Friday, February 28, 2020

Trump Mentioned Staying In Office Beyond The Constitutional Limit Of Two Terms A Whopping 22 Times Last Year. (But, Don't Worry, He Was Only Joking Each Time.)

Richard L. Hasen, Slate, February 4, 2020:
During the 2016 election, Trump playfully suggested he would not accept the results of the election if he was on the losing end. As I recount in my book Election Meltdown, Trump refused to promise to abide by the results if he lost to Hillary Clinton, relying on his claim of a rigged or stolen election.
October 19, 2016 (Presidential Debate, Las Vegas, Nevada): Trump "refused to say he would accept the result of the presidential election if he loses ... raising the possibility of an extraordinary departure from principles that have underpinned American democracy for more than two centuries. "I will look at it at the time. What I'm saying is that I will tell you at the time. I'll keep you in suspense." Trump also claims the media and the Democratic Party are in a vast conspiracy and have "rigged" the election against him. (CNN)

October 20, 2016 (Rally in Delaware, Ohio): "Ladies and gentlemen, I want to make a major announcement today. I would like to promise and pledge to all of my voters and supporters, and to all the people of the United States, that I will totally accept the results of this great and historic presidential election – if I win." [After a dramatic pause before "if I win", Trump pointed to the crowd and offered a big smile, making sure everyone got the punchline.]

March 3, 2018 (Private speech to Republican donors at Mar-a-Lago): "He's [China's President Xi Jinping] now president for life. President for life. No, he's great. And look, he was able to do that. I think it's great. Maybe we'll have to give that a shot some day."

April 5, 2018 (White House speech): "We've cut more regulations in a year and a quarter than any administration, whether it's four years, eight years or, in one case, 16 years. Should we go back to 16 years? Congressman, can we have that extended? The last time I jokingly said that, the papers started saying 'he's got despotic tendencies!' No, I'm not looking to do it, unless you want to do it."

May 10, 2018 (Rally in Elkhart, Indiana): "The new embassy – I said 'When is it going to be open?' They said, 'Anywhere from 5 to 10 years.' So I said 'Unless they give me an extension for the presidency,' which I don't think the fake news media would be too happy about. Well, hey. Wait, wait, wait, wait, actually, they would be happy, because when I'm not here, their ratings are going to sink. So they'll probably be very happy." [Video: 67:29-68:15]

April 18, 2019 (Wounded Warrior Project Event, White House): "Well, this is really beautiful. This will find a permanent place, at least for six years, in the Oval Office. Is that okay? . . . I was going to joke, 'General, and say at least for 10 or 14 years, but we would cause bedlam if I said that, so we'll say six.'"

May 4, 2019 (Retweet of Jerry Falwell Jr.'s tweet): "I now support reparations – Trump should have 2 yrs added to his 1st term as pay back for time stolen by this corrupt failed coup"

May 8, 2019 (Rally in Panama City Beach, Florida): "In 6 years, they'll all be out of business . . . Now if we want to drive them crazy, I'll say in 10 years, they'll go crazy. 'See, he's a despot! He's a despot!' Well, 10 or 14, let's see, whatever we like. Watch, it will be headlines tomorrow. 'Donald Trump wants to break Constitution.'"

May 20, 2019 (Rally in Montoursville, Pennsylvania): "I never want to be called a loser. Remember this, we all together – we, I, we – ran one time and we're 1-0, but it was for the big one. Now we're going to have a second time and we're gonna have another one. And then we'll drive them crazy. Ready? And maybe if we really like it a lot and if things keep going like they're going, we'll go and we'll do what we have to do – we'll do a three and a four and a five. Watch, they'll have tomorrow 'We knew he'd –' No, I don't want to say." [Video: 22:15-23:01]

June 16, 2019 (Twitter): Trump suggested supporters might not want him to leave office after two terms: "The good . . . news is that at the end of 6 years, after America has been made GREAT again and I leave the beautiful White House (Do you think the people would demand that I stay longer? KEEP AMERICA GREAT), both of these horrible papers will quickly go out of business & be forever gone!"

June 21, 2019 (Twitter): Trump pins a tweet of a Time Magazine cover video that refers to him staying in office "4eva".

June 23, 2019 (Interview, Meet the Press (NBC)):
Chuck Todd: You have joked about a third term. You've joked about these things.
Trump: I only joke.
Todd: Okay.
Trump: I joke. And I say, "Watch, I will drive Chuck Todd crazy."
Todd: You will, you will accept the re – Okay. You will –
Trump: Yes, there won't be a third term.
Todd: You will accept the results?
Trump: 100%. Sure.
Todd: And you will accept whatever happens in 2020?
Trump: Sure.
Todd: You lose, you'll be like – you're not going to like it, but you walk out.
Trump: In fact, I said at a speech recently, I said, "Watch. We'll drive the media crazy. Let's go for a third time and then a fourth." And some of the media said, "He's going to do it."

June 24, 2019 (Interview, The Hill): "Well, we have to go through the six years or whatever it may be when – when you know, would I like to get a ride out of some of your compatriots, say, go through the six, 10, 14, maybe 18 years, whatever it may be." [When asked if he is joking, Trump replied: "Of course. But it drives them crazy."]

July 11, 2019 (Twitter): "The Fake News is not as important, or as powerful, as Social Media. They have lost tremendous credibility since that day in November, 2016, that I came down the escalator with the person who was to become your future First Lady. When I ultimately leave office in six ... years, or maybe 10 or 14 (just kidding), they will quickly go out of business for lack of credibility, or approval, from the public. That's why they will all be Endorsing me at some point, one way or the other. Could you imagine having Sleepy Joe Biden, or Alfred E. Newman..."

July 17, 2019 (Rally in Greenville, North Carolina): "I saw one of these so-called comedians the other day [Bill Maher]. I mean he's, you know, a pretty respected comedian. He said 'He's not leaving. I'm telling you, he's not leaving. He'll never leave. He'll win this election and in '24, I'm telling you, he's not leaving. He's going to stay.' So we did, through our friend Dan Scavino, we did a Time Magazine cover. I was on so many Times I don't even read this thing. And it says 'Trump 2014', 2018, right? But it says 20 – here's where we go. We start at 16, we go to 20, we go to 24. Did you see it? Then it says 28, 32, 36, 40, 44. No, we don't need any more time. We don't need any more time. We need one more." [Video: 81:10-82:10]

August 13, 2019 (Speech at Shell Pennsylvania Petrochemicals Complex, Potter Township, Pennsylvania): "Can you imagine if I got a fair press? I mean, we're leading without it. Can you imagine if these people treated me fairly? The election would be over. Have they ever called off an election before? Just said 'look, just let's go, go on, four more years.' Yeah. And then do you want to really drive them crazy? Go do: #thirdterm. #fourthterm. You'll drive them totally crazy. I mean you have one guy on television [Maher, again] – 'I'm telling you he's not leaving. He's going to win and then he's not leaving. So in 2024 he won't leave. I'm telling you –' This is a serious person. These people have gone stone cold crazy." [Video: 17:41-18:24]

August 30, 2019 (Twitter): "The disastrous IG Report on James Comey shows, in the strongest of terms, how unfairly I, and tens of millions of great people who support me, were treated. Our rights and liberties were illegally stripped away by this dishonest fool. We should be given our stolen time back?"

September 9, 2019 (Press Conference, White House): "Gianni, we're going to have to extend my second term because 2026 – I'm going to have to extend it for a couple of years. I don't think any of you [White House press corps] would have a problem with that."

September 9, 2019 (Rally in Fayetteville, North Carolina): [Trump takes sole credit for bringing the 2026 World Cup to the US, then "jokes" about serving a third term so he can still be president for it.]
"2026. And I said, Well, wait a minute. Under the normal rules, I'll be out in 2024. So we may have to go for an extra term. Oh, they're going crazy. They're going crazy. Tomorrow, you're going to see headlines, 'Trump wants an extra term! I told you! I told you! He wants an extra term, ladies and gentlemen. We told you! We told you! He's a dictator. We told you!' No, I'm only kidding. I'm only kidding." [Video: 93:15-94:09]

September 10, 2019: Tweets picture of "Trump 2024" sign.

October 10, 2019 (Rally in Minneapolis, Minnesota): "True. He said to me, I just told him call me . . . He said, 'President, I can't do it.' He said. So he says, 'President, you've been here now for, think of it, almost three years. Can you believe we're here three years?' We, we, it's we. And we have to promise them no more than 16 years. Okay? No more. No more. 16 more years. I'm only kidding. Now they'll go back. See, he wants to run for more. But he said, 'President, could I ask you a question? It's so important to me.' He's a great businessman, very successful. He said, 'You deal with all of these nations, these great, powerful . . . Who is the worst to deal with? Is it China? Is it North Korea? Is India? Is it Russia? Please tell me, Mr. Pres – who is the toughest nation to deal with?' I said, 'You're not going to believe this. It's the USA is the toughest nation to deal with.' The USA." [Video: 62:01-63:08]

October 17, 2019 (Rally in Dallas, Texas): "142 judges. Within two months, we will have, John and Ted and all of these great congressmen, we will have passed 182 federal judges. And then they say: 'Obama was . . . He's such a wonderful president.' How are you a wonderful president when the most important thing you can do, you handed over to the Republicans. 142. How is that good? I mean, how is that good? If I were a Democrat, I wouldn't be too happy about that number. And we'll have a record number of judges by the time our term is over in 16 years, maybe 20. I'm only kidding. I'm only kidding because every time I do that, they say, 'See, he's assuming control.'" [Video: 78:10-79:21]

October 23, 2019 (Shale Insight Conference in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania): "Wow, look at the great people. Thank you very much. Four more years. Why don't you drive them crazy? Go '16 more years.' You'll drive 'em nuts." [Video: 13:30-13:48]

October 25, 2019 (Criminal Justice Forum, Benedict College, Columbia, South Carolina): [Audience chanting "Four more years"] "Thank you. Thank you. Thank you very much. Now don't say 16 more years 'cause you'll drive them crazy. They're afraid, they said, 'You know he's going to win.' They said – one of these characters said – 'You know he's going to win, don't you? You know he's going to win.' Well, no we're going to fight – 'He's going to win. And then he's never getting out. He'll be here for another four and then another four and then another – We're never going to get him.' So when we say four more years, sometimes say 16 more years. It drives them crazy. And we like doing that, don't we?" [Video: 53:42-54:35]

November 4, 2019 (Rally in Lexington, Kentucky): "Look at all of these people back there, look. . . . Fake news media. It's the fake news. Look at all of them. What they don't know is that when we hang it up in five years, or nine years, or 13 years, or maybe 17 years, or maybe – if I still have the strength – 21 years. See, now they're going crazy. Now they'll say 'See, I told you he was a dictator! He wants to take charge and control of our country!' These people are crazy. You have one nut job on television [Yep, it's Maher]. He's sitting down doing an interview recently and he looks at the person he's interviewing and he goes – like he's in total depression, total depression – and he goes – good fans up there, thank you – he goes 'you know he's going to win don't you, you know he's going to win' – like, like devastated – and the guy goes 'well, we're going to fight, we're going to –' 'No, no, he's going to win. You know he's never leaving office, don't you? He's never going to leave office.' These people are crazy, they're crazy." [Video: 14:15-16:05]

December 7, 2019 (Israeli American Council National Summit, Hollywood, Florida): "At some point, whether it's five years from now, nine years from now, 13 years from now – I'm doing this to drive the media crazy. [applause] Because a lot of them say, "You know he's not leaving, don't you?" One of these characters – these people are so stupid. One of them said – one of them said, "You know he's going to win, don't you? And you know, at the end of his second term, you know he's not leaving. He's not leaving. You know that." And I thought he's a comedian [Guess who?]. I thought he was kidding. He's for real. So now we have to start thinking about that, because it's not a bad idea. [applause] No, but these people are going crazy. When they all scream, "Four more years, four more years," I always say, "Make it 12 years and you'll drive them crazy." Twelve more years." [Crowd chants "Twelve more years!"]

December 10, 2019 (Rally in Hershey, Pennsylvania): "When you leave office, I hope in 5 years, 9 years, 13 years, 17 years, 21 years, 25 years, 29 years. When I leave office… Now I'm only doing that to drive them totally crazy. That drives them crazy. Even joking about it. We have this idiot comedian who stands up [He's obsessed with Maher], he's talking to a guest, right? He said, 'You know he's going to win, don't you? You know it.' The guy goes, 'No, no. We're going to fight. We're going to fight.' And they will. 'No, no, no. You know he's going to win.' Then he goes, 'You know he's going to win. And you know he's never leaving, don't you? He's never leaving.' At first I thought he was kidding. He's a whack job. He is totally serious. He honestly believes that. I don't know, should we give it a shot? Maybe we'll give it a shot. I'm only kidding. I'm only kidding. Media, I'm only kidding. They won't write that, but that's okay. They won't write the 'I'm only kidding part.'" [Video: 74:03-75:16]

December 18, 2019 (Rally in Battle Creek, Michigan): "We have the greatest country. We've turned around the ship. We need four more years. If we don't have it. Now if you want to drive them crazy – we had one group in Pennsylvania, some guy started screaming '16 more years.' They went crazy. And you know what they don't understand? When I do get out, they're all going to go out of business. They're making more money than they've ever made." [Video: 90:10-90:40]

Trump Offers Reassurance: "We're Ordering A Lot Of Different Elements Of Medical". A Few Hours Later, He Says The Virus Is A "Hoax".

Donald Trump called the coronavirus a "new hoax" on Friday night, the latest example of Democrats sabotaging his chances of re-election by pushing fake news.
This is their new hoax ... [their] single talking point ... Democrats will always say horrible things. Democrats want us to fail so badly. ... My administration has taken the most aggressive acts in history to prevent the spread in the United States.
That is a lie.

Trump fired the US pandemic response team in 2018 and never replaced them.

Trump has gutted the US's infectious disease defense infrastructure. In May 2018, after then-National Security Advisor John Bolton re-organized the National Security Council, Rear Adm. Timothy Ziemer, the head of the global health security team, resigned, and his team was disbanded.

In addition to ignoring those vacancies, Trump also slashed funding for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, severely hampering efforts to assist countries (like China) prevent infectious-disease threats from becoming epidemics. (His current budget cuts the CDC's budget by 16%.)

Trump – who said his administration was "magnificently organized" and "totally prepared" to fight the virus [two more lies] – is now requesting $2.5 billion to battle the outbreak, which might not have been necessary if he hadn't taken those previous actions.

Trump, February 28:
There have been no deaths in the United States, at all. A lot of that's attributable to the fact that we closed the border very early. Otherwise, it could be a different story.
That is also a lie. The United States has not closed its borders because of the virus.

Trump said the press is in "hysteria mode", repeating there have been no deaths in the US. Other countries exist, however, and since the beginning of the year, more than 83,000 people have contracted the virus and at least 2,857 have died.

We're ordering a lot of supplies. We're ordering a lot of, uh, elements that frankly we wouldn't be ordering unless it was something like this. But we're ordering a lot of different elements of medical.
Jebus (@the_real_Lord): "Can we order him some elements of brain."

Max Burbank (@max_burbank): "No one says a sentence like 'We're ordering a lot of different elements of medical' unless something is neurologically wrong with them."

Jumpsuits For Trumpsuits (@JumptyTrumpty): "Why would you order medical supplies for a 'hoax'?"

You Are Wondering How Stupid People Can Be ... We May Have Reached The Bottom.

5W Public Relations stated that 38% of Americans wouldn't buy Corona "under any circumstances" because of the outbreak, and another 14% said they wouldn't order a Corona in public. The survey encompasses polling from 737 beer drinkers in the United States.

That's a small sample ... but 52% of those beer drinkers are (at the very least) suspicious. A majority!! ... Also, searches on Google last month for "corona beer virus" skyrocketed.

I'll bet some of those 14% are embarrassed to be seen ordering a Corona in public because it's a shitty beer. Anyway, that story had two good comments:

ActuallyARegular: "You know, Corona virus is fine, but it’s better with a slice of Lyme disease."

While the prevalence of those searches dropped in February, that 5W poll was announced today. (Also: Garth Brooks's shirt.)

Thursday, February 27, 2020

Trump: "There's A Very Good Chance You're Not Going To Die" From The Coronavirus

Shannon Pettypiece, NBC News:
This week, federal health officials warned Americans to prepare for the coronavirus to become a pandemic, stocks tumbled on fears of just how widespread the virus could get, and the White House sought $2.5 billion from Congress to fight the deadly infection.

But in the telling of President Donald Trump, everything is fine.
Trump blamed the media and the Democrats (naturally) for "doing everything possible to make the Caronavirus look as bad as possible" – misspelling the name of the virus – to hamper his re-election big. But he assured everyone: "USA in great shape!"

During a press conference, Trump assured the nation:
There's a very good chance you're not going to die.
Larry Kudlow, Trump's top economic adviser, told CNBC: "We have contained this. I won't say airtight, but pretty close to airtight."

Last Tuesday, Trump told reporters the virus was simply "a problem that's going to go away". Back on February 10, Trump stated the virus would be a memory by around Easter, because warmer weather will cause it to "miraculously" go away. (Today, Trump repeated that a "miracle" could occur stop the threat.)
The virus that we're talking about having to do, a lot of people think that goes away in April, with the heat, as the heat comes in, typically that will go away in April.
As Vanity Fair reported: "Unsurprisingly, he offered no scientific or medical explanation to support his theory."

At his press conference, after Trump said "we're very close to a vaccine", someone with actual knowledge of the matter stated a vaccine would not be available for at least a year.

Dr. Nancy Messonnier, director of the National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases:
It's not so much of a question of if this will happen in this country anymore, but a question of when this will happen ... [The public should] prepare for the expectation that this might be bad.
Trump was very annoyed that bad news about the virus caused the "markets" to lose money. That's his first priority and he's taking steps to make sure that doesn't happen again. He's tightening control over what information will be (or will not be) given to the public by having all official statements and public appearances go through Vice President Mike Pence first. It will be easier for Trump to muzzle scientists and other experts who want to present factual information, aka information that makes Trump look bad.

Rachel Maddow, MSNBC:
The president is telling the public things that are not true about the coronavirus, and specifically about how it is being handled in the United States, and this is a problem. The president again tonight says it's only 15 cases of coronavirus in the United States. It is not 15 cases. It is at least 60 cases of coronavirus in the United States, not 15. The president continues to insist that the number of cases is going to drop. It's going to go away, it's going to become near zero when even his own administration's health officials are saying we need to prepare for the fact that the number of cases in the United States is going to go up. The president is saying the number of cases is going to go to zero, it's going to drop away. It's not. It's going to go up. The president is not telling you the truth about that. The president has said that in the last two days that the coronavirus is less lethal, has a lower fatality rate than the common flu. That is quite dramatically, mathematically incorrect.
Donald Trump does not have the coronavirus, so he doesn't give a shit about it.

Pence might be the absolute worst person to put in charge of anything having to do with science. He proved that back in 2014-15 when he was governor of Indiana. During an HIV outbreak – when Scott County, a rural area which rarely saw even one HIV case a year, had 215 people test positive – Pence's solution was to "pray on it".

Now, with the coronavirus, it's everyone else who will be praying. Trump stated he also gave Pence the responsibility because the Vice President didn't "have anything to do".

After Farcial Press Conference On Coronavirus, In Which Trump Babbled Incoherently, Paraded His Gross Ignorance, Praised Himself Over And Over In A Stream-Of-Consciousness Ramble, And Contradicted Every Scientific Report, The Mainstream Media Repackaged It All As If It Was Normal

Dan Froomkin, Press Watch:
Tell me this is normal.

Tell me this is unremarkable.

Tell me this is behavior by the president of the United States of United States of America at a critically important briefing about a potentially deadly pandemic that does not bear mentioning.

Wednesday's briefing was arguably the most abnormal moment yet in a profoundly abnormal presidency. ...

It was obvious to anyone listening to Trump's rambling, often incoherent, self-centered, stream-of-consciousness ad-libbing – much of it straight out of his political rallies — that:
* Trump had no real understanding of what he was talking about.

* He had no sense of what was required of him as president.

* He sees this as being all about him.
The briefing was intended to inform and reassure Americans about this international public health emergency:
This will end. This will end. You look at flu season. I said 26,000 people. I never heard of a number like that: 26,000 people, going up to 69,000 people, doctor, you told me before. 69,000 people die every year — from 20 to 69 — every year from the flu. Think of that. That's incredible. So far, the results of all of this that everybody is reading about — and part of the thing is, you want to keep it the way it is, you don't want to see panic, because there's no reason to be panicked about it — but when I mentioned the flu, I asked the various doctors, "Is this just like flu?" Because people die from the flu. And this is very unusual. And it is a little bit different, but in some ways it's easier and in some ways it's a little bit tougher, but we have it so well under control, I mean, we really have done a very good job. [Watch video.]
Before and after, knowledgeable public health officials had made clear that a further spread of the coronavirus in the U.S. is inevitable:
I don't think it's inevitable. It probably will. It possibly will. It could be at a very small level or it could be at a larger level. Whatever happens, we're totally prepared. We have the best people in the world. You see that from the study. We have the best prepared people, the best people in the world. Congress is willing to give us much more than we're even asking for. That's nice for a change. But we are totally ready, willing, and able to — it's a term that we use, it's "ready, willing, and able." It's going to be very well under control. Now, it may get bigger. It may get a little bigger. It may not get bigger at all. We'll see what happens. But regardless of what happens, we're totally prepared. [Watch video.]
On the stock market declines:
I think the financial markets are very upset when they look at the Democrat candidates standing on that stage make fools out of themselves, and they say, "If we ever have a president like this" — and there's always a possibility, it's an election, you know, who knows what happens? I think we're going to win, I think we're going to win by a lot — but when they look at statements made by the people standing behind those podiums, I think that has a huge effect.

Reporter: You don't you think it had to do with the coronavirus?

Well, I think it did, I think it did, but I think you can add quite a bit of selloff to what they're seeing. Because they're seeing the potential – you know, again, I think we're going to win. I feel very confident of it. We've done everything – and much more — than I said we were going to do. You look at what we've done. What we've done is incredible, with the tax cuts and regulation cuts, and rebuilding our military, taking care of our vets and getting them choice and accountability. All of the things we've done. Protecting our Second Amendment. I mean, they view that, the Second Amendment, they're going to destroy the Second Amendment. When people look at that, they say, "This is not good." So you add that in. I really believe that's a factor. But, no, what we're talking about is the virus. That's what we're talking about. I do believe that's — I do believe in terms of CNBC and in terms of Fox Business, I do believe that's a factor, yeah. And I think after I win the election, I think the stock market is going to boom like it's never boomed before. Just like the last time I won the election. The day after the stock market went up like a rocket ship. [Watch video.]
On the Democrats, in between asking for their cooperation:
I think Speaker Pelosi is incompetent. She lost the Congress once. I think she's going to lose it again. She lifted my poll numbers up 10 points. I never thought that I would see that so quickly and so easily. I'm leading everybody. We're doing great. I don't want to do it that way. It's almost unfair if you think about it. But I think she's incompetent.

I think she is not thinking about the country and instead of making a statement like that, where I have been beating her routinely at everything, instead of making a statement like that, she should be saying we have to work together, because we have a big problem — potential only — and maybe it's going to be a very little problem. I hope that it's going to be a very little problem but we have to work together. Instead she wants to do that same thing with crying Chuck Schumer. [Watch video.]
On his devastating budget cuts to the Centers for Disease Control:
We can get money. And we can increase staff. We know all the good people. There's a question I asked the doctors before. Some of the people we cut, they haven't been used for many, many years. If we ever need them we can get them very quickly. And rather than spending the money — and I'm a businessperson — I don't like having thousands of people around when you don't need them. When we need them, we can get them back very quickly. For instance, we're bringing some people in tomorrow that are already in this great government that we have, and very specifically for this. We can build up very, very quickly, and we've already done that. I mean, we have a great staff, and using Mike, I'm doing that because he's in the administration, and he's very good at doing what he does and doing as it relates to this. [Watch video.]
On staying healthy:
View this the same as the flu. When somebody sneezes, I mean, I try and bail out as much as possible when there's sneezing. I had a man come up to me a week ago, I hadn't seen him in a long time, and I said, "How you doing?" He said, "Fine, fine," he hugged me, kissed me. I said, "Are you well?" He says "No." He said, "I have the worst fever and the worst flu." And he's hugging and kissing me. So I said, excuse me, I went out and started washing my hands. So you have to do that. I really think, doctor, you want to treat this like you treat the flu, right? [Watch video.]
Afterwards, Trump described his press conference as "calming".

Froomkin (my emphasis):
[T]op news organizations, rather than accurately representing Trump's alarming behavior, made it sound like nothing untoward happened at all. ...

[A]t the New York Times, Michael D. Shear, Noah Weiland and Katie Rogers engaged in something even worse than stenography: The cherry-picking of quotes that weren't incoherent, that in no way whatsoever indicated the true nature of the briefing. They led off:
President Trump named Vice President Mike Pence on Wednesday to coordinate the government's response to the coronavirus, even as he repeatedly played down the danger to the United States of a widespread domestic outbreak.
Nothing in that story told readers what they most needed to know.

Even in a sidebar on Trump's credibility, Annie Karni, Michael Crowley and Maggie Haberman simply called Trump's briefing "casual." Then they punted:
Mr. Trump could face a moment of reckoning. Maintaining a calm and orderly response during an epidemic, in which countless lives could be at stake, requires that the president be a reliable public messenger.
There was also a cutesy sidebar by Katie Rogers about Trump's self-declared germophobia.


Some news organizations [The Washington Post and The Los Angeles Times], while treating the briefing like a normal one, at least called attention to the obvious contradiction between Trump's account and that of the public health officials whom he allowed to speak briefly.

Under the lame headline "Trump downplays risk, places Pence in charge of coronavirus outbreak response," Toluse Olorunnipa, Josh Dawsey and Yasmeen Abutaleb noted, six paragraphs in:
Trump's positive message was at odds with the statements by top members of his administration in recent days who have warned of an unpredictable virus that could spread into communities and upend Americans' daily lives.

The president was contradicted almost in real time by some of the government experts who flanked him as he stood in the White House press briefing room.

"We could be just one or two people over the next short period of time," Trump said of the virus's impact in the United States.

Minutes later, Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar and CDC Principal Deputy Director Anne Schuchat warned Americans to prepare for the number of cases to grow.

"We can expect to see more cases in the United States," Azar said.

"We do expect more cases," Schuchat said.
And much later in the story, the reporters finally offered their first indication of what the briefing was really like:
But his news conference quickly devolved into campaign-style attacks on Democrats, predictions of a stock market rally and self-congratulatory assessments of his handling of the crisis.
They knew it was farcical – one of the authors indicated as much on Twitterthey just didn't think it was worth mentioning that.

An online-only sidebar by Aaron Blake got closer to reality:
Trump repeatedly sought to pat himself and his administration on the back, even as the scope and severity of the viral outbreak worldwide and in the United States is still coming into focus.
Blake also noted:
When he was asked why the stock market has plunged 2,000 points in recent days, Trump acknowledged part of the reason was coronavirus fears. But he also blamed the Federal Reserve, Boeing, General Motors, and he said he thought the markets were suddenly worried about one of his potential 2020 Democratic opponents beating him for reelection — despite that campaign having been going for more than a year.
And Amber Phillips waited until the absolute last paragraph of her Post news analysis to explain the obvious:
To deal with something as serious and life-threatening as a global virus, health officials say the White House needs to stay factual and apolitical. We haven't seen much of that from the president so far.
In the Los Angeles Times, Noah Bierman, Jennifer Haberkorn and Noam Levey offered their readers some context, by noting Trump's obvious motives:
Desperate to stanch anxieties on Wall Street and public fears that the White House is unprepared for a major coronavirus outbreak, President Trump on Wednesday named Vice President Mike Pence to coordinate the administration's response while asserting that "the risk to the American people remains very low."
One bright spot: Ezekiel Emanuel, a special advisor to the director general of the World Health Organization, explained on MSNBC:
I found most of what he said a little incoherent. And, you know, he's a guy that admitted that he's surprised that 25,000 to 69,000 people each year die of the flu. That just tells you how little he actually knows about public health and about the health of the American public, because every doctor knows that and lots of health policy experts know that. And he just told you, he just revealed how ignorant he is about the situation. We don't know how similar or dissimilar this is to the flu. We know one thing: It is actually more communicable than the flu. It passes between people very, very easily.

There is, of course, a tweet for everything:
And Froomkin, only yesterday:
Donald Trump's browbeating and attempted bullying of two liberal, female Supreme Court justices by parroting Fox News propaganda on Tuesday was grotesquely abnormal behavior for a president of the United States, represented an escalation of his persistent and unprecedented attacks on the legitimacy and independence of the federal judiciary, and was a distraction from the real news of the day, which includes the fact that his visit to India has apparently incited mob violence against Muslims.

But reporters on the White House press corps just played it straight. ...

As it happens, there is nothing unusual about this — neither about Trump saying outrageous things, nor about the press dutifully and credulously broadcasting his words to the world.

But it shouldn't be that way.

What political reporters (and, perhaps more importantly, their editors) need to realize — and internalize — is that when Trump says something this ridiculous, what he said exactly isn't as important as that he said it.

The substance of what he said — the accusation, the insinuation, the lie, the canard, the drivel — isn't as newsworthy as the fact that he engaged in that kind of behavior.

So in this case, Trump's ridiculous accusations and demands aren't what reporters should have focused on. They should have focused on explaining to the reader how unprecedented, inappropriate, inaccurate and shocking his comments were, what the truth is, and how he lied about it. ...

Here's what is most significant about what Trump said: Post-impeachment, he is exhibiting even less restraint in his attacks on the judiciary than he did before, and there wasn't a hell of a lot before.
Trump's second term is going to make what he's doing now look like Abraham Lincoln.

Democratic Party Changed Its Rules And Allowed Bloomberg To Buy His Way Into 2020 Race For Only One Reason: It Despises Bernie Sanders (And Will Do Anything To Stop Him)

Jim Kavanagh, writing in Counterpunch, offers thanks to Mike Bloomberg and the Democratic Party for demonstrating "the reality of class rule more clearly than reams of marxist analysis could".
The Democratic Party, the one political instrument that purports to represent working people and the only one through which they are effectively allowed to pursue their interests politically, defined a set of rules for participation in debates that were designed to ensure that only candidates with a certain depth and breadth of support among voters and donors could participate. On the basis of strict (and some would say arbitrary) enforcement of those rules, the party serially winnowed out a number of candidates, including women and persons of color, with particular attention to excluding an antiwar woman of color (Tulsi Gabbard). Then, after it was clear that the candidate with the strongest working-class agenda was taking the lead, and after receiving an $800,000 donation from Mike Bloomberg, the party changed its rules to allow Bloomberg to participate in the debates.

That would be the same Mike Bloomberg who enforced a Jim-Crow policing policy in the country's largest city. That's the stop-and-frisk policy ... that stopped 700,000+ young men a year, 90% of them Black and Latino, literally making more stop-and-frisks of young black men than there are young black men in New York City. That's the "walking while black" policy that, according to Bull Bloomberg, stopped "white people…too often, and nonwhites not enough." That's the policy he bragged about and defended until a month before he declared himself a candidate, and just ... lied about stopping.

That would be the same Mike Bloomberg who calls his women employees "fat broads" and "horse-faced lesbians," tells pregnant women to "kill it," and has settled dozens of lawsuits for sexual harassment and discrimination from women whom he still keeps silent under the discipline of NDAs.

That would be the same Mike Bloomberg who has "never been in favor of raising the minimum wage," is in favor of cutting social Security and Medicare, and thinks the financial crisis was caused by a liberal Congress forcing banks to end redlining.

That would be the Mike Bloomberg who is the ninth richest person in the world, with more wealth than 125 million of his fellow citizens.

That's the guy the Democratic Party ... welcomed—indeed, begged—to enter the race for their party's nomination, and changed the rules so he could. The same people who are now saying the party must allow someone who did not get the most votes to become the nominee because, you know, you can't change the rules.

So, thank you, thank you all, for confirming the marxist critique of liberal capitalist identity-politics and demonstrating conclusively—much more effectively than the leftists who have been saying it for four years—that the Democratic Party is not opposed to Donald Trump because of his racism, sexism, or reactionary economic views.

Yes, conclusively, since the candidate you've gone out of your way to make room for is demonstrably, unequivocally, worse than Donald Trump on all of those counts. ...

In terms of political substance, if Michael Bloomberg had won the presidency in 2016 as a Republican—which he very well could have—the Democratic Party could very well be trying to run Donald Trump against him now. ...

So what Mike Bloomberg is teaching us, with the help of Democratic centrists and pundits, is that what qualifies him ... to be a president is ... he is a member of the ruling class who will prevent the slightest challenge to its rule.

It is a wonderful lesson in the marxist concept of class dictatorship, where "dictatorship," of course, does not mean "one-man rule" but absolute political hegemony. For Marx, the class that has decisive control over the capital wealth of society also has ultimate political authority. A modern capitalist state is by definition a "dictatorship of the bourgeoisie" (the capitalist class), even if that absolute political hegemony is exercised through a carefully-circumscribed apparatus of elections, parliaments, and rights. ...

At this stage of US capitalism, the game is becoming a little too obvious, with those recruited agents having to be rewarded with ostentatious wealth and ruling-class entrée (à la the Clintons and Obama), and, as social discontent increases, capitalist magnates are eliminating the middleman and intervening personally and explicitly (à la Trump and Bloomberg). ...

Michael Bloomberg is not running to win the Democratic Party nomination, or to defeat Donald Trump. ...

Consider the question: If Bloomberg wanted to defeat Trump, why didn't he primary him?

The answer, obviously, is that he could not defeat Trump in the Republican Party, among the Republican electorate, no matter how much money he spends, and he knows it. ...

Michael Bloomberg cannot win the nomination of the Democratic Party, among the Democratic electorate, no matter how much money he spends, and he knows it. ...

Bloomberg cannot win either the Republican or the Democratic nomination, or the general election, where Trump would run to the left of Bloomberg and eat him alive. ...

What Bloomberg can do is ... hurt the front-runner. What he can do is ensure that no one else wins the majority of delegates. And the front-runner and only "one else" he entered the race to hurt is Bernie Sanders.

Michael Bloomberg is ... running for one reason: to stop Bernie Sanders. ... [H]e is running to make sure that someone else—who cannot be him—wins the nomination.

Here's the dilemma for the Democratic Party ... It must prevent Bernie Sanders from becoming the nominee, and it also must do all it can to prevent a widespread and radical rupture with the Democratic Party, which would imperil the two-party duopoly that's been a crucial support of class dictatorship. (N.B.: Beating Donald Trump in the general election is not on this list of party "musts." It would be nice and all, but important things first.)
Kavanagh predicts a scenario in which Sanders
will likely have a plurality of delegates, but with Bloomberg's help, the party can ensure that Bernie Sanders will not win the majority needed for a first-round victory. We know that, no matter how large a plurality Bernie has, on the second round of voting, deals will be made to combine superdelegates and other candidates' delegates to elect a nominee other than Bernie.
He sees Elizabeth Warren as the likely nominee which would
be a loser against Trump, but it carries the only hope of both stopping Bernie and preserving any semblance of 'progressive' credibility for the Democratic Party. ...

We have seen, I think, the first act of this horror show in the Nevada debate, where Warren pivoted back left, leading the charge against outrageously sexist billionaire Bloomberg.

If I'm right, this will become the ongoing kabuki theater in the weeks ahead, in which Warren sets herself up as the non-socialist and therefore "effective" anti-billionaire candidate ...

And the bonus: When Trump beats Warren, they can blame it on the people's sexism rather than their rejection of the plutocracy. And, of course, mobilize #Resistance and #impeachment2.0.

Tuesday, February 25, 2020

Overall Health Of Americans And Canadians Is Similar, But Americans Pay Four Times As Much In Health-Care Costs (One Big Reason: Compensation Packages For Insurance Executives)

Igor Derysh, Salon, February 15, 2020:
The cost of administering health care in the United States costs four times as much as it does in Canada, which has had a single-payer system for nearly 60 years, according to a new study.

The average American pays a whopping $2,497 per year in administrative costs ... compared to $551 per person per year in Canada, according to a study published in the Annals of Internal Medicine last month. The study estimated that cutting administrative costs to Canadian levels could save more than $600 billion per year.

The data contradicts claims by opponents of single-payer health care systems, who have argued that private programs are more efficient than government-run health care. ...

Canada had administrative costs similar to those in the United States before it switched to a single-payer system in 1962, according to the study's authors, who are researchers at Harvard Medical School, the City University of New York at Hunter College, and the University of Ottawa. But by 1999, administrative costs accounted for 31% of American health care expenses, compared to less than 17% in Canada. ...

Americans pay far more for the same care.

The average American spent $933 in hospital administration costs, compared to $196 in Canada, according to the research. Americans paid an average of $844 on insurance companies' overhead, compared to $146 in Canada. Americans spent an average of $465 for physicians' insurance-related costs, compared to $87 in Canada. ...

Despite the massive difference in administrative costs, a 2007 study by the Centers for Disease Control and Canada's health authority found that the overall health of residents in both countries is very similar, though the US actually trails in life expectancy, infant mortality, and fitness.

Many of the additional administrative costs in the US go toward compensation packages for insurance executives, some of whom pocket more than $20 million per year, and billions in profits collected by insurers.

"Americans spend twice as much per person as Canadians on health care. But instead of buying better care, that extra spending buys us sky-high profits and useless paperwork," said Dr. David Himmelstein, the study's lead author and a distinguished professor at Hunter College. "Before their single-payer reform, Canadians died younger than Americans, and their infant mortality rate was higher than ours. Now Canadians live three years longer and their infant mortality rate is 22% lower than ours. Under Medicare for All, Americans could cut out the red tape and afford a Rolls Royce version of Canada's system."

Thursday, February 20, 2020

Man Of The People

Bernie Sanders pointed out last night that Michael Bloomberg "owns more wealth than the bottom 125 million Americans". Bloomberg's net worth is $64.2 billion, making him the eighth-richest person in the United States.

It's a shocking statistic, but Matt Bruenig (People's Policy Project) believes Sanders understated Bloomberg's wealth.

Bruening states that the bottom 38% of American households have a collective net worth of $11.4 billion, meaning that Bloomberg owns nearly six times as much wealth as they do. Citing the Federal Reserve's latest Survey of Consumer Finances (SCF) data:
The definition of wealth used in the official SCF publications includes cars as wealth. But academics that study wealth inequality, like Edward Wolff, often do not count cars as wealth because they are rapidly-depreciating consumer durables that most people can't really sell for the practical reason that they need a car to get around and live. When you exclude cars from the definition of wealth, what you find is that the bottom 48 percent of households have less combined wealth than Michael Bloomberg does. This is 60.4 million households or 158.9 million people.
Some math-challenged individuals are pointing out that Sanders, with a net worth of $2.5 million, is also a rich man. No question, that is a nice chunk of dough. But it is sofa-cushion change compared to Bloomberg's bank account.

Let me illustrate:

One million seconds is 11 days. One billion seconds is 32 years.

If you had one million dollars and spent $1,000 a day, you would run out of money in 3 years.
If you had one billion dollars and spent $1,000 a day, you would run out of money in 2,740 years.

If you earned one dollar per second, you'd earn Sanders's net worth in 29 days.
If you earned one dollar per second, you'd earn Bloomberg's net worth in 2,035 years.

If you had $64.2 billion in the bank, you'd earn $2.5 million in interest in one day.

If you deducted Sanders's net worth from Bloomberg's net worth:
$64,200,000,000 (Bloomberg)
-    $2,500,000 (Sanders)
Rounding that off, Bloomberg's net worth would change from $64.2 billion to ... $64.2 billion.

Here's another fun fact about a different wealthy person (but a similar delusional asshole):
If you were given $7,000 an hour, every day since the birth of Jesus Christ, Jeff Bezos would still have more money than you.

Wednesday, February 19, 2020

After Latest Polls Show Trump Losing To All Democratic Candidates, Trump Says He Has Secret Polls That Show Him Beating Everyone

Jason Easley, Politicus USA, February 19, 2020:
Trump Claims He Has Secret Polls Showing Him Beating All The Democrats

After a new round of polls showed him losing to all of the top Democratic candidates, Trump claimed to have polls showing him winning against everyone.

Trump tweeted:

Internal REAL Polls show I am beating all of the Dem candidates. The Fake News Polls (here we go again, just like 2016) show losing or tied. Their polls will be proven corrupt on November 3rd, just like the Fake News is corrupt!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) February 19, 2020

It is a longstanding rule of political campaigning that if a campaign has good news, they don't keep it hidden. If Trump had real polls showing him beating every single top tier Democrat, those polls would be blasted all over Fox News and Trump's Twitter account.

Trump doesn't have those sort of credible polls because they don't exist.
Also, the 2016 polls were accurate.

The last five polls before the election (including one from Fox News!) all had Trump losing by 3% or 4%.
November 3-6, 2016 (Fox News):                  Clinton 48, Trump 44
November 3-6, 2016 (ABC News/Washington Post):  Clinton 49, Trump 46
November 1-7, 2016 (UPI/CVoter):                Clinton 49, Trump 46
November 4-6, 2016 (Bloomberg/Selzer):          Clinton 46, Trump 43
November 4-7, 2016 (YouGov/The Economist):      Clinton 49, Trump 45
Trump lost the popular vote by 2.1%: Clinton 48.18%, Trump 46.09%.

Thursday, February 13, 2020

After Committing Impeachable Acts Throughout His Entire Impeachment Trial, An Acquitted Trump Continues Committing Impeachable Acts

Hannah Arendt, from The Origins of Totalitarianism:
Totalitarianism in power invariably replaces all first-rate talents, regardless of their sympathies, with those crackpots and fools whose lack of intelligence and creativity is still the best guarantee of their loyalty.

In one sense, Maine Senator Susan Collins was correct. Donald Trump did learn a "pretty big lesson" from being impeached. He knows he can get away with anything. But Trump likely was already aware of that, because he continued to commit the exact same crimes for which he was being impeached throughout his entire impeachment trial.

Imagine a serial killer on trial for multiple murders being let out of jail every night to commit additional murders, crimes to which he confesses the next morning (and helpfully provides evidence). But the judge has admitted publicly that he's colluding with the defense team, making sure evidence is suppressed and witnesses are never called. So the accused is set free, and during his post-trial news conference, he stabs a bystander to death in celebration. Despite numerous cops nearby, the murderer is not arrested and he walks off, happily planning his next round of murders.

Law professors Joshua Geltzer and Ryan Goodman state that the firings of Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman and Ambassