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(David Bythewood) #581


I’ve been wanting to write this for a while now, and it recently came together in my head. It’s both about what is going on with the Trump regime’s pogrom against immigrants, and where we go once we take back the government.


(David Bythewood) #582

‘Family Fire’: These two words take gun tragedies in the home head on

Campaign from Brady Center and Ad Council hopes new terminology can affect behavior

I put the video up here to watch and share more easily:

Kids Find Everything


#583

This misinformation and pitting factions one upon the other is the ultimate goal for the hostile foreign power primarily Russia’s task.

In a follow-up report, Mr. Watts described the Kremlin’s 2020 strategy as “simple, straightforward and openly available for all to see: Secure the base, split the opposition .” Part of splitting the opposition, he wrote, is sowing division “by pitting populists against the establishment.”

Mission accomplished.

As Wired’s Brian Barrett wrote last week, it appears “no one has learned anything since 2016.” Yes, fake news, disinformation and “meddling” are again top of mind in politics, but few seem to understand the complicated dynamics of propaganda and how to engage in the information war without becoming unwitting participants themselves. The first mistake many make is to assume that foreign interference is wholly separate from domestic propaganda and partisan news.

Renée DiResta, who studies networked propaganda as the technical research manager at the Stanford Internet Observatory, has tracked foreign efforts to manipulate voters online. Recently she cautioned in a long Twitter thread about 2016 election interference that “most material was drawn directly from real pain points, then repeatedly reinforced. And that is why when we look at foreign influence operations, we do have to recognize that the overwhelming majority of the narratives do not come from outside — they are just exacerbated by outsiders who intentionally build communities to reinforce insecurity and distrust,” she wrote.

A great deal of the Russian troll farm content in 2016, especially the content directed at black voters, wasn’t even directly related to an election candidate. Instead, foreign actors created social justice Facebook groups like “Black Matters US,” “Blacktivist” and “Don’t Shoot Us” to try to amplify existing tensions.

As the KGB defector Yuri Alexandrovich Bezmenov said in an interview all the way back in 1984, the end goal of meddling is to demoralize citizens so that “exposure to true information does not matter anymore.”

The author Peter Pomerantsev offered an updated explanation last year, writing that Russian propaganda seeks to seed “doubt and confusion, evoking a world so full of endlessly intricate conspiracies that you, the little guy, had no chance to work out or change.” Foreign interference, then — to the extent that we can quantify it — is less a battering ram than it is a chisel meticulously aimed at pre-existing cracks in a weakened facade.

The effect of such interference is, in large part, determined by our response to it. Unfortunately, many of the systems we rely on (intelligence leaks, amplification via social platforms and cable news, electoral politics) seem out of step with the current moment. When news leaks from intelligence sources, the press arguably has an obligation to report such things, even if the motivation of the leaks is unclear or political in nature. But news reports without many details leave an information vacuum. And in our platform-powered misinformation universe, that vacuum is naturally filled by media incentivized to amplify the controversy, jaded party leaders attempting to score political points and bad-faith trolls. It helps deepen divisions and sows chaos.

I can’t claim to have a lot of easy answers, especially on an internet that incentivizes engagement and rewards controversy. Asking the press or politicians to ignore such news is arguably wrong and certainly unrealistic. But we can ask that they not provide ideal conditions for division and misinformation to grow.
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That might mean expecting leaders of the intelligence community to find ways to publicly disclose and declassify information on election interference so that citizens have a realistic understanding of the threats facing their democracy. It might mean developing a more precise vocabulary that moves away from vague, ominous-sounding terms like “meddling” and “interference” toward specific terminology (some online propaganda accounts are created to build audience and content, and others are purely about dissemination). For the press, it might mean listing all the information we don’t know up front and urging caution when reporting on partial leaks.

If we don’t adapt to this information war, our panic over election meddling could become self-fulfilling. And we will become useful idiots in the undermining of our own electoral legitimacy.

That, more than electing any one leader, is the true goal of Russian interference.


(David Bythewood) #584

This is a very solid article, worth reading, that explains how the GOP has been stripping down our government since Reagan.

It appears we are in the chaos that churns in between more stable eras.

The coronavirus is grabbing the headlines, and it is a huge story in its own right, but it also lays bare the rot in the Republican Party that has put Trump in the White House. The coronavirus is a pandemic now, meaning it is a disease that has appeared on a number of continents, and it is killing people, although the numbers of infections and the death rate is so premature that I would not draw any conclusions yet. We know it’s not good, but just how not good it might turn out to be is still unclear.

But the coronavirus and the subsequent selling-off in the stock market of the last several days reveals what feels to me like an endpoint of a political era.

