It Might Be Good If People Who Know Things Were In Charge, By A Doktor Of Rhetoric.
When histories of the coronavirus pandemic [2019-20??] are eventually written, the role of one libertarian scholar, Richard A. Epstein of the Hoover Institution, will deserve at least a footnote, if not a full paragraph. Epstein wrote a couple of articles, published on Hoover's website, in which he suggested that all the public health projections on what needs to be done about COVID-19 exaggerated the severity and danger of the outbreak. According to the Washington Post, the first of those pieces, a March 16 epic titled "Coronavirus Perspective," was a real big hit in the Trumpy circles, where everyone thought it was brilliant and, we presume, staffers read the best parts excitedly to each other, possibly calling in Jared Kushner to help them pronounce the bigger words.
The piece included a slightly optimistic projection for how bad the outbreak would be: no more than 500 deaths nationwide, maybe, which Epstein later revised upward to 5,000, tops, depending on the breaks. As the New Yorker's Isaac Chotiner notes in the preface to his interview with Epstein, published today, "So far, there have been more than two thousand coronavirus-related fatalities in America," and although epidemiologists' projections of possible totals vary, almost all are a lot higher. Chotiner also notes Dr. Anthony Fauci's estimate yesterday that the total deaths in the US could be between 100,000 and 200,000.
We can see why Epstein's work would be popular with Team Trump:
In a follow-up article, published on March 23rd and titled "Coronavirus Overreaction," Epstein wrote, "Progressives think they can run everyone's lives through central planning, but the state of the economy suggests otherwise. Looking at the costs, the public commands have led to a crash in the stock market, and may only save a small fraction of the lives that are at risk."
Despite how popular that rosy scenario might be, Trump nonetheless looked at the shadow of death and announced yesterday we'd have at least four more weeks of staying indoors and out of large groups, at least until the next dumbshit thing he sees on Fox News.
Epstein, who is a lawyer, not a biologist, agreed last Wednesday to a phone interview with Chotiner, and wow, you should go read the whole thing. (The magazine's coronavirus coverage won't even subtract from your five monthly New Yorker clicks. Even if it did, OH BOY.) Turns out that however well-respected in conservative law circles Epstein is, he has a whole bunch of flatly wrong assumptions about how viruses and epidemics work, which would be merely sad if his nonsense weren't also helping to set policy. Chotiner lets readers know up front that bullshit will be flung and disinfected:
During our conversation, which has been edited for length and clarity, Epstein made a number of comments about viruses that have been strongly disputed by medical professionals. We have included factual corrections alongside those statements.
Hoo boy. Talk about putting it mildly.
Bet you didn't know the people picking your groceries didn't get hand sanitizer before.
One lesson we are learning (hopefully) during the COVID-19 pandemic is that, outside of people working in health care, the workers most necessary to our survival are those who are paid the least. Grocery store workers, Amazon warehouse employees, and gig economy workers like Instacart Shoppers have been on the front lines of this pandemic — and now, they wanna get paid like it. Or, you know, paid enough to survive and to make risking their lives every day so that the rest of us can shelter in place a little more worth it.
And today, in the first gig economy strike of the coronavirus era, Instacart workers are on strike for some extremely basic protections and not that much more money.
They're really not asking for much. They're asking for hazard pay of just five dollars more per order, hand sanitizer (which I think we'd all like them to have), sick pay (which, again, would benefit us all), and for the default tip amount in the app to be 10 percent rather than five percent. That doesn't mean that this is what customers will actually pay, just what will come up first before they make any adjustments. That's nothing! I regularly adjust my tip amount in apps (to tip more, not less) and I assure you it takes all of five seconds. Starting out with a 10 percent tip will simply make customers more likely to tip that amount or above, by making it look like tipping five percent is for cheapskates, which it is.
Yeah, that's gonna be a no from them dawg.
In the midst of an epidemic of opioid addiction that has already taken hundreds of thousands of American lives, at least we have the Trump administration looking out for the poor Fortune 500 companies like Walmart that actively encouraged dependence on opiods because they were profiting from addiction.
