Trump/Kushner, Inc.

Heaven help us, we’re at the mercy of the Slim Suit crowd.

By Maureen Dowd/ New York Times/ April 4, 2020

 

A few years ago, when some photos by Times photographers adorning our office walls were swapped out for others, I found one headed for the dumpster.

It captured the scene when Andy Card came over to whisper to George W. Bush, as he read “The Pet Goat” to schoolchildren in Sarasota, that a second plane had crashed into the World Trade Center.

It was such a pivotal moment in this country’s history, it seemed too important to toss. So I hung it in my office.

But then three days later, I had to get rid of it. The look in Bush’s eyes was so disturbing, I couldn’t bear to see it anymore.

He looked frightened, like a horrible bill had come due and he was utterly unprepared to pay it. He looked like what he was: a man who had been winging it for the first half of his life, playing and swaggering around while he relied on his daddy and daddy’s friends to prop him up.

W. was shaken to the core, and that left him vulnerable to being influenced by the older advisers around him with their own crazy agendas. America is still paying for the dreadful decisions that came after that moment. The same blend of arrogance and incompetence informed the Bush administration’s handling of Katrina — the earlier lash of nature that exposed the lethal fault line between the haves and have-nots. W. retreated to clinical states’ rights arguments as a beloved city drowned.

Now we have another pampered scion in the Oval, propped up by his daddy for half his life, accustomed to winging it and swaggering around. And he, too, is utterly unprepared to lead us through the storm. Like W., he is resorting to clinical states’ rights arguments, leaving the states to chaotically compete with one another and the federal government for precious medical equipment.

Donald Trump is trying to build a campaign message around his image as a wartime president. But as a commander in chief, Cadet Bone Spurs is bringing up the rear.

“I would leave it up to the governors,” Trump said Friday, when asked about his government’s sclerotic response. Trouble is, when you leave it to the governors, you have scenes like we did in Florida with the open beaches — not to mention a swath in the middle of the country that, as of Friday night, still had not ordered residents to stay home.

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Presidential Gaslighting

George Conway: McConnell is “gaslighting” America by blaming Trump’s virus “failures” on impeachment

“Trump managed to visit his Mar-a-Lago estate for rounds of golf on at least four occasions,” Conway points out

By Matthews Rozsa/ Salon/ April 1, 2020

George Conway, the husband of White House counselor Kellyanne Conway, accused Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., of “gaslighting” America through his roundly-criticized claim that President Donald Trump failed to adequately address the coronavirus pandemic because of impeachment.

“Look at the calendar. The impeachment trial ended on Feb. 5,” Conway wrote in The Washington Post. “In reality, it was over before it even started, thanks in large part to McConnell. The only drama was about whether there’d be any witnesses — and that ended on Jan. 31, when the Senate voted not to hear testimony. That left plenty of time to deal with the virus.”

“Impeachment didn’t consume the government,” Conway continued, “and Trump managed to visit his Mar-a-Lago estate for rounds of golf on at least four occasions in January and February, after the coronavirus pandemic had already reached the U.S.”

Conway added that Trump held five campaign rallies around the country during this same period.

Trump publicly commented on COVID-19 on four separate occasions between Jan. 22 and Feb. 2, Conway said, and intelligence agencies warned both the president and Congress about the nature of the threat.

“The problem wasn’t impeachment — it was the president,” Conway wrote. “There was never any chance that the government was going to take sufficient action on the virus when the president himself wasn’t taking the virus seriously. It was Trump, after all, who claimed — at the very end of February, weeks after the impeachment trial had ended — that criticisms such as [Democratic Connecticut Sen. Chris] Murphy’s were a ‘hoax’ and that ‘within a couple days,’ the number of coronavirus cases ‘is going to be down to close to zero.'”

McConnell falsely claimed to right-wing radio host Hugh Hewitt on Tuesday that Trump failed to respond to the pandemic because of impeachment.

“It diverted the attention of the government,” McConnell said, “because everything every day was all about impeachment.”

Sen. Tom Cotton, R-Ark., made the same claim earlier on Hewitt’s program that “unfortunately, Washington, especially the Congress was consumed with another matter — you may recall the partisan impeachment of the president.”

Trump was impeached in December for allegedly abusing his presidential power and obstructing Congress after he withheld $391 million in military aid from Ukraine while asking that country to investigate his political rivals. The Senate acquitted him in a mostly party-line vote: All Republicans voted to acquit and all Democrats voted to convict on obstruction of Congress, while Republican Sen. Mitt Romney of Utah broke from his party and joined Democrats in voting to convict on abuse of power.

In addition to downplaying the crisis in January, February and March, Trump disbanded a National Security Council pandemic panel that experts had praised; advocated for major budget cuts to the Centers for Disease Control; and failed to provide Americans with accurate scientific information about the pandemic.

“He should have been warning us it was coming,” Dr. William Haseltine, a biologist renowned for his work in confronting the HIV/AIDS epidemic, for fighting anthrax and for advancing our knowledge of the human genome, told Salon. “He should have been preparing by stockpiling all the necessary equipment. But even today we’re not doing what we should do. Let me put it that way. What we should be doing is contact tracing [identifying people who may have come in contact with infected patients] and having mandatory quarantines for everybody who’s been exposed. And quarantining not at home, but in hotel rooms, single occupancy hotel rooms.”

MATTHEW ROZSA
Matthew Rozsa is a breaking news writer for Salon. He holds an MA in History from Rutgers University-Newark and is ABD in his PhD program in History at Lehigh University. His work has appeared in Mic, Quartz and MSNBC.
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The Answer is Yes

Would Trump Get Away With Letting 2 Million Americans Die?

By Thom Hartmann/ ThomHartmann.com/ March 23,2020

Thom plus logo 
A joke floating around on the Internet says, “How do you know if you have coronavirus? Just cough in a rich person’s face and wait for the results to come back.” The joke highlights the fact that rich and powerful people all across the country are easily and quickly getting themselves tested, but people who may have been exposed – and in most of the country who may even have symptoms but not severe symptoms – can’t get tested.

The United States and South Korea diagnosed their first cases on the same day back toward the end of January. South Korea activated their pandemic response teams, had a test approved and deployed within a week, and have now tested over 300,000. They have this thing under control, and their hospitals are not melting down.

Trump, instead, chose not to put back into place the pandemic response teams that he had fired back two years ago, and gave responsibility for the coronavirus to Jared and Pence. Jared had his brother-in-law ask for advice on Facebook, producing a computer print out page of suggestions for people that Trump passed out last week. Mike Pence chose to basically do nothing. And so the world is watching as American hospitals are begging people to sew masks and protective clothing in their homes and donate them to the hospitals.

Over at the Senate, Mitch McConnell is trying to come up with a $500 billion slush fund that “Foreclosure King” Steve Mnuchin can give to anyone he wants with absolutely no oversight, no accountability, and no ability for the public to ever know how the money was used.

And now the media is reporting the Trump is getting “tired of social distancing.” He’s refused to even model it in his press conferences, demanding that his people cluster close to him, while Axios is reporting that Trump wants to encourage Americans to forget about the quarantine and go back to work so the market will go back up and he’ll get reelected. And he wants his hotels bailed out as soon as possible.

Epidemiologists tell us the worst case scenario is 2 million dead Americans if we don’t engage in massive social distancing right now. Trump is willing to let Americans die and to let this virus rage out of control, as long as there’s a bail out for his own businesses and the Fed can get the stock market back up.

Donald
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PRESIDENT FOR LIFE?

We need to plan now in case Trump loses in November — but refuses to leave the White House

By Thom Hartmann/ AlterNet/ March 13, 2020

 

leave

The Constitution provides a couple of mechanisms for Trump to lose the 2020 election—both the popular vote and the Electoral College—and still hold the office of president for a second term.

It’s keeping historians and constitutional scholars up at night and, based on offline conversations I’ve had with D.C. conservatives I know, is something the GOP and partisans within the Trump administration are already discussing.

Bill Maher and I have been repeatedly asking a question on the air that the rest of America’s media seemingly thinks is too far out to even consider: What if Trump’s lawyer Michael Cohen is right, and after losing the 2020 election Trump refuses to leave office?

On its surface, the question seems silly—nobody who has lost both the popular vote and an uncontested Electoral College vote has ever gone on to become president, right?

Unfortunately, it’s wrong. The GOP has done this before, an action that included multiple threats of violence and bloodshed on the floor of Congress, leading Democrats to cave in even though their candidate won the popular vote and had 22 more electoral votes than the Republican (who became president).

Additionally, the Constitution says that if a presidential election really turns into a mess with multiple claims of fraud or some other crisis, the president is selected by the U.S. House of Representatives.

While that sounds like good news, with Democrats controlling the House today, each state’s delegation only gets one vote—50 votes from 50 states determine the president. And a majority of the states are Republican-controlled, so this remedy would put Trump into office regardless of how badly he lost the popular vote, the electoral vote, or both.

So, how did we get here, and what are the scenarios the Republicans I know are considering?

First, some background.

Swing States’ Legislatures Decide (and Trump Wins)

Article II (the Executive Branch), Section 1, Clause 2 of the Constitution (and the 12th Amendment, which revises it) gives solely to the legislature of the states the power to control the electors who will decide the presidential election.

It does not say that the people of the states shall vote for their choice of president and then that vote shall be reflected in the states’ electoral votes. It’s entirely up to the legislature (without any input from the governor). “Each State shall appoint, in such Manner as the Legislature thereof may direct, a Number of Electors…” is how it appears in Article II of the Constitution.

Every state’s legislature generally directs all their electors to vote for the candidate who won the majority in the state (Maine and Nebraska are the exception, allowing for split decisions), a system we call “winner takes all,” but a state’s legislature (its combined house or assembly and senate, where each member has one vote) can, by simple majority vote, direct its electors to vote for any candidate they want, even over the objections of their governor.