In 1980, Ronald Reagan won the White House by arguing that the activist government of the New Deal, the laws that regulated business, provided a basic social safety net, and promoted infrastructure, were destroying American liberty. “Government is not the solution to our problem;” Reagan said in his inaugural address, “government is the problem.”

After 1981, America entered a period when we turned for solutions not to educated experts informing government policy, but rather to individuals who claimed to be outside that sphere of government expertise: men of the people. As we celebrated those “self-made” individualists—usually men-- Congress cut taxes and regulation to free them to run their businesses as they saw fit. After 1981, wealth began to move upward, and yet the Republican Party continued to howl about socialism and insist that we would not have true freedom until all regulations, all taxes, and most government programs were abolished. In their place we would have businessmen who had proven their worth by creating successful businesses. They would run our country in the best way for all of us.

That this system worked well for everyone was a fiction, of course. Republican leaders stayed in power not because a majority of voters agreed with their ideology, but because as their policies moved wealth upward and hurt most Americans, they blamed those economic hardships on people of color, women, and other minorities: “special interests” who were demanding government policies paid for by the taxes of hardworking white men. They also increasingly jiggered the political system to make sure they stayed in power. They disenfranchised Democratic voters and carved up districts so that in 2012, for example, Democrats won a majority of 1.4 million votes for candidates to the House of Representatives, and yet Republicans came away with a 33-seat majority.

The election of Donald Trump to the White House in 2016 was the high water mark of this political mindset. He was an outsider who posed as a successful businessman, disdainful of politics, who promised to gut government bureaucrats—the swamp-- and put into office only the best people, people known for their business acumen or their family connections to others with that skill. Expertise and loyalty to the American government was unimportant—even undesirable. What mattered was the ability to make money and be loyal to the president.

Following in his predecessors’ footsteps, Trump slashed regulations, opened up resources to businessmen, and passed a huge tax cut for the wealthy, a tax cut which was supposed to stimulate investment in the economy and promote economic growth. In the midst of growing administration scandals, Trump banked on the fact that a strong economy would keep him in office for a second term and insisted that those opposing his administration, regardless of party, were hostile Democrats who wanted big government “socialism.”

Now, a virus from China is exposing the hollowness of a generation of relying on businessmen to manage our government. The administration’s response to the coronavirus has been shockingly bad. In 2018, it got rid of the government leadership for handling a pandemic, so we have no one in charge who is trained to handle such a crisis. Then, when the virus broke out, the Center for Disease Control and Prevention insisted on developing its own test, rather than using the guidelines established by the World Health Organization. Their test didn’t work, making health officials unable to test people in danger before they got sick. Then, over the advice of the CDC, administration officials decided to evacuate 14 infected patients who had been stranded on a cruise ship in Japan along with healthy travelers. We learned today from a whistleblower that, once landed in the U.S., workers came and went from the facility that housed the patients with no precautions. Now, we have our first case of the coronavirus that appears to have appeared here on its own, and it happened in the same place where these workers came and went (although it is too early to say if there is definitely a connection).

Trump has excused his dismissal of all the experts by saying that they were easy to rehire when necessary, but it has not turned out to be that easy. Today, he appointed a third person to be in charge of the response in addition to the two others he has already named, and, angry at the CDC official who warned Americans that the virus would arrive here sooner or later, he arranged for all statements about the disease to be cleared through Vice President Mike Pence’s office. He also revealed his key interest in protecting the stock markets today when he named two new members to the coronavirus task force: Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and Director of the National Economic Council Larry Kudlow, who has insisted on television that the virus is “contained.”

In a moment that perfectly encapsulated the problem of handling a public health crisis of this magnitude when you are equipped only to promote business, today Secretary of Health and Human Services Alexander Azar, a former drug company executive and pharmaceutical lobbyist, told Congress that when scientists manage to make a vaccine for the coronavirus (12 to 18 months out, by all accounts), not everyone will be able to afford it. “We would want to ensure that we work to make it affordable, but we can’t control that price, because we need the private sector to invest. Price controls won’t get us there.”

This is the modern Republican Party laid bare. Profits before lives, because only businessmen, not government policy, can manage the country.

This moment makes it really clear what happens when the Republicans’ ideology comes up against reality. While GOP leaders over the years, and Trump of late, have managed to silence opponents by calling them socialists or making sure they cannot vote, the virus is not going to stop simply by changing the narrative or the body politic. Investors know this, and the dropping stock market shows their realization that you cannot shut down entire countries and keep supply chains and consumer goods moving. The stock market has fallen 11.13% in the past four days, erasing a third of the gains it has made since Trump was elected. We are facing an economic downturn, one that will strain an economy that was excellent indeed for those at the very top, but not good for those who now will be vital to keep consumption levels up… but those very people will be hard pressed to come up with extra income in an economic downturn. It is a problem that the markets are acknowledging with their biggest drops since the 2008 crisis.