Don't forget — as Ron Johnson helpfully points out, coronavirus isn't the only thing killing Americans every day.
And in an absolutely wild story broken by ProPublica last week, we learned that despite a years-long investigation that showed horrific complicity from Walmart in the opioid epidemic, Trump appointees blocked federal prosecutors from attempting to hold them accountable.
And why is that, you ask?
Because "We're all capitalists here."
Totally worth it for all those born people to die.
One of the main lessons we've learned during this pandemic is that "pro-life" is a moral philosophy that applies only to fetuses and brain dead born humans who are related to people who can afford to keep them on life support against the wishes of doctors or their spouses. So really just fetuses, Terri Schiavo, Charlie Gard, and that's about it. Anyone else? Eh, they could give or take.
Of course, most of us already knew that. Given how fond they are of killing people in hopes of "saving" fetuses, and the fact that most of them tend to be pro-war and pro-death penalty.
Texas congressional candidate Kathaleen (not a typo, that's how she spells it) Wall is taking this to a whole new level though with her theories on how the COVID-19 pandemic is actually saving lives.
This week, on Facebook, Wall thanked Texas Governor Greg Abott and Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton for instituting a ban on abortions during the pandemic, claiming they are an elective procedure, and then claimed that this measure would mean that COVID-19 would actually save more lives than it takes.
It includes some oversight for the slush fund, so that's something.
After a couple extra days of negotiations, Republicans and Democrats in the Senate have agreed on a $2 trillion stimulus bill aimed at offsetting some of the worst economic effects of the coronavirus pandemic. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and Minority Leader Chuck Schumer announced the deal in the wee hours this morning, around 1:30 a.m., and the Senate is expected to pass the bill later today after McConnell has had a nap and a nice lunch of iceberg lettuce sprinkled with human misery.
Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin was included in the negotiations and said the bill had the approval of Donald Trump, almost as if Trump had been briefed on and/or understood the details. Mnuchin said he had "spoken to the president many times today; he's very pleased with this legislation and the impact that this is going to have."
Trump, for his part, spent the morning grudge-tweeting, with tweets attacking Joe Biden and sarcastically expressing happiness that Mitt Romney did not test positive for the virus, while saying Romney was "a terrible presidential candidate and an even worse U.S. Senator, but he is a RINO, and I like him a lot!" Trump also retweeted the usual bunch of rightwing idiots who praised him or mocked his enemies, so he's probably finished thinking about this dumb pandemic. Trump didn't tweet his own statement on the deal, but did retweet this fascinating gif depicting McConnell as some sort of wizard or superhero with electric eyes.
He is a very serious president, our Dear Leader.
'Every man for himself' isn't seeming like the best philosophy.
Following the announcement Sunday that Sen. Rand Paul had tested positive for COVID-19, the Senate is still continuing with business as mostly usual, minus a few Republicans who are self-quarantining. The New York Times brings us an update illustrating the sense of vague dread hanging over the Senate since other senators and staff found out Rand Paul's decision to keep to his usual routine in the Capitol had enlisted them into this freaky "Masque of the Red Death" cosplay.
Our advice to Rand Paul: Don't accept any invitations to taste an excellent wine in any other senator's private cellar.
Oh, sure, this will end well.
The state of Virginia won't say how many ventilators they have, but according to the Kaiser Family Foundation, they only have 2.1 hospital beds per 1,000 people, lower than the national average of 2.8 per 1000, which itself is lower than the 3.1 beds per 1000 they have in Italy, where the system is currently overwhelmed and doctors have been having to make decisions about whose life is worth saving.
Now, the notoriously "pro-life" Jerry Falwell Jr., president of Liberty University in Lynchburg, is encouraging students to come back to class and requiring professors to do so. Pretty much every school everywhere else has closed up its campus and is holding classes online in order to encourage social distancing and flatten the curve, but Liberty University is not every school.
A quick comparison of the House and Senate plans, because we love you.
