footage of the border wall Presidential Address [Jan. 8, 2019], comparing it to his other presidential performances. Mr. Trump’s pupils are substantially larger during the Address than during other speeches.... However, even more blatant than a change in the size of his pupils, during the Address he made many fewer head and body movements, many fewer hand gestures, twitched less, and uttered more organized sentences, in a calmer cadence, than he displays elsewhere. While some of this behavior may be in direct response to the structure of reading from a tele-prompter, we have certainly seen him go off track in other speeches, despite help from a tele-prompter. The combination of simultaneous physiologic, behavioral, and cognitive changes in the president’s behavior strongly suggest that during the Address he used stimulant medications in order to behave more coherently.
Kruse's bottomline: Adderall might be making Trump more coherent, not less:
Most people with ADHD have a myriad of thoughts ping-ponging around in their head at any instant. With a proper dose of stimulant medication they can focus on one item at a time and consider it at more depth and leisure. The frenetic behavior, the bouncing back and forth, the impulsivity, the self contradictions of ADHD are all a result of being unable to control attention, and when someone gains control of their attention, they can process their environment and their own thoughts in a more organized, calm manner.
Kruse's summary diagnosis of Trump knocked my compression socks clean off:
Stimulant medications help many adults with ADHD improve their focus on, and engagement with, their worlds. Those who seem most “over-stimulated” to begin with (but are actually under-stimulated) are often the patients who respond most powerfully to ADHD medications. It is not surprising that people have a hard time wrapping their head around medications that produce hyperactivity, rapid and disjointed speech and impulsive behavior in some people and alleviate it in others. Yet Mr. Trump, his immediate circle, and the whole country will benefit from effective treatment for his ADHD. Rather than riffing on his sniffing, maybe we should be supporting his snorting.
If any of this is mostly true, what in the world are we going to do? And what was the purpose of the 25th Amendment?

Wednesday, April 15, 2020

Senator Dick Burr -- An Accomplished Money-Grubber

Appreciate Jeffrey Billman's IndyWeek Primer for pointing out an article in ProPublica about how Senator Burr sold his DC townhouse to a high-powered lobbyist for what appears to be an above-market price.
“Burr sold the small townhouse, in the Capitol Hill neighborhood, for what, by some estimates, was an above market price—$900,000—to a team led by lobbyist John Green. That is tens of thousands of dollars above some estimates of the property’s value by tax assessors, a real estate website and a local real estate agent. The sale was done off-market, without the home being listed for sale publicly.”

“The legality of this sale hinges on whether the home was purchased for fair market value. If it was purchased for more than that, it would be considered a gift. Gifts of significant value from lobbyists are generally banned by Senate ethics rules, and those that aren’t are typically required to be publicly disclosed. Neither Burr nor Green disclosed any such gifts. Gifts that are intended to influence official actions are illegal.”

“Burr, it seems, has not gotten the memo that 50 percent of North Carolinians want him to resign. He hasn’t even listened to Fox News darling Tucker Carlson, who said ‘there is no greater moral crime than betraying your country in a time of crisis’ and called for Burr to quit as well.”

Tuesday, April 14, 2020

Hoo Boy! Wisconsin Gives Trump the Finger

Jill Karofsky
Donald Trump endorsed Republican Supreme Court Justice Daniel Kelly in the Wisconsin vote last week, the man that former Republican Governor Scott Walker had appointed to the state's high court, and Trump tweeted on Election Day a week ago, "get out and vote NOW” for Kelly. Instead, the voters of Wisconsin, much aggrieved by their Supreme Court, which refused to delay the election in the midst of a pandemic, voted for Kelly's Democratic opponent Jill Karofsky. Last update I've seen said Karofsky was leading Kelly by 11 points.

Republican voter-suppression maneuvering leading up to last week's vote is now generally seen as a major miscalculation. People do finally get fed up with the partisan games.

We trust it'll be the same in North Carolina, come November, since we've been seeing Republican boss Phil Berger disparaging easier voting and we've known him for years as a major hindrance to greater ballot access. The North Carolina state Board of Elections has moved to make requests for mail ballots available through an online portal, and the executive director of the SBOE has recommended reducing the requirement for two witnesses on absentee ballots to just one -- but Phil Berger has already signaled his opposition.

Just another brick in his wall. And one more reason for North Carolina voters to be fed up TOO with the partisan games. The Trumpist Party is looking ever more toxic.