This is a crisis that demands expertise and coordinated government health programs, but we no longer have those things. Instead, Trump and his surrogates on the Fox News Channel are falling back on the old arguments that have worked so well for GOP leaders in the past: Democrats are hyping the coronavirus and spooking the markets to hurt the president.

Trump, and Americans in general, are about to discover that there comes a point when image can no longer override reality. We are in the churn of that chaos now. But on the other side of it, we have the potential to rebuild a government that operates in reality, and that works for all of us.


(M A Croft) #585

Image result for regan trickle down economics cartoon
Image result for trickle down economics cartoon


(David Bythewood) #586

I am not surprised that perception does not match reality. An interesting read.

Democrats Are Wrong About Republicans. Republicans Are Wrong About Democrats.


#587

Sad commentary on the amount of death and despair in the working class. Barack Obama sends a message that more can be done.

Case and Deaton — a married couple who are both economists at Princeton — try to explain the causes in a new book, “Deaths of Despair and the Future of Capitalism.” Their basic answer is that working-class life in the United States is more difficult than it is in any other high-income country. “European countries have faced the same kind of technological change we have, and they’re not seeing the people killing themselves with guns or drugs or alcohol,” Case says. “There is something unique about the way the U.S. is handling this.”


#588

This op-ed nails why Trump is not the leader we need during a crisis. At the same time, it offers hope that there is a host of Americans like Tom Hanks and Rita Wilson who are willing to set aside their personal interests for the common good.

The coronavirus pandemic will challenge our country in ways we haven’t seen in our lifetimes. And we are culturally unprepared.

It’s not that America hasn’t faced public health crises before. A century ago, America confronted the far more deadly Spanish influenza epidemic, which killed an estimated 50 million people around the world, including members of my family. We confronted the polio epidemic, which crippled hundreds of thousands of people, including, many believe, an American president. And when a cure for polio was found, Dr. Jonas Salk gave away the patent for free to help as many people as fast as possible.

Thankfully our scientific expertise has improved dramatically since those days. But in recent decades, we have lost our muscle memory in terms of something that is just as important in times of crisis: the balance between individualism and community.

We have become accustomed to pursuing our individual self-interest at the expense of the common good. We are unaccustomed to shared sacrifice. During World War II, Americans gave up creature comforts to aid the war effort. After the attacks of 9/11, we were told to go shopping.

Tom Hanks and Rita Wilson: What we know

Tom Hanks and Rita Wilson: What we know

Donald Trump is a reflection of our culture. He is a symbol of self-interest. He rose in the 1980s as an avatar of greed-is-good excess, finding further fame in the superficial celebrity of reality TV. His narcissistic self-promotional instincts have been the key to his success but they come at the expense of any fidelity to the truth or confronting hard facts.

That’s a killer when it comes to his credibility in times of crisis. The President’s long pattern of misinformation, often contradicting his administration’s health experts, has added to the confusion. And the fact that his instincts lead him to wield fear as a political weapon to corral people in his own party while saying Democrats and “the deep state” hate our country, make him uniquely unsuited to being a uniting father figure to the nation no matter what words comes out of his mouth now.

But while Donald Trump is our president, he does not define our culture completely. And ironically, one of the most high-profile celebrity victims of coronavirus to date is beloved because he represents an older American tradition where character counts above all.

I’m talking about Tom Hanks, who announced Wednesday that he and his wife, Rita Wilson, are infected with the virus. A palpable sense of decency, self-deprecating humor and personal honor suffuse his roles in films from Forrest Gump to Saving Private Ryan. It’s evident whether he’s playing Ben Bradlee in “The Post” or his most recent turn as Mr. Rogers in “A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood.”

Now, what we see on screen doesn’t always reflect the real person, but by all accounts Tom Hanks is a genuinely good human, kind to people not in positions of power and generous to charity. This is a simple virtue we don’t always celebrate but it’s essential to the creation of a culture of trust. And his popularity speaks to a deeper longing in our country for a time when kindness counted and character was destiny.

America’s historic success depends on striking the right balance between individual ambition and the common good. This is something that even the rugged individualists of the western frontier instructively understood. We aren’t truly safe and secure unless we look out for each other. This isn’t soft or socialistic or communitarian. It’s common sense and enlightened self-interest.

Fear is not our friend. Panic doesn’t solve problems. But we need to find the right balance between individualism and the community again as we aim to overcome this challenge together.


(David Bythewood) #589

The New York Times has compiled more than two dozen pieces of journalism in “Answers to Your Coronavirus Questions,” which is available to download for free.


#590

How to Prepare for the Next Pandemic

Many federal agencies are responsible for containing Covid-19—which means none are accountable.