While the Senate's economic stimulus bill was bogged down yesterday over Republicans' insistence on big corporate bailouts with little oversight, Nancy Pelosi unveiled a House plan yesterday to provide economic relief to workers and businesses at risk from the effects of dealing with the coronavirus outbreak. The House bill would spend $2.5 trillion, compared to roughly $1.8 trillion in the Senate version, and appears to be largely aimed at influencing the final shape of the stimulus package to make sure Democratic priorities are included. Like, for instance, not just throwing money at giant corporations and hoping for the best. Let's take a quick look at what's in the House bill here, beyond the free solar-powered abortions for lesbian environmentalists that Fox News is already complaining about. We're drawing from summaries at Politico, Fortune, and CNBC.
It's your Sunday show rundown.
[…] You did the hardest part. You took the jump, you didn't know where you were gonna come down. And that's it. That's those little baby steps you gotta take.To try to become whole again. To try to find purpose. I went in the ice in '45 right after I met the love of my life. Woke up 70 years later. You got to move on. Got to move on. The World is in our hands. It's left to us guys, and we have to do something with it.
— Steve Rogers/Captain America, "Avengers: Endgame"
It's been a very rough few weeks. With a global pandemic caused by the spreading of COVID-19, the United States has slowed down to a crawl. Major and hard hit states like New York, California, and Washington have gone into "shelter in place" or quarantine to try to flatten the curve. This has affected all sectors of human life to include the Sunday political shows, as politics and petty squabbling on them have slowed to report on the emergency we are living in.
On ABC's "This Week," Martha Raddatz asked Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) Administrator Peter Gaynor about desperate and angry state leaders pleading for medical supplies. Gaynor tried to paint an optimistic picture:
If there is anything Hobby Lobby is known for, it is the way they aggressively do not care about either science or the health of their employees. I guess they also sell some craft stuff there, too, but mostly they just really hate science and health care. In 2014, as we all know, they won a Supreme Court case allowing them to deny giving their employees health care that covered birth control on the grounds of "religious freedom" because they believed that several forms of birth control were abortifacients, which they were not.
Now, they are requiring their employees to continue showing up for work in the middle of a pandemic. According to a letter posted to Reddit by someone claiming to be a Hobby Lobby employee, this is because Barbara Green, wife of billionaire owner David Green, got a special message from God while she was prayer warrior-ing.
Guess it's time to get crafty?
Are you crafty? Are you completely bored out of your mind in lockdown mode? Are you looking for a way to help? Well, one way you can do that is by sewing reusable face masks for hospitals around the country, because they are running out of them, and it's getting pretty serious.
On Wednesday, Trump announced that, if he deems it "necessary," he will invoke the Defense Production Act — a Korean War era law that would allow the government to commandeer factories and require them to build medical supplies. He then said that this was something he would only do in a "worst case scenario." Then, on Thursday, he said that state governors really need to be handling this, because the federal government "is not a shipping clerk." And, naturally, later that day, he got into a bidding war with state governments for necessary medical supplies, driving the cost up and making it more difficult for them to obtain these items. Nice!
He seems to forget these things, somehow.
Donald Trump has the best memory of anyone he knows, which is why no one on the White House staff wanted him to talk to Robert Mueller. It's a very flexible memory. It's a very good memory of things that actually never happened, but he likes to brag about anyway, and absolutely blank when it comes to people he knew and ordered around but doesn't like now. So of course it's not surprising that Trump said last week he didn't know anything about that time in 2018 when he disbanded the National Security Council team charged with planning for a pandemic disease outbreak. He got very angry at "PBS NewsHour" reporter Yamiche Alcindor for even mentioning such a thing, calling it a "nasty" question. (Somebody ought to see whether he calls any white male reporters "nasty." Once? Twice? Ever? Alcindor is at least the second black woman he's called "nasty.")
Problem is, just 16 days earlier, Trump had been bragging about how he dissolved the NSC pandemic planning team (formally, the "Directorate for Global Health Security and Biodefense"), because he's such an excellent manager. Let's see if we can refresh his memory!
Is our presidents learning?