In the 2000 election, for example, when the Florida Supreme Court had ordered a complete recount of the vote for president in that state, Republicans were concerned that a full, statewide recount would give Al Gore the presidency.

(And, indeed, that’s what would have happened, as a consortium of newspapers including the New York Times discovered a year later when they fully recounted the Florida vote and found that Al Gore won Florida—a fact largely buried by the papers because it was published just two months after 9/11 and no newspaper wanted to challenge the legitimacy of Bush’s presidency during one of the nation’s most severe times of national crisis since Pearl Harbor.)

Thus, had the U.S. Supreme Court not intervened to stop the Florida recount, the Republicans in the Florida legislature fully intended to hand the Florida electoral college vote—and, thus, the White House—to George W. Bush, even if a recount showed that Al Gore actually won the vote.

The 2000 Dress Rehearsal

As David Barstow and Somini Sengupta wrote for the New York Times on November 28, 2000, “The president of Florida’s Senate said today that Gov. Jeb Bush had indicated his willingness to sign special legislation intended to award Florida’s 25 Electoral College votes to his brother Gov. George W. Bush of Texas even as the election results were being contested.”

Barstow and Sengupta added that “talk of a special legislative session continued unabated here today as local Republicans fretted about the possibility that the justices on the Florida Supreme Court, all appointed by Democrats, might uphold the challenge by Vice President Al Gore [for a statewide recount], ultimately awarding him the state’s electoral votes.”

Bluntly, they noted, “The driving force behind the calls for a special session is the Republican desire to use the Legislature to trump the state’s Supreme Court, should the need arise.” In other words, should the recount discover that Gore had actually won.

If the Florida legislature, then firmly in GOP hands, had voted to require all their electors to cast their votes for Bush (or appoint new ones who would), the recount would have been irrelevant; the Constitution gives that power exclusively to the state’s legislatures.

Which includes purple states with Democratic governors and a majority of Republicans in the combined House and Senate of the state, as with Michigan, Pennsylvania, and—most significantly because in 2020 it’ll probably play the role Florida did in 2000—Wisconsin.

Thus, through simple brute force, if Trump, Fox News and Limbaugh, et al, were to loudly claim that there was “voter fraud” in any or all of those states and succeed in casting doubts about the integrity of an election that would put a Democrat in the White House, the manufactured conflict could be resolved and the election given to Trump by one or more state legislatures as Florida threatened to do in 2000.

The GOP and right-wing radio and TV have been preparing this ground for the better part of two decades, constantly harping on non-existent voter fraud by undocumented Hispanics and African Americans who, as Trump alleged, go from polling place to polling place by bus to double- or even triple-vote.

While there’s absolutely no evidence for any of this—despite the Bush administration spending tens of millions of dollars, enlisting all 93 U.S. attorneys nationwide, and examining over 840 million votes and finding fully 35 examples of illegal votes nationwide (and none by “illegal Hispanics”)—this “voter fraud” fantasy is widely believed among the Republican electorate and could be used by a state’s legislature to flip a close vote.

The U.S. House of Representatives Decides (and Trump Wins)

Another way Trump could lose both the popular vote and the uncontested electoral vote is found in the election of 1876.

Democrat Samuel Tilden won the popular vote nationwide but, with 184 electoral votes, was one vote short of the necessary 185 electoral votes to become president.

Republican Rutherford B. Hayes not only lost the popular vote but had only 163 electoral votes.

Ohio’s Republican Congressman James Monroe (not related to the president of generations earlier of the same name) wrote the definitive summary of that election and how it played out in Congress, a narrative he published in the Atlantic in October 1893.

Pointing out that “the votes of Florida, Louisiana, Oregon, and South Carolina, with an aggregate of 22 electors” would turn the election to either Hayes or Tilden, Monroe (who was there) wrote, “From the States just named there were two sets of returns, one favorable to General Hayes, the other to Mr. Tilden.”

The dispute had to do with three of those four states then being occupied by the Union Army (this was just 11 years after the Civil War ended, and Reconstruction was in full swing). At the same time, the Klan was riding high in all four states.

Formerly enslaved African Americans were trying to turn out large numbers of voters for the Republican candidate, but there was also widespread Klan activity suppressing that black vote. On the other side, Democrats in Congress charged that Union soldiers had intimidated Southern Democratic voters, suppressing their vote.

Monroe wrote that the Democrats charged, “that these returns [in those four states for Republican Hayes] were a product of fraud and dishonesty; that, in preparing them, the vote of whole precincts, parishes, and counties had been thrown out in order to secure Hayes electors… [and] they did not represent the people of those States, but were themselves the product of fraud and corruption, and were kept in place only by what was called the ‘moral influence’ of Federal bayonets.”

The nation nearly exploded, wrote Monroe: “The feeling of mutual hostility had been greatly intensified by party leaders, orators, and presses. In some of our cities it took all the terrors of the police court to keep Democrats and Republicans from breaking the peace.”