America’s coronavirus catastrophe is a function of two separate failures—only one of which, national government incompetence, is getting sufficient attention. The public has been forced to choose between their lives and their livelihoods, and voters will judge President Trump’s handling of the crisis in November. But the second question centers on overall accountability. No single federal official below the president is charged with preparing, mobilizing and deploying the national response to a pandemic.

As we’re seeing in Ohio, where Gov. Mike DeWine was quick to take action, and in Washington state, where Gov. Jay Inslee was similarly aggressive, speed in response corresponds to speed in recovery. No one seems quite sure who is running the White House’s national effort. Is it Mike Pence, or the president’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner? By contrast, Boston Mayor Marty Walsh hired retired Gen. Stanley McChrystal to run his city’s response. Yet hiring better people is only a first step. Congress needs to institute wide-ranging reforms. This is a classic case of diffuse authority undermining a national priority.

The Education Department oversees school funding and policy. Farm policy sits at the U.S. Department of Agriculture. But responsibility for public health is spread across disconnected agencies. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the National Institutes of Health, the intelligence agencies. Even the Pentagon plays a role in planning. America has faced the threat of four pandemics over two decades (H1N1, SARS, MERS and Ebola), and it’s sure to face many more. The country needs to make a single official broadly responsible for protecting the health and well-being of the American people in a public-health emergency.

Typically, when the federal government has been outmatched by a crisis, Washington has responded by making structural changes that bring a laserlike focus on the threat. As the Cold War ramped up in 1947, President Truman created what became the National Security Council. When the energy crisis flattened the U.S. economy in the 1970s, President Carter established the Energy Department. After President George H.W. Bush’s administration botched the response to Hurricane Andrew, President Clinton drove enormous new resources into the Federal Emergency Management Agency and elevated it into a cabinet-level department. After 9/11, President George W. Bush established the Department of Homeland Security and a new agency to coordinate the nation’s vast intelligence network.

It’s time to apply that playbook to the recurring challenge of pandemics. Reformers should focus on four initiatives:

Early-warning system . The new agency—call it the Department of Public Health and Emergency Care—would set up a global early-warning system. The government has something similar for tornadoes, hurricanes, tsunamis, missiles and terrorist attacks. On assuming office, the Trump administration “streamlined”—a fancy word for disbanded—a White House office designed to coordinate pandemic response. Maybe more egregious, he abandoned an Obama-era program that had deployed public-health experts to keep watch over developments across the globe—including in Wuhan. The U.S. needs to reconstitute and expand that network.

Strategic stockpile . As the current shortage of ventilators, gloves and masks makes clear, Washington needs to augment the stock of medical supplies. Mr. Clinton established a program along these lines in 1999, and George W. Bush expanded it dramatically in 2005. The reserve was never fully replenished after Washington went to war with previous pandemics. Today, the story of Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker asking the Kraft family to transport medical equipment from China simply to guarantee that the Trump administration wouldn’t commandeer it is indictment enough of the existing system.

I’m accustomed to seething about this president’s mistakes, but as a former mayor I found his notion that states and cities should bid against one another for supplies especially outrageous. In a moment like this, the federal government should be responsible for ensuring the country has what it needs. The strategic oil reserve, for example, is designed to provide the U.S. with six months of energy independence—enough time for the private sector to adjust. The same should be true of the “materiel” needed during a public-health crisis.

Rapid-deployment force . To distribute those reserves, the new department would establish a corps of health-care professionals—something modeled on a cross between FEMA, the National Guard and the military reserves—that would deploy strategically the moment a pandemic hits. Never again should we witness scenes of exhausted and overwhelmed hospital workers like we’re seeing today. Thank God they answered the call, but never again should mayors and governors have to issues pleas for retirees to volunteer their services.

The new department would ensure that there is a system ready to mobilize with a single call.

State and Local Planning . Even if the federal government proves better equipped to lead, state and local governments will have an irreplaceable role. In the wake of 9/11, the Department of Homeland Security began providing funding and expertise to mayors and governors, requiring them to formulate complex contingency plans. Cities began running joint tabletop exercises with their state and federal counterparts. When I was mayor of Chicago, the Rockefeller Foundation helped my administration develop detailed resiliency plans focused on climate events. Washington needs to apply that model to public health.

History will hold Mr. Trump responsible for the federal government’s lack of urgency in the early weeks, and the cavalier response that followed. He cannot claim he was insufficiently warned. During the 2016-17 transition, President Obama insisted on running a single live tabletop drill with the incoming administration, based on what he believed to be a major continuing national vulnerability. “Crimson Contagion,” as it was labeled, simulated a pandemic much like the one we’re facing today. Three years later Washington was caught unprepared in part because the executive branch wasn’t set up correctly.

One crucial lesson of the current catastrophe is that response speed plays an outsize role in determining the extent of devastation. But the diffusion of power slows us down. We should model our response to public-health emergencies on the way we reorganized government to fight the Cold War and various terrorist groups. Even if the buck ultimately stops in the Oval Office, Americans should be able to hold a single official accountable for the nation’s anticipation, preparation and response to future pandemics.

Mr. Emanuel was a senior adviser to President Clinton and chief of staff to President Obama. He represented Illinois’s Fifth Congressional District, 2003-09, and served as mayor of Chicago, 2011-19. He is author of “The Nation City: Why Mayors Are Now Running the World.”


#591

“We’re going to win so much that you’re going to be sick and tired. You’re going to say, ‘Please, please, Mr. President, we’re sick and tired of winning. Please let us have at least one loss. It’s no longer exciting to win.’ And I’m going to say, ‘No way, we’re going to keep winning, and I don’t care if you like it or not.’”

Donald J. Trump, 2016

President Trump was right. We are tired of winning.

Over the weekend, the United States passed Italy as the country with the highest death toll in the world from the novel coronavirus. Soon nobody else’s mortality will be able to come close to competing with ours! USA! USA! USA! The president tells us “we’re winning” the “war” against the virus. He tells us over and over again that “we’re winning it.”

We say: Please, please, Mr. President, we’re tired of winning so much. Our friends are out of work, our parents and grandparents are dying, our medical system is collapsing without tests and vital supplies, our kids can’t go to school, and we can’t buy toilet paper. If this is winning, can we go back to losing the way we used to?

And he says: No way. We’re going to keep winning, and I don’t care if you like it or not.

And so we win some more.

We win the disaster-declaration championship. “For the first time in history there is a fully signed Presidential Disaster Declaration for all 50 States,” the president tells us. “We are winning,” he repeats.

We win new economic titles. “We’ve set every record you can set,” he says. We’ve already set the land speed record for unemployment: Over 16 million in three weeks. Soon we will have greatest economic collapse since the Great Depression.

We’re winning every competition on Wall Street. “We had the biggest Stock Market increase since 1974,” he tells us after a four-day rally. This was possible because we set another record: The Dow Jones industrial average’s worst first quarter in history. Take that, Herbert Hoover!

We say: It’s no longer exciting to win so much. Our retirement savings are exhausted. Please, Mr. President, let us have at least one loss the way Germany does? The Germans used the past several months to prepare extensive testing and contact tracing, and to build up medical stockpiles and hospitals. Only about 3,000 people there have died. The Germans will be able to restart their economy sooner.

But he says: No way. We’re going to keep on winning.

He wins the race to spend more emergency funds than any other president. “I signed the single largest economic relief package in American history,” he tells us.

He prevails over complainers. When a Navy captain pleads for help on his aircraft carrier, where a sailor has since died and at least 585 have become infected, Trump condemns the now-reassigned commander’s “terrible” action.

He triumphs against oversight. When an inspector general reports that hospitals face dire shortages of supplies, Trump dismisses the “fake dossier.” When another inspector general attempts to examine the administration’s secret handouts of relief funds, Trump ousts him.

He defeats the scientists. When the U.S. government’s top infectious-disease specialist says lives could have been saved if the Trump administration acted more quickly, Trump retweets a threat to fire him.

He routs the governors. When governors warn of dire mortality if workplaces open with a “big bang” in a couple of weeks without sufficient testing and contact tracing, Trump tells them “no excuses” and “it is the decision of the president.”

And he beats the doctors, getting U.S. hospitals to experiment widely with a cocktail of hydroxychloroquine and azithromycin, even as researchers in Brazil warn it causes potentially fatal heart problems.

We say: Please, please, Mr. President, for the sake of the nation, for the sake of humanity, can we please stop winning so much?

And he says: No way.

He boasts about how he has won “the biggest audiences” for his press briefings.

He sends life-saving ventilators to certain states because Republican senators facing difficult reelection campaigns have requested them.

He tells governors to be “appreciative” of his services if they want the federal government’s help with the pandemic.

He signs a coronavirus relief bill that contains a $170 billion tax windfall for real estate investors such as himself and his son-in-law.

He opposes mail-in voting during the pandemic, even though it’s safer, because it would increase “levels of voting” to the point where “you’d never have a Republican elected.”

We say: Please, Mr. President, we are sick and tired of this kind of winning. Could you try winning for the country for once rather than for yourself?

And he says: No way.


#592

The Huge Cost of Waiting to Contain the Pandemic

As the numbers show, the timing of social distancing can have an enormous impact on death tolls.

By Britta L. Jewell and Nicholas P. Jewell

The writers are epidemiologists.

On March 16, the White House issued initial social distancing guidelines, including closing schools and avoiding groups of more than 10. But an estimated 90 percent of the cumulative deaths in the United States from Covid-19, at least from the first wave of the epidemic, might have been prevented by putting social distancing policies into effect two weeks earlier, on March 2, when there were only 11 deaths in the entire country. The effect would have been substantial had the policies been imposed even one week earlier, on March 9, resulting in approximately a 60 percent reduction in deaths.


#593

I love Jane Meyer’s work:

It’s a chunk of time to read it all but worth it. Basically it comes down to the GOP is just fully engulfed in “an obsession of power without purpose.” Also there are a lot of powerful ppl unhappy with McTurtle (apologies to turtles everywhere) and apparently his first wife is writing a tell-all, which I know I should not be so gleeful about but I reeeeeeeally am having trouble with the rage levels :woman_shrugging:t2:

This is so well researched, even McConnell’s biographer didn’t know some of the stories!

If you can’t bring yourself to dive in to psychotic turtle hell and need a more abridged version, that biographer has a nice compact thread of his thoughts on the article that sum it up to a certain extent:

:cocktail:


#594

Me too. And Susan Glasser, with her letters from Washington. :gem::gem:


(M A Croft) #595

Quoted for Truth.

As I look at the GOP from afar, all I see is the promotion of small government, tax cuts for the wealthy, and austerity for the rest. Oh! I nearly forgot their agenda of stacking your courts system with ultra conservative Justices; with the downstream effect of slowing the democratic process of social development for decades. :frowning:

In the meantime T is allowed to carry out his mindless vandalism on the environment.


#596

Congressional Democrats are governing from the minority

For Democrats, an ideological asymmetry has become a strategic asymmetry. Democrats want to convince the country of the government’s worth. Republicans want to convince the country of the government’s worthlessness. If Washington collapses into dysfunction and paralysis now, when the country needs it most, congressional liberals don’t see that as helping their long-term effort to rebuild trust in public institutions.

“It’s like the old saying that Republicans believe the government is incompetent and then get elected and prove it,” says Schatz. “They don’t want the federal government to work and we do. That’s what’s going on here, and I don’t have a quick, facile solution to it. If we engage in a zero-sum game, we’ll just accelerate the death spiral that is Grover Norquist and Mitch McConnell and the Koch brothers’ dream.”

In my Desperate attempt to catch up on congressional news, I came across this piece which I found to sum it all up. From all I’ve been reading and thinking about, this right. It’s pretty amazing that congressional Democrats have gotten as much as they have but the people need more.


#597

Conservative commentator S. E. Cupp says it is time to invoke the 25th Amendment. T is not well.

The president is not well: The umpteenth reminders of Trump’s mental state and the consequences

Every parent has warily confronted the hypothetical question: What would you do if you suspected your child was unwell?

Not physically, but emotionally unwell, or mentally unstable? Imagine learning your teenager, for example, had been yelling demeaning slurs at the girls in his class, harassing them and calling them names.

And that he’d been secretly using his social media accounts to go on late-night rants against perceived enemies, attacking their looks, and again, calling them names in unending, seething, rambling posts.

Or that he’d been increasingly susceptible to bizarre and otherwise implausible conspiracy theories, and was spreading them unprompted to anyone who would listen.

Presumably, you’d be very, very concerned. These aren’t normal behaviors, nor are they signs of a well-adjusted, healthy and happy person. They are, rather, signs of a person who has lost the ability to manage their emotions.

If this were your child, you’d intervene as quickly as you could, getting them the help they clearly needed.

Likewise, if this were your friend, you might suggest they see a therapist to work through some of their anger issues. If this were your coworker, you’d probably alert someone in human resources.

And what if this were the president of the United States?

Not only are these behaviors the norm for President Trump, but they seem to have worsened at one of the most precarious and critical times for our country, as we face a global pandemic that has killed nearly 70,000 Americans.

Less than two weeks after unimaginably suggesting injecting disinfectants might help kill off the coronavirus, the past few days have seen him spiral out of control, proving utterly incapable of staying focused on the biggest crisis a president can face. Instead, he has:

  • Spread unfounded conspiracy theories about the origins of the coronavirus, about former President Barack Obama and about an MSNBC cable-news host;
  • Made statements that can only be described as delusional, like comparing himself to Abraham Lincoln, inventing a non-existent letter of apology from Joe Biden, and spewing non-science about his favorite drug, hydroxychloroquine;
  • Attacked two female reporters for doing their jobs, lamenting that they didn’t behave like “Donna Reed,” an actress synonymous with the gender role-abiding, kitchen-dwelling 1950s housewife she played on television more than 60 years ago;
  • Attacked another female cable-news host, calling her a “3rd rate lapdog”;
  • And in the middle of the night on Tuesday, at 12:45 a.m., gone on a 234-word rant on Twitter, complaining about an ad released by a Republican anti-Trump group whose leaders include George Conway, husband of his staffer Kellyanne, in which he used words like “deranged loser of a husband,” and “Moonface” to describe him.

It’s a frightening commentary on the slow normalization of this completely abnormal behavior that we can greet the undeniable deterioration of the president of the United States with mere shrugs. And the only concerns from his inner circle seem not to be about the mental instability itself, but the political ramifications of it being exposed in daily press briefings.

“Advisers have argued…they could be alienating some viewers, including senior citizens worried about their health,” an Associated Press report says, and, “Officials at Trump’s reelection campaign have also noted a slip in Trump’s support in some battleground states and have expressed concerns that the briefings, which often contain inaccurate information, may be playing a role.”

The giant orange elephant in the room isn’t that Trump’s impaired judgment might cost him the election; it’s that it may well have already cost American lives.

Waiting until November to get Trump out of harm’s way is the only real option we have. The Constitution’s 25th Amendment, designed to remove a president who is “unable to discharge the powers and duties of his office,” is inarguably applicable but politically impossible.

So, like worried parents, we’ll just wait anxiously, hope the worst doesn’t happen and that there’s a light at the end of this very dark tunnel. Until then, who knows what our very sick president will do next?


#598

WSJ is coming out to say that T is off. He should not be tweeting any conspiracy theories says the WSJ Editorial Board.

T has been been put on notice. But we do not expect much change, nor does the WSJ.

Donald Trump sometimes traffics in conspiracy theories—recall his innuendo in 2016 about Ted Cruz’s father and the JFK assassination—but his latest accusation against MSNBC host Joe Scarborough is ugly even for him. Mr. Trump has been tweeting the suggestion that Mr. Scarborough might have had something to do with the death in 2001 of a young woman who worked in his Florida office when Mr. Scarborough was a GOP Congressman.

“A lot of interest in this story about Psycho Joe Scarborough. So a young marathon runner just happened to faint in his office, hit her head on his desk, & die? I would think there is a lot more to this story than that? An affair? What about the so-called investigator? Read story!” Mr. Trump tweeted Saturday while retweeting a dubious account of the case.

He kept it going Tuesday with new tweets: “The opening of a Cold Case against Psycho Joe Scarborough was not a Donald Trump original thought, this has been going on for years, long before I joined the chorus. . . . So many unanswered & obvious questions, but I won’t bring them up now! Law enforcement eventually will?” Nasty stuff, and from the Oval Office to more than 80 million Twitter followers.

There’s no evidence of foul play, or an affair with the woman, and the local coroner ruled that the woman fainted from an undiagnosed heart condition and died of head trauma. Some on the web are positing a conspiracy because the coroner had left a previous job under a cloud, but the parents and husband of the young woman accepted the coroner’s findings and want the case to stay closed.

Mr. Trump always hits back at critics, and Mr. Scarborough has called the President mentally ill, among other things. But suggesting that the talk-show host is implicated in the woman’s death isn’t political hardball. It’s a smear. Mr. Trump rightly denounces the lies spread about him in the Steele dossier, yet here he is trafficking in the same sort of trash.

Rep. Adam Kinzinger, a Republican from Illinois, had it right when he tweeted on the weekend: “Completely unfounded conspiracy. Just stop. Stop spreading it, stop creating paranoia. It will destroy us.”

We don’t write this with any expectation that Mr. Trump will stop. Perhaps he even thinks this helps him politically, though we can’t imagine how. But Mr. Trump is debasing his office, and he’s hurting the country in doing so.


#599

Provocative thoughts…and true.

The police work for white people, and they know it. White people know it too. Deep down, white people know exactly whom the police are supposed to “protect and serve,” and they damn well know it’s not black and brown people. We saw some video of that too, over the weekend. Amy Cooper was walking in Central Park with her dog. Her dog was off its leash, in violation of park rules and city ordinances. A bird-watcher, Chris Cooper, who happens to be black, asked her to follow the rules. Instead of just putting her dog on a leash, Amy decided to use Chris’s race against him. She first threatened to call the cops, and then did just that, claiming that an “African American man” was “threatening” her in the park.

The very instant that Amy Cooper felt she needed the support of institutionalized racism to get her through her morning, she knew exactly where to find it. She knew exactly whom to call. Amy Cooper was the one in violation of the rules. Yet there she was, calling the cops. No doubt, it wouldn’t have even occurred to her to call them to the scene of her lawlessness if not for the way cops tend to harass, jail, and, yes, murder people who look like Chris Cooper. Or George Floyd. Or Eric Garner. Or Terrance Crutcher. Or Alton Sterling. Or Emantic Fitzgerald Bradford Jr. Or Amadou Diallo.

When Amy Cooper threatened to call the cops, she was threatening to take a black man’s life. It’s a threat that only works because cops are so consistently willing to murder black and brown men. Amy Cooper was able to dial up 400 years of racial oppression and violence on her phone more easily than I am able to order a pizza.

It doesn’t have to be this way. It is entirely within the scope of white power in America to rein in its police. White people could elect mayors and prosecutors who are committed to police reform. White judges and juries could hold the police accountable for their crimes. White Republicans could challenge and eventually break the power of police unions just as easily as they break teachers’ unions or any labor union that stands in the way of rapacious capitalism. If a majority of white people decided, today, that racist policing should end, we’d start seeing changes to police forces by the middle of next week.

But white people do not stop their cops. A majority of them clearly want the cops to behave this way. They want the viciousness. They want the horror. Why? It’s not just that a majority of white America probably thinks Amy Cooper did the right thing in her specific situation; it’s that they think they will one day be in a situation where Amy’s actions are justified. One day they might be alone in a park around a strange black man, and what might happen then? Sure, Chris Cooper seems like a “nice” black person, but what if he weren’t? What if he were a “mean” or “aggressive” black person, and you were just alone in the park, illegally walking your dog? Best to keep brutal, dangerous, and racist cops around, because, hey, you never know.


#600

My fellow brothers and sisters in blue, what the hell are you doing?

By Val Demings

May 29, 2020 at 5:00 a.m. PDT

Val Demings, a Democrat, represents Florida’s 10th Congressional District in the U.S. House of Representatives.

As a former woman in blue, let me begin with my brothers and sisters in blue: What in the hell are you doing?

I joined the Orlando Police Department when I was 26 years old — a young black woman, fresh out of an early career in social work. I am sure you can imagine the mental and physical stress of the police academy. Not only exams and physical training, but the daily thoughts of, “What am I doing here?” as I looked around and did not see many people who looked like me.

But I made it. I was elected class president and received the Board of Trustees’ Award for overall excellence. I proudly took an oath to the Constitution and to protect and serve. I was on my way to fulfill my dream of “saving the world.” Of course, I went straight to the midnight shift, but I loved the job. I truly felt like I was serving my community, responding to calls from people in distress.

When citizens were in trouble (if they had to call the police, they weren’t having a good day), they called really believing that when we arrived, things would get better. That they would be safe. But we are painfully reminded that all too often, things do not get better. Matter of fact, they can get much worse — with deadly results.

When an officer engages in stupid, heartless and reckless behavior, their actions can either take a life or change a life forever. Bad decisions can bring irrevocable harm to the profession and tear down the relationships and trust between the police and the communities they serve. Remember, law enforcement needs that trust just as the public does. Think before you act! Remember, your most powerful weapon is the brain the good Lord gave you. Use it!

We all know that the level of force must meet the level of resistance. We all can see that there was absolutely zero resistance from George Floyd. He posed no threat to anyone, especially law enforcement.

Why do bad things happen? Bad mind, bad heart or bad policy? The painful cries of Eric Garner will be with us forever. Now, George Floyd’s pleas for help will, too. I cannot begin to understand how any officer could ignore the painful pleas we heard from Floyd — or from anyone suffering.

My heart goes out to the families of those who have lost loved ones. But we must also offer justice through full and swift accountability — not just for their loved one, but for the future.

In Minnesota, we have no choice but to hold the officers accountable through the criminal-justice system. But we cannot only be reactive. We must be proactive. We must work with law enforcement agencies to identify problems before they happen.

As a nation, we must conduct a serious review of hiring standards and practices, diversity, training, use-of-force policies, pay and benefits (remember, you get what you pay for), early warning programs, and recruit training programs. Remember, officers who train police recruits are setting the standard for what is acceptable and unacceptable on the street.

Law enforcement officers are granted remarkable power and authority. They are placed in complicated and dangerous situations. They respond to calls from people with their own biases and motives. In New York, we’ve recently seen past pains of the Central Park Five dredged up in a new attemptto misuse law enforcement against an African American man. When you see people differently, you treat them differently. And when power is in the mix, tragedy can result.

As law enforcement officers, we took an oath to protect and serve. And those who forgot — or who never understood that oath in the first place — must go. That includes those who would stand by as they witness misconduct by a fellow officer.

Everyone wants to live in safer communities and to support law enforcement and the tough job they do every day. But this can’t go on. The senseless deaths of America’s sons and daughters — particularly African American men — is a stain on our country. Let’s work to remove it.

We have got to get this one right. Our communities, good police officers and generations yet to come deserve it.

Eugene Robinson: Black lives remain expendable

Michael Gerson: Trump’s refusal to address racism threatens the identity of our country

Michele L. Norris: How Amy Cooper and George Floyd represent two versions of racism that black Americans face every day

Ben Crump: Another unarmed black person has been killed. It’s no wonder we can’t breathe.