Donald Trump went on the TV yesterday to kick off a press conference held by Mike Pence's Coronavirus Bible Camp, and in an indication of just how seriously he's taking the crisis, Trump's statement was, this time, only about 80 percent lies. Trump praised the Federal Reserve for cutting interest rates to almost zero (true), predicted America won't hear him griping about the Fed anymore (as if), insisted Google has a "Do You Need To Be Tested" website just about ready to roll out (not even close), and told Americans they don't need to hoard groceries (true) because "Relax, we're doing great, it all will pass" (GTFO with your "great," and it won't last forever, but also won't disappear in a week or two). Trump capped it all off with false reassurance that younger people don't need to even worry much about the virus, which is only true if you mean "fairly unlikely to die."
Here's the full horrorshow! Trump's part is only a bit under 10 minutes, after which he leaves Pence and the expert types to talk.
WATCH: Trump gives coronavirus update at White House youtu.be
The Stupidest Man On the Internet is 'president.'
Donald Trump just announced that the coronavirus pandemic is a national EMERGY, a declaration that will allow the government to take quicker action to direct resources where they're needed, like raiding the Pentagon budget to build WALL around sick people. Apparently his son-in-law gave Trump the OK to make the declaration after Jared got the information he needed from Facebook. NBC News 'splainers how the emergency order works:
Under the Stafford Act, an "infectious disease emergency declaration" by the president would allow the Federal Emergency Management Agency to provide disaster relief funding to state and local governments, as well as federal assistance to support the coronavirus response. The law allows the agency to circumvent legal barriers to more quickly distribute such aid.
Mind you, there may have been another factor rattling around Trump's roomy, sparsely furnished brain case as he made the decision: A popular rightwing myth claiming Barack Obama botched how he handled the 2009-2010 H1N1 "Swine Flu" pandemic. So now Trump can start proclaiming he acted more quickly than Obama, just as long as you ignore how Trump's actions have made the current crisis worse.
As ever, we're going to seal the rightwing bullshit inside a "truth sandwich" to make clear you have the real facts before we look at the lies.
See, Sara Gideon? That's the ad.
There's a short list of politicians who could make Joe Lieberman look like a hero. The perpetually “very troubled" Susan Collins is one of them. Politico writer Michael Grunwald was feeling nostalgic while social distancing and recalled on Twitter that the Maine senator had declared funding for pandemic flu preparation a “non starter" during the debate over Barack Obama's 2009 stimulus package. Collins's likely Democratic opponent, Sara Gideon, should feel free to classify this as an “in-kind" donation to her Senate campaign.
If you TEST PEOPLE, the coronavirus numbers might go UP and his re-election prospects might go DOWN. It is a conundrum!
It's no secret that Donald Trump's thoughts on the coronavirus outbreak in the US are largely centered around the November presidential election. At rallies, he's insisted that criticism of how he's handled the outbreak is a "hoax" spread by Democrats and the media to hurt him (but don't you dare suggest he said the pandemic itself is a hoax, OK?), that the stock market's reaction to the outbreak is based on unfair propaganda meant to hurt him, and of course there's that time he said quite openly -- at the friggin' Centers for Disease Control! -- that if he had his druthers, a cruise ship would never dock in the US because bad numbers.
I'd rather have the people stay [...] I would rather — because I like the numbers being where they are. I don't need to have the numbers double because of one ship that wasn't our fault.
Trump ultimately left the decision to Mike Pence's coronavirus task force, but his own preference was pretty clear, and it was about how he'd be perceived, not people's health.
Politico reporter Dan Diamond wrote a terrifying article last week about how the crisis has been made worse by the chaos in the White House and Trump's insistence on rosy scenarios. He was interviewed yesterday on NPR's "Fresh Air," and offered a wide-ranging critique of the administration's response to the outbreak -- and even noted some things that went wrong that were beyond Trump's control, like the faulty test kits the CDC initially put out. Can't blame a man who doesn't read for fucked-up chemistry! But even there, the worst parts of what's laughingly called Trump's "management style" led to such failures not getting resolved quickly.
Have a listen, if you have 45 minutes. You may wish to keep a comfort animal near.
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