The 12th Amendment, ratified in 1804, had a simple solution to the problem of neither candidate winning a majority of electoral votes. “[I]f no person have such majority,” the 12th Amendment says, “then… the House of Representatives shall choose immediately, by ballot, the President. But in choosing the President, the votes shall be taken by states, the representation from each state having one vote…”

Because all the Southern states had now been re-admitted to the Union, a majority of the House of Representatives that year were controlled by Democrats, as were a majority of the states. With each state’s delegation having only one vote, the Democratic-controlled House representing a Democratic majority of states would end up making Democrat Tilden the president, something the Republicans wouldn’t go along with.

Republicans added that because the 12th Amendment also says that “The President of the Senate shall, in the presence of the Senate and House of Representatives, open all the certificates and the [electoral] votes shall then be counted…” that the president of the Senate should be the one to make the call as to which state’s contested votes were legitimate.

The Constitution provides that the vice president shall be the president of the Senate, but President Ulysses Grant’s veep, Henry Wilson, had died the previous year and Grant hadn’t replaced him; the president of the Senate in 1876 was Senator Thomas Ferry of Michigan, a Republican.

“[I]t would have been as unsatisfactory to Republicans to have the vote declared by the House,” wrote Monroe, “as it would have been to Democrats to have it declared by the President of the Senate.”

“The situation was serious,” Monroe wrote. “Some thoughtful men felt that perhaps the greatest peril that the Republic had encountered was not that of the Civil War” but that “within a hundred days, people would be cutting each other’s throats.”

Senator Banning of Ohio, “My colleague,” Monroe wrote, “declared in a speech, that, if the Republicans should attempt to carry out their theory of the election, and if a part of the army with eighty rounds of ammunition, and the navy, should be ordered to support them, the people would put them all down.”

In response, Virginia’s Congressman Goode stood up and loudly asked his colleagues if they were willing to essentially restart the Civil War.

“A shout of ‘Yes’ went up from the Republican side of the House,” wrote Monroe.

Cooler heads ultimately prevailed, and both sides worked out a compromise that gave the GOP the White House but only on the condition that the newly minted President Hayes would remove Union troops from the Southern states, ending Reconstruction.

The republic was saved, but only by selling out Southern black people for the next hundred years.

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AOC on FOX

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Vote? What Vote?

Anybody want to venture a guess on when President Trump postpones the November election?

Corona

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Where Are The Test Kits?

What’s the Truth on the Coronavirus Testing? 

By Thom Hartmann/ Thom’s Blog/ March 12, 2020

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After it was widely reported that Tom Hanks and his wife were able to simply walk into a clinic in Australia with the symptoms of a common cold and instantly get a coronavirus test – which was positive – Americans are beginning to ask out loud, “Why can’t we get tested?”

According to President Obama’s Ebola Czar (last night on Rachel Maddow’s show), Ron Klain, Trump “privatized” the testing here in the United States. Instead of taking the World Health Organization test kits which are cheap and widely available all over the planet, and having them distributed across the country back in December, or January, or February when we knew this disease was spreading in the United States, Klain said that Trump has outsourced the testing to two big American companies, Quest and Labcorp.

Trump’s head of HHS, Alex Azar, is the guy who doubled the price of insulin when he was CEO of Eli Lily company. Do he and Trump owns stock in these testing companies? Why are we refusing to accept the WHO test that the entire rest of the world is using? What the hell is going on here?

Plus – I’m asking today – Is this the official end of the Trump presidency?

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Clueless About Coronavirus

The Strongest Evidence Yet That America Is Botching Coronavirus Testing

By Robinson Meyer and Alexis C. Madrigal/ The Atlantic/ March 6, 2020

It’s one of the most urgent questions in the United States right now: How many people have actually been tested for the coronavirus?

This number would give a sense of how widespread the disease is, and how forceful a response to it the United States is mustering. But for days, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has refused to publish such a count, despite public anxiety and criticism from Congress. On Monday, Stephen Hahn, the commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration, estimated that “by the end of this week, close to a million tests will be able to be performed” in the United States. On Wednesday, Vice President Mike Pence promised that “roughly 1.5 million tests” would be available this week.

But the number of tests performed across the country has fallen far short of those projections, despite extraordinarily high demand, The Atlantic has found.

[Read: You’re likely to get the coronavirus]

“The CDC got this right with H1N1 and Zika, and produced huge quantities of test kits that went around the country,” Thomas Frieden, the director of the CDC from 2009 to 2017, told us. “I don’t know what went wrong this time.”

Through interviews with dozens of public-health officials and a survey of local data from across the country, The Atlantic could only verify that 1,895 people have been tested for the coronavirus in the United States, about 10 percent of whom have tested positive. And while the American capacity to test for the coronavirus has ramped up significantly over the past few days, local officials can still test only several thousand people a day, not the tens or hundreds of thousands indicated by the White House’s promises.

To arrive at our estimate, we contacted the public-health departments of all 50 states and the District of Columbia. We gathered data on websites, and we corresponded with dozens of state officials. All 50 states and D.C. have made some information available, though the quality and timeliness of the data varied widely. Some states have only committed to releasing their numbers once or three times a week. Most are focused on the number of confirmed cases; only a few have publicized the number of people they are capable of testing.

[Read: The official coronavirus numbers are wrong, and everyone knows it]

The Atlantic’s numbers reflect the best available portrait of the country’s testing capacity as of early this morning. These numbers provide an accurate baseline, but they are incomplete. Scattered on state websites, the data available are not useful to citizens or political leaders. State-based tallies lack the reliability of the CDC’s traditional—but now abandoned—method of reporting. Several states—including New Jersey, Texas, and Louisiana—have not shared the number of coronavirus tests they have conducted overall, meaning their number of positive results lacks crucial context.

The net effect of these choices is that the country’s true capacity for testing has not been made clear to its residents. This level of obfuscation is unexpected in the United States, which has long been a global leader in public-health transparency.

The figures we gathered suggest that the American response to the coronavirus and the disease it causes, COVID-19, has been shockingly sluggish, especially compared with that of other developed countries. The CDC confirmed eight days ago that the virus was in community transmission in the United States—that it was infecting Americans who had neither traveled abroad nor were in contact with others who had. In South Korea, more than 66,650 people were tested within a week of its first case of community transmission, and it quickly became able to test 10,000 people a day. The United Kingdom, which has only 115 positive cases, has so far tested 18,083 people for the virus.

Normally, the job of gathering these types of data in the U.S. would be left to epidemiologists at the CDC. The agency regularly collects and publishes positive and negative test results for several pathogens, including multiple types of the seasonal flu. But earlier this week, the agency announced that it would stop publishing negative results for the coronavirus, an extraordinary step that essentially keeps Americans from knowing how many people have been tested overall.

[Read: What you can do right now about the coronavirus]

“With more and more testing done at states, these numbers would not be representative of the testing being done nationally,” Nancy Messonnier, the chief CDC official for respiratory diseases, said at the time. “States are reporting results quickly, and in the event of a discrepancy between CDC and state case counts, the state case counts should always be considered more up to date.”

Then, last night, the CDC resumed reporting the number of tests that the agency itself has completed, but did not include testing by state public-health departments or other laboratories. Asked to respond to our own tally and reporting, the CDC directed us to Messonnier’s statement from Tuesday.

Our reporting found that disorder has followed the CDC’s decision not to publish state data. Messonnier’s statement itself implies that, as highly populous states like California increase their own testing, the number of people the CDC reports as having been tested and the actual number of people tested will become ever more divergent. The federal tally of positive cases is now also badly out of date: While the CDC is reporting 99 positive cases of the coronavirus in the United States, our data, and separate data from Johns Hopkins University, show that the true number is well above 200, including those on the Diamond Princess cruise ship.

The White House declined to comment.

The haphazard debut of the tests—and the ensuing absence of widespread data about the epidemic—has hamstrung doctors, politicians, and public-health officials as they try to act prudently during the most important week for the epidemic in the United States so far.

Our reporting found that the capacity to test for the coronavirus varies dramatically—and sometimes dangerously—from state to state.

California claims the highest testing capacity of any state, and has tested the most individuals so far. As of yesterday afternoon, it had tested 516 people, with 53 positive cases, a spokesperson for the Department of Health told us. The department now has the capacity to test 6,000 people every day, and it expects that capacity to expand to 7,400 people a day starting today, the spokesperson said.

Washington State, the site of the country’s largest outbreak thus far, can test roughly 1,000 people a day. The state health department’s laboratory can test 100 people a day; the rest of the testing is being done at the University of Washington’s Virology Lab. Officials have found 70 positive cases in Washington so far, though a genetic study has estimated that there may be hundreds of untested people who have COVID-19 in the greater Seattle area.

[Read: The problem with telling sick workers to stay home]

Oregon, situated between the California and Washington hot spots, can test only about 40 people a day. Texas has 16 positive cases, according to media reports, but the health department’s website still lists only three cases. The Texas Tribune has reported that the state can test approximately 30 people a day.

Other states can test even fewer. Hawaii can test fewer than 20 people a day, though it could double that number in an emergency, an official told us. Iowa has supplies to test about 500 patients a day. Arkansas, though not near a current known outbreak, is able to test only four or five patients a day.

On the East Coast, testing capacity varies significantly. New York State has 22 positive cases, including several cases of community transmission in Manhattan and Brooklyn. It can test 100 to 200 people a day. Neighboring New Jersey and Connecticut have not shared any information about how many tests they have run, or about their daily testing capacity.

Pennsylvania can test only about a dozen people a day, and Delaware can test about 50 people, our survey found. An official in Massachusetts, where two of 20 tests have come back positive, said that she did not know the Bay State’s daily capacity, but that its health department “currently [has] an adequate supply of test kits.”

[Read: The gig economy has never been tested by a pandemic]

These data come with an important caveat. Currently, most labs require two specimens to test one person. Single-specimen testing capability is being developed, but right now the top-line number of available tests should be cut in half. In other words, “1.5 million tests” should be able to test roughly 750,000 people. Some states, such as Colorado, told us how many specimens they could test a day (160), not how many patients (about 80). Other states shared the number of patients they could test, but not the number of specimens. In this story, we’ve standardized these numbers by dividing any specimen figure by two to give an estimate of the number of patients who can be tested.

Our reporting found that three factors determine the number of people who are tested for the coronavirus.

The first factor is the availability of tests. Until recently, very few physical tests were available, because of a mistake that the CDC made with a crucial component. The White House has pushed for and highlighted a massive increase in available tests, to perhaps 1 million in the next week. But labs have to be trained on how to set up and execute the relatively complex procedure.

corona

The second factor is that the CDC sets the parameters for state and local public-health staff regarding who should be tested. The agency’s guidelines were very strict for weeks, focusing on returning international travelers. Even as they have been loosened in the past few days, there are persistent reports that people—including a sick nurse who had cared for a coronavirus patient—have not been able to get tested.

Finally, the more people who contract the illness, the greater the demand for testing. Some weeks ago, the number of cases in the United States was probably much, much smaller than today. The upshot is that there is likely to be an explosion of Americans tested for the coronavirus in the next week, led by California and Washington, each of which has a substantial number of cases and has shown signs that the virus is spreading.

[Read: The coronavirus is a truly modern epidemic]

Even in an emergency, laboratories cannot be spun up immediately. The University of Washington, which appears to have the country’s largest testing capacity outside of California—it can test up to 1,000 people a day—has been working on its own coronavirus test for several weeks.

A week ago, the FDA eased some regulations on the types of coronavirus tests that can be used. This means that testing capacity will increase, but not overnight.

It has not always been so challenging to get estimates of the number of Americans tested. Throughout February, the CDC published a regular tally of Americans who had been tested for the pathogen. Last Saturday, several days after the country’s first case of community transmission was confirmed, that figure was 472.

Then the agency stopped updating the tally. It did not publish new numbers of how many Americans had been tested for the virus on Sunday or Monday, as public criticism of the sluggish response to the disease began to mount. On Tuesday, it announced that it would stop publishing the figure altogether.

Our reporting has found that the CDC has not made good on Messonnier’s assurance that state numbers would be available and up to date. Many states are not reporting their results quickly: In our survey, we found that in some states, the most recently available numbers were days old.

Since the CDC’s pullback, it has become extremely difficult to track the nation’s growing capacity to test for the coronavirus.

There are material reasons for this. At first, the CDC did all the testing, so its results were easy to report. But as the outbreak grew, state public-health laboratories were brought into action. Each of them can do only so many tests, however, so university research laboratories have now joined the effort. Soon private laboratories such as LabCorp and Quest Diagnostics will begin testing people too. Both companies announced yesterday that doctors can now order tests. Still, no one is quite sure precisely when this new testing capability will start delivering results at scale.*

The more entities involved, the more complex the data-gathering effort grows. State public-health departments should be tracking tests from university labs and eventually private labs, but in this time of crisis, they may not have the capacity to gather those data. For example, a Washington public-health official told us that the state could test up to 100 people, but as noted, the University of Washington has far higher throughput. That suggests a positive implication of our reporting: more capacity nationwide than our, or any, data reflect.

[Read: Here’s who should be avoiding crowds right now]

As more laboratories join in the effort, quality control will become more difficult. While each lab must have the FDA’s permission to operate, under an Emergency Use Authorization, a new FDA policy allows labs to immediately begin testing people, and requires that they submit their paperwork to the agency within the next 15 days.

These types of measures are necessary because the United States’ response to the coronavirus is far behind the spread of the disease within its borders. Testing is the first and most important tool in understanding the epidemiology of a disease outbreak. In the United States, a series of failures has combined with the decentralized nature of our health-care system to handicap the nation’s ability to see the severity of the outbreak in hard numbers.

Today, more than a week after the country’s first case of community transmission, the most significant finding about the coronavirus’s spread in the United States has come from an independent genetic study, not from field data collected by the government. And no state or city has banned large gatherings or implemented the type of aggressive “social distancing” policies employed to battle the virus in Italy, Hong Kong, and other affluent places.

If the true extent of the outbreak were known through testing, the American situation would look worse. But health-care officials and providers would be better positioned to combat the virus. Hard decisions require data. For now, state and local governments don’t have the information they need.

* This story has been updated with new information about testing capabilities at LabCorp and Quest Diagnostics.

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What Democracy?

Moving on from the expectation that we have a democracy

By Josh Mitteldorf/ OpEd News/ March 3, 2020

They’re not going to let Bernie anywhere near the White House, and the sooner we stop fretting about it, the sooner we can begin to refocus on the kinds of education and organizing that need to be done. These are not about Sanders, and they’re not about any candidate. They’re about the structure of the system that has been captured by Capitalist thugs.

From 1961 to 1963, there was an epic struggle behind the scenes in Washington, whether the elected government or the Deep State was the final authority. In 1961, with the Bay of Pigs fiasco and Kennedy’s dismissal of CIA Director Allen Dulles, it looked as though the elected government had won. 2-1/2 years later in Dallas, there was a different outcome, and the victors have been solidifying their control ever since.

Yes, the Deep State was able to get rid of JFK because he wouldn’t tolerate the regime change wars that had become the main occupation of our CIA and DoD, because he wanted to curb the Fed’s power to profit from control over our sovereign currency, and because his brother was cracking down on the Mafia. Three powerful enemies combined to murder him.

But the assassination was extremely costly and very risky. It very nearly failed. Two thousand people were murdered in the wake of JFKjust to keep the lid on, and 50 years later, the vast majority of Americans still don’t buy the flimsy story about Oswald and Ruby.

Why was JFK able to ascend to the presidency, from which they were compelled to assassinate him? (1) In 1963, the Democratic party was a three-ring circus, a decentralized free-for-all, out of control. (2) The voting system was by hand-counted paper ballot in almost a million different locations around the country. (3) And the press, too, was decentralized, with competing newspapers serving every major metropolis, and networks of TV and radio independent of one another and of the print media.

In the intervening years, the Deep State has worked it out so they don’t have to kill presidents any more.

(1) The Republican party has been pushed from the realm of Eisenhower and Rockefeller and Ed Brooke into never-neverland. The Democratic party has been re-positioned where the Republican party used to be. Yes, Democratic is the new Republican. “Mainstream” Democrats today are positioned to the right of where Nixon was in 1970. And the (former majority) FDR Democrats have been deprived of a home.

(2) The voting system has been centralized with electronic machines, so the count can be manipulated by a few insiders with rudimentary programming skills, like Mike Connell.

(3) The press has been consolidated and taken over from the outside by corporate advertisers, from the inside by CIA plants in all the news organs that we used to think of as “liberal”. (Douglas Valentine is another good source.)


(Image by Pat Bagley)   

 

The only thing they don’t control is the Internet. They’re well aware of this, and doing everything they can to promote Internet censorship, using “fake news” as a pretext. They’re working both through FCC regulation and also through the private monopolies of Facebook, Google, Amazon and Apple.

So, where does this leave us? It leaves us fighting for our lives to save net neutrality and to cast off censorship. It leaves us face-to-face organizing and educating, getting people out into the streets to feel our strength in numbers and make an impression that doesn’t depend on those who control spigots of the newsfeed.

We are not without resource. We are not without hope. But the first step is to shed our faith that anything like “democracy” is operational in America.

Rise, like lions after slumber
In unvanquishable number!
Shake your chains to earth, like dew
Which in sleep had fallen on you:
Ye are many-they are few!

Percy Bysshe Shelley wrote these words 200 years ago. We’ve been slumbering a long while.

Josh Mitteldorf, a senior editor at OpEdNews, blogs on aging at http://JoshMitteldorf.ScienceBlog.com. Read how to stay young at http://AgingAdvice.org.

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Change is Coming

Neoliberalism Has Radicalized a Whole Generation

By Conor Lynch/ Truthdig/ February 26, 2020

When the conversation veered toward “capitalism” and “socialism” at last week’s Democratic presidential debate in Las Vegas, the preeminent capitalist on the stage, Michael Bloomberg, could hardly believe what he was hearing. “I can’t think of a way that would make it easier for Donald Trump to get reelected than listening to this conversation,” lamented billionaire Bloomberg, who pronounced the discussion ridiculous. “We’re not going to throw out capitalism,” he said. “We tried that. Other countries tried that. It was called communism, and it just didn’t work.”

Ten, or even five, years ago, Bloomberg’s concern would have probably seemed justified. In the recent past, having a serious discussion about the benefits of socialism versus capitalism on American national television — and at a major presidential debate, no less — appeared almost inconceivable. For as long as many Americans have been alive, capitalism has been widely considered the natural order of things. Questioning its existence seemed not only wrong but woefully naive and dangerous.

Since the Cold War began in the mid-20th century, the United States has been viewed as the center of the capitalist world. After the collapse of the Soviet Union, capitalism seemed to have triumphed once and for all, ending the historical struggle between the competing ideologies that characterized modernity (hence the notion of the “end of history”). There was no more questioning capitalism, which had proved to be the economic system that corresponded most with human nature. (At least that’s what orthodox economists, who subscribed to the homo economicus, or “economic man,” model of human nature, told us.)

In his 2009 book, “Capitalist Realism,” the late author Mark Fisher described a certain pessimistic attitude on the left, captured by the popular saying: “It is easier to imagine the end of the world than to imagine the end of capitalism.” Capitalist realism, Fisher wrote, was the “widespread sense that not only is capitalism the only viable political and economic system, but also that it is now impossible even to imagine a coherent alternative to it.”

capitalism

 

In the decade-plus since Fisher wrote these words, a great deal has changed. Though it is still hard to imagine the end of capitalism, it is no longer universally accepted that capitalism is simply part of the “natural” order, or that there is “no alternative” (as the United Kingdom’s former prime minister, Margaret Thatcher, famously proclaimed). The armor of neoliberalism was first pierced by the global financial crisis, and the rise of populist movements on both the left and right in the years since have further eroded the political and intellectual hegemony of the all-encompassing worldview.