Monday, April 13, 2020

When Your Own Children Can't Stand Your Morals

A must-read is Jane Mayer's new lengthy profile of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, the chief enabler of Trump in the US Congress. Like most New Yorker pieces, it's exhaustive -- but what else are we going to do in a Plague Year but read long pieces about a thoroughly despicable top Senate enabler of the worst president in history?

Intensely interesting factoids in the piece like this: McConnell's three daughters have completely deserted their father's politics:
McConnell also appears to have lost the political support of his three daughters. The youngest, Porter, is a progressive activist who is the campaign director for Take On Wall Street, a coalition of labor unions and nonprofit groups which advocates against the “predatory economic power” of “banks and billionaires.” One of its targets has been Stephen Schwarzman, the chairman and C.E.O. of the Blackstone Group, who, according to the Center for Responsive Politics, has, since 2016, donated nearly thirty million dollars to campaigns and super pacs aligned with McConnell. Last year, Take On Wall Street condemned Blackstone’s “detrimental behavior” and argued that the company’s campaign donations “cast a pall on candidates’ ethics.”
Porter McConnell has also publicly criticized the Senate’s confirmation of Justice Kavanaugh, which her father considers one of his greatest achievements. On Twitter, she accused Kavanaugh’s supporters of misogyny, and retweeted a post from StandWithBlaseyFord, a Web site supporting Christine Blasey Ford, one of Kavanaugh’s accusers. The husband of McConnell’s middle daughter, Claire, has also criticized Kavanaugh online, and McConnell’s eldest daughter, Eleanor, is a registered Democrat.
All three daughters declined to comment, as did their mother, Sherrill Redmon, whom McConnell divorced in 1980. After the marriage ended, Redmon, who holds a Ph.D. in philosophy, left Kentucky and took over a women’s-history archive at Smith College, in Massachusetts, where she collaborated with Gloria Steinem on the Voices of Feminism Oral History Project. In an e-mail, Steinem told me that Redmon rarely spoke about McConnell, and noted, “Despite Sherrill’s devotion to recording all of women’s lives, she didn’t talk about the earlier part of her own.” Steinem’s understanding was that McConnell’s political views had once been different. “I can only imagine how painful it must be to marry and have children with a democratic Jekyll and see him turn into a corrupt and authoritarian Hyde,” she wrote. (Redmon is evidently working on a tell-all memoir.)
McConnell's ex-wife's "tell-all memoir" will maybe make a good stocking-stuffer for next Christmas.

Sunday, April 12, 2020

Democrat Jaime Harrison Running for Senate in South Carolina

The Jaime Harrison senatorial campaign to take out incumbent Republican Lindsey Graham in South Carolina could be a bellwether for politics in a new New South. Can a moderate, business-aligned black Democrat, who learned his politics at the elbow of Rep. Jim Clyburn, defeat the entrenched Lindsey Graham, the sycophantic chameleon who now smooches the ass of a man he once called “a kook”? Graham said of Trump in February 2016, “I think he’s crazy. I think he’s unfit for office.” He now bows to him as Lord and Master.
According to reporter Kara Voght, Harrison has been a dynamo at fundraising, raising $3.5 million in the last quarter of 2019 which makes Harrison a champion in the money race though he's still some $5 million behind Lindsey Graham.

He came up from extreme poverty in South Carolina but got a degree at Yale and then at Georgetown Law and sought out a staff position with Rep. Jim Clyburn, where he learned the personalities and the ways of the Hill. From there he went on to work for the Podesta Group with clients like the pro-coal American Coalition for Clean Coal Electricity, General Dynamics, Boeing, and Walmart. In other words, he's well educated and well connected to corporate America.

But for our hyper-partisan age, he's also decided on a softer approach to campaigning, mainly refusing to draw distinctions to Graham or even mentioning his name. Gibbs Knotts, who teaches political science at the College of Charleston, said of Harrison's campaign, “To characterize this as a long shot would be accurate.” A long shot not just because of the money disadvantage and not just because he's a black man running in the former Confederacy but because he's trying to rise above partisanship when the tide of history is flowing the other direction.

Friday, April 10, 2020

Immersion, Not Conversion

Dr. Rachel Bitecofer issued her "Post-Democratic Primary Update to the Bitecofer Model" for predicting the 2020 presidential race, and she forecasts 289 electoral college votes for the Democratic candidate this November. It takes 270 to win.

Bitecofer, aside from telling Democrats what they want to hear in these dark Trump times, always offers details and insights worth munching on in our social isolation. Like this:
If Trump had political capital to spend heading into this [Coronavirus] crisis, that would be one thing. But after the Russia investigation was followed in short order by the Ukraine scandal, Trump’s political capital tank is already on empty, with few Americans outside of Republicans capable of trusting him. Trump will be heading into the fall with the dubious distinction of being the most embattled, controversial, and scandal-plagued president to seek reelection in the history of the republic — and that was before this virus emerged to create a massive public health disaster and destroy his strongest claim for reelection: the economy.
Bitecofer is also the strongest voice out there against the old Democratic Party belief that significant numbers of "moderate" Republicans can be converted to vote Democratic. That's a subset of an assumption that some 15% of the electorate swings between the parties, a mistaken impression that Bitecofer calls "the Chuck Todd Theory of American Politics." I've written about that previously.

So Bitecofer looks skeptically at Montana Governor Steve Bullock's Senate race against incumbent Republican Senator Steve Daines. Bullock was heavily recruited to run, after his presidential aspirations petered out, but Bitecofer doesn't predict a Bullock victory, mainly because she assumes Bullock will campaign on the tattered Chuck Todd Theory -- trying to convert soft Republicans to vote for him:
Bullock will need to demonstrate dominance among independents in polling out of Big Sky Country to truly be competitive there under a high-turnout scenario, as will his ticket-mate, Joe Biden. But more importantly, they’ll need every single Democrat and left-leaning independent in the state to show up and vote. Which is a problem, because although a great many Democrats and left-leaning independents will be inspired to vote in 2020 due to Trump fear, I assume the Bullock campaign’s resources will largely be spent on conversion. And I’m just not sure it’ll work against Steve Daines, a center-right, traditional, conservative. Regular followers will know that I’m generally bearish about conversion (although sometimes it works, most recently in the Kentucky governor’s race against controversial Republican incumbent Matt Bevin, who along with a reputation for Trump-like divisiveness also curtailed the state’s Obamacare Medicaid expansion program). Conversion in the polarized era is hard, and it is difficult to find evidence of it in polling data from the past decade.
I highlight Bitecofer's skepticism about "conversion" because I find too many Democratic candidates in North Carolina still inclined to the old Chuck Todd Theory, rather than to the post-Trump necessity of energizing new and infrequent voters to get up off the couch and take back their government.

Thursday, April 09, 2020

Mark Meadows Took His Hatchet to the White House

We would expect little else from the congressman from North Carolina, who loved shutting down the government to get his way.

Mark Meadows, newly installed as Trump's fourth chief of staff, is reportedly increasing tensions in the White House, which should come as no surprise to anyone who has followed his career as congressman from the NC-11. We learn, for example, from this Bloomberg reporting that it was Meadows who fired press secretary Stephanie Grisham:
Meadows’s moves -- especially Grisham’s replacement, which she and her staff learned was under consideration in a report last week by Axios -- have suddenly dialed up tension in a building that has long been riven by infighting, according to multiple people familiar with the situation. 
Meadows told Grisham over the weekend he wanted her to give up the press secretary position and serve only as the White House communications director. She declined, according to two people familiar with the matter. 
Grisham has a powerful advocate in the White House: first lady Melania Trump, who promptly brought the ousted press secretary back to the East Wing as her personal chief of staff. The only formal announcement about the staff changes on Tuesday came from the first lady’s office, which some of the people suggested was a sign of her displeasure.
 Blunt force trauma. It's a Meadows trademark.

Wednesday, April 08, 2020

The Body Count -- Inspector General Glenn Fine

Glenn Fine
Photo by Michael Williamson/WashPost

A Reoccurring Feature on Who's Jumping Being Pushed Off Luxury Liner Trump

Trump has removed Glenn Fine, who had been the acting Pentagon inspector general, from the chairmanship of the federal panel Congress created to oversee the Trump administration’s management of the $2 trillion coronavirus stimulus package — "the latest action by the president to undermine the system of independent oversight of the executive established after Watergate" (Ellen Nakashima).

"In just the past four days, Trump has ousted two inspectors general and expressed displeasure with a third, a pattern that critics say is a direct assault on one of the pillars of good governance" (Nakashima).

Late last month, Fine was selected by the head of a council of inspectors general to lead the Pandemic Response Accountability Committee, created by the March 27 law.

About Fine, Matthew Miller, a former Department of Justice official, tweeted, "I know him and can tell you he was a total pain in our rear end as DOJ IG [Department of Justice Inspector General], which is exactly what you want from an IG and exactly why Trump has fired him. He’s tough, rigorous, and fair."

The Body Count -- Navy Secretary Thomas Modly


A Reoccurring Feature on Who's Jumping Off Luxury Liner Trump

Acting Navy secretary Thomas Modly resigned yesterday after drawing condemnation for insulting Captain Brett Crozier, the commanding officer of the USS Theodore Roosevelt, who was fired for writing a letter of concern about the service’s handling of a coronavirus outbreak aboard his vessel.

Modly's resignation came after he traveled from Washington to Guam on Monday to give a speech to the 5,000-member crew of the aircraft carrier. In profanity-laced remarks over a loudspeaker, Modly assailed Crozier’s character, accusing him of either leaking a letter about his concerns to the news media or of being “too naive or too stupid to be the commanding officer of a ship like this.”

Modly’s comments, leaked to reporters within hours in written and audio form, angered many of the sailors on the ship, where 230 people have tested positive for covid-19 as of Tuesday, and their relatives, and triggered calls for his resignation from several Democratic lawmakers.

Tuesday, April 07, 2020

Trumpism Infects All Living Tissue in Our Republic

Trying to keep up with all the damage being done by the Trump administration is an impossible task, but am thankful for the reporting of Helene Cooper et al. in the New York Times for this appalling and demoralizing example of Trumpist bullying deployed against men and women in uniform:
Captain Brett Crozier

WASHINGTON — President Trump’s acting Navy secretary, in a profanity-laced reprimand delivered Monday, criticized sailors aboard the stricken aircraft carrier Theodore Roosevelt for cheering their captain, who was removed after he appealed for help as coronavirus spread throughout the warship.

The Navy’s top civilian, Thomas B. Modly, delivered his message over the ship’s loudspeaker system and deepened the raw us-versus-them atmosphere that had already engulfed the carrier. It also exposed the schism between a commander in chief with little regard for the military’s chain of command and the uniformed Navy that is sworn to follow him.

Like much in the Trump administration, what began as a seemingly straightforward challenge — the arrival of coronavirus onboard a nuclear-powered aircraft carrier — has now engulfed the military, leading to far-reaching questions of undue command influence and the demoralization of young men and women who promise to protect the country. At its heart, the crisis aboard the Theodore Roosevelt has become a window into what matters, and what does not, in an administration where remaining on the right side of a mercurial president is valued above all else.

The crew of the Roosevelt had already registered its discontent with the Trump administration’s decision to remove the commander, by cheering for Capt. Brett E. Crozier as he walked down the gangway last week and left the ship....

The Body Count -- Press Secretary Stephanie Grisham

Photo by Andrew Harnik/AP Photo

A Reoccurring Feature on Who's Jumping Off Luxury Liner Trump

News leaked this morning that White House press secretary Stephanie Grisham will leave her position as Trump's chief spokeswoman and will likely return to the White House's East Wing to work for first lady Melania Trump.

Grisham, who stepped into the job less than a year ago, did not host a single press briefing at any point during her tenure and maintained a considerably lower profile than her predecessors in the job, Sean Spicer and Sarah Huckabee Sanders.

Monday, April 06, 2020

"We Don't Need No Stinking Medical Experts!"

I refuse to watch Trump's daily "Ain't I Great?" TV appearances, masquerading as virus updates, but apparently, according to press reports, yesterday's was a doozy for the way Trump shut down Dr. Antony Fauci's attempt to answer a legitimate question. I'm thankful for Allyson Chiu and Meagan Flynn's blow-by-blow account:
President Trump spent a portion of Sunday’s press briefing yet again promoting an unproven treatment for the novel coronavirus, repeatedly asking, “What do we have to lose?”

So toward the end, a CNN reporter turned to Anthony S. Fauci, the government’s top infectious disease expert, for his opinion on the effectiveness of hydroxychloroquine with a sharper question: “What is the medical evidence?”

Standing at the microphone, Fauci opened his mouth — but before he could speak, the answer came out of Trump’s instead.

“Do you know how many times he’s answered that question?” Trump cut in. “Maybe 15.”

A tight smile stretched across Fauci’s face. His eyes, framed by a pair of wire-rimmed glasses, flicked quickly to Trump. He glanced back at the reporter, who was saying to the president, “The question is for the doctor. … He’s your medical expert, correct?”

Fauci’s smile, for just a moment, was all teeth now. Trump raised his finger sternly, telling the journalist, “You don’t have to ask the question,” and so Fauci didn’t answer it, and the news conference shuffled right along.

The unexpected interruption was an extraordinary moment even in this season of brash behavior exhibited by the president during his daily briefings. While Trump has been at odds with Fauci in the past, repeatedly clouding his administration’s public health messaging, the president has never shut down his top medical expert so abruptly and publicly before, intervening to keep him from answering. In other contexts, the president routinely calls on Fauci for medical questions.

But had he been permitted to speak, Fauci’s answer, which he’s given many times, probably would not have tempered Trump’s enthusiastic endorsement of the antimalarial drug as a potential treatment for covid-19. Trump, advised by his lawyer Rudolph W. Giuliani, among others, has touted the drug for weeks....

Sunday, April 05, 2020

"Late Capitalism Has Always Been a Death Cult"

One consolation: Crises always bring out good writing. Like Laurie Penny's "This Is Not the Apocalypse You Were Looking For," which contains this succinct summation of the Trumpists who are in control of government right now:
...late capitalism has always been a death cult. The tiny-minded incompetents in charge cannot handle a problem that can’t be fixed simply by sacrificing poor, vulnerable, and otherwise expendable individuals. Faced with a crisis they can’t solve with violence, they dithered and whined and wasted time that can and will be counted in corpses. There has been no vision, because these men never imagined the future beyond the image of themselves on top of the human heap, cast in gold. For weeks, the speeches from podiums have suggested that a certain amount of brutal death is a reasonable price for other people to pay to protect the current financial system. The airwaves have been full of spineless right-wing zealots so focused on putting the win in social Darwinism that they keep accidentally saying the quiet bit out loud....

Saturday, April 04, 2020

Jared Kushner, The Cherry Atop our Coronavirus Sundae

Trump's son-in-law has failed upwards so often, as a real estate developer, as a newspaper publisher, as a maker of Middle East peace, so why not become "the point of contact for many agency officials who know that he can force action and issue decisions without going to the president"? He's perfect for the job of taking on the Coronavirus, since he has zero medical expertise nor any other experience to suggest he has a clue. He's the ultimate post turtle.

His track record so far?
He promoted a nationwide screening website and a widespread network of drive-through testing sites. Neither materialized. He claimed to have helped narrow the rift between his father-in-law and General Motors in a presidential blowup over ventilator production, one administration official said, but the White House is still struggling to procure enough ventilators and other medical equipment. (Peter Baker, Maggie Haberman, et al.)
On Thursday, Kushner got pushed to the podium at the daily White House briefing as some sort of new public face of Trump administration competency in the face of a global pandemic. Kushner promptly stepped on his weenie, suggesting that the Federal stockpile of medical protective equipment belongs to the Trumps and the Kushners, not to the rest of us. For the record, and according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, the role of the Strategic National Stockpile "is to supplement state and local supplies during public health emergencies” (Allyson Chiu).

Then Kushner took his father-in-law's tact in blaming the nation's governors for the crisis: The health crisis, he said, has revealed which leaders are “better managers than others.” “Some governors you speak to, or senators, and they don’t know what’s in their state,” he said, later adding, “Don’t ask us for things when you don’t know what you have in your own state. Just because you’re scared, you ask your medical professionals and they don’t know. You have to take inventory of what you have in your own state and then you have to be able to show that there’s a real need.”

Yeah, I feel so much better with Kushner in charge. And bring back the Your Pillow guy! He seemed nice.

The Body Count -- Michael Atkinson

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Yesterday Trump announced he was firing the Inspector General of the Intelligence Community, Michael Atkinson, effective in 30 days.

Atkinson, a Trump appointee who took the position in 2018, informed Congress of the whistleblower complaint about alleged improprieties during a telephone conversation between Trump and Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky in July 2019 that eventually led to impeachment proceedings against Trump.

Since being acquitted of impeachment charges, Trump has also fired former Ambassador Gordon Sondland and reassigned Lieutenant Colonel Alexander Vindman, both of whom testified against the president during the hearings.

The only loyalty in our current kakistocracy is loyalty to Trump.

The Body Count -- Captain Brett Crozier

A Reoccurring Feature on Who's Jumping Getting Pushed Off Luxury Liner Trump

Captain Brett Crozier, the commanding officer aboard the aircraft carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt was removed from his post because he sent a letter soliciting help on behalf of his crew as scores of sailors on the aircraft carrier contracted the lethal coronavirus. Crozier's "sin": He sent the letter directly to senior officials, skipping several rungs on the chain of command.

The sacking of Crozier was very unpopular with the sailors and crew on the carrier. They gave him a hero's sendoff as he left the ship.

Friday, April 03, 2020

We Must Be Thankful for Roy Cooper

Seeing other Southern governors in action (rather, inaction), we can be thankful that NC Governor Roy Cooper has been proactive in shutting down social interaction to prevent the spread of COVID-19. I can only imagine what shape we'd be in if Pat McCrory had won reelection, that pathetically weak toe-stepper, or God help us! if Dan Forest were sitting in that chair.

The example of governors south of us has been hair-raising. This intercepted Facebook post from a Georgia reporter will bring you up to date on why the South gets stereotyped as dumber than a 2-dollar dog:
The governor of Georgia [Brian Kemp] said he did not know asymptomatic people could carry and transmit the virus unawares until yesterday [April Fool's Day]. One public health official said simply “what rock has he been under?” It would be nice to say that Kemp is governor of Georgia by virtue of his cornering the bless-his-heart vote, as in “Bless his heart, he’s so stupid that, if we don’t elect him governor, he never could get a real job.” But it’s worse than that. But whatever it is, there is a pandemic of it among Southern governors. DeSantis in Florida said pretty much the same thing yesterday after earlier virtually ordering churches and synagogues to keep having services as usual. Kay Ivey in Alabama, explaining why she’s so stupid, said something so much stupider to illuminate us on why she wouldn’t get real that I don’t even know what it means: “Y'all, we are not Louisiana, we are not New York State, we are not California. Right now is not the time to order people to shelter in place.” And they’re all leading their people to a hell of a time by letting them continue to debate such issues of whether this panic is going to adversely affect whether Nick Sabin should have Crimson Tide spring football practice.
Kemp’s motivation for dillydallying was to get back in Low T’s good graces ["Low T" is his nickname for Trump] after not appointing Trump’s Duke of Buttkissing Doug Collins to an open US Senate seat. [Kemp instead appointed Kelly Loeffler to the seat, who recently got implicated for selling off millions in stocks because she had inside info on how bad the pandemic was going to get.] It worked to some extent as Low T twisted himself in knots today trying not to answer a question about how badly our dipwad governor put our state in the weeds. As one put it, an “insane aversion” to reality.

Wednesday, April 01, 2020

100,000 or 220,000? The Deal That Trump Has Dealt Us

Yesterday, March 31, 2020, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) told radio host Hugh Hewitt that the impeachment of President Trump distracted the administration’s attention away from the coronavirus crisis. Plain English version: Trump screwed up because the Democrats were mean to him.

Let's see: The US Senate, led by McConnell, acquitted Trump on February 5. The first US coronavirus death was reported on February 29. Between the 5th and the 29th, what was Trump doing?
Feb. 10 -- He held a campaign rally (Manchester)
Feb. 15 -- He golfed (Mar-a-Lago)
Feb. 19 -- He held a campaign rally (Phoenix)
Feb. 21 -- He held a campaign rally (Las Vegas)
Feb. 28 -- He held a campaign rally (North Charleston)

During the last rally on Feb. 28 (according to Snopes), Trump likened the Democrats' criticism of his administration's coronavirus response to their efforts to impeach him, saying "this is their new hoax." During the speech he also downplayed the severity of the outbreak, comparing it to the common flu. This now discarded Trump company line is still boilerplate for many on the right, including a handful of Trumpist Republican governors who refuse to take steps to protect their citizens. DeSantis in Florida. Tate Reeves in Mississippi. Et cetera.

The CDC issued its first warning about the virus on January 8th. In January alone -- while he might conceivably have been "distracted" by impeachment -- Trump held four rallies -- on Jan. 9 (Toledo), Jan. 14 (Milwaukee), Jan. 28 (Wildwood, NJ), and Jan. 30 (Des Moines).

Yeah, he was distracted all right