Neoliberalism wasn’t even acknowledged as an actual ideology until fairly recently. In fact, many neoliberals continue to deny its very existence. As scholar Adam Kotsko notes in his book, “Neoliberalism’s Demons,” neoliberalism “loves to hide” and its “very invisibility is a measure of its power.” Neoliberalism, according to Kotsko, is more than just a set of economic policies that have been implemented throughout the world in the last half-century. Rather, it “aspires to be a complete way of life and a holistic worldview, in a way that previous models of capitalism did not.” For this reason, Kotsko describes neoliberalism not just as an ideology but as a form of “political theology.”

In neoliberalism, Kotsko remarks,

an account of human nature where economic competition is the highest value leads to a political theology where the prime duty of the state is to enable, and indeed mandate, such competition, and the result is a world wherein individuals, firms, and states are all continually constrained to express themselves via economic competition. This means that neoliberalism tends to create a world in which neoliberalism is ‘true.’

The very fact that we are now discussing neoliberalism, Kotsko writes, is a “sign that its planetary sway is growing less secure.” As the “planetary sway” of neoliberalism has weakened over the past decade, more and more people — especially young people who were born and raised in the neoliberal era — have started to question a system that has left their generation drowning in debt, burned out and mentally exhausted, and stuck in an endless loop of precarious uncertainty.

Neoliberal ideas, political scientist Lester Spence writes, “radically change what it means to be human, as the perfect human being now becomes an entrepreneur of his own human capital, responsible for his personal development.” Young people entering the workforce today are expected to cheerfully embrace their own alienation and the commodification of their whole existence. Under neoliberalism, citizens become producers/consumers who are “free” to participate in the market economy but not necessarily free to engage in political protest or to form unions.

Neoliberalism is the opposite of solidarity. It encourages an extreme form of selfish individualism that ends up depoliticizing the populace and eroding the collective spirit of democracy. It also leaves the individual isolated and alone. “In a brutal, competitive, and atomized society, psychic well-being is so difficult that success on this front can feel like a significant accomplishment,” observes political theorist Jodi Dean. “Trying to do it themselves, people are immiserated and proletarianized and confront this immiseration and proletarianization alone.”

Considering the hellish reality that it has created for so many people, the backlash against neoliberalism was as predictable as it was inevitable. In a real sense, neoliberalism has radicalized an entire generation, pushing many young people to revolt against the existing order as a whole. The fact that the Democratic Party’s likely presidential nominee (especially after his landslide victory in Nevada) is self-professed democratic socialist Bernie Sanders tells us that the secular religion of neoliberalism has quickly lost all credibility and authority.

During the Cold War, under the threat of communism, America and other capitalist countries in the West embraced social democratic reforms that played an essential role in curbing the more extreme contradictions of capitalism. This led to a less brutal and unequal system, and therefore a more stable one. When communism fell in the late 20th century, the neoliberal age was already in full swing, with both parties uniting to reverse many of the progressive reforms that had been enacted after the Great Depression. Now, after 40 years of neoliberalism, the worst contradictions have returned, and unsurprisingly, mass movements opposing the current system also have returned.

When Bloomberg’s tenure as mayor of New York City came to an end in 2013, a few years after the Great Recession, it was already clear the neoliberal era was on its last legs. Bloomberg used the New York Police Department (the world’s “seventh largest army,” he once boasted) to crush Occupy Wall Street in 2011, but the spirit of the movement could not be crushed. On the debate stage almost a decade later, Bloomberg’s neoliberal talking points no longer sounded like Thatcherist truisms.

Sanders began his “political revolution” in 2016, and he is clearly still leading it in 2020. For most people in the halls of power, his electoral success has come as an utter shock. “Something is happening in America right now that actually does not fit our mental models,” remarked journalist Anand Giridharadas on MSNBC after Sanders’ big win in Nevada. The donor class, the media elites and those in the political establishment, Giridharadas said, are behaving like “out-of-touch aristocrats in a dying aristocracy.” While 18th and 19th century aristocrats in Europe were coming to terms with the collapse of monarchism after it was undermined by the radical critiques of enlightenment thinkers like Rousseau, today’s elites are dealing with the collapse of neoliberalism, the ruling ideology for the past half-century.

There’s little doubt that elites will do whatever they can to stop Sanders from winning the Democratic nomination and perhaps the general election. Although they are less likely to succeed after Nevada, it is unwise to underestimate the reactionary impulses of a dying aristocracy (the Bloomberg campaign is already plotting its brokered convention strategy). Regardless of what happens in the next few weeks, one thing is absolutely clear: The neoliberal worldview that has dominated the discourse for decades is being consigned to the dustbin of history.

neoliberalism
Conor Lynch is a freelance writer and journalist living in New York. His work has appeared in The Week, Salon, The New Republic, and other publications. You can follow him on Twitter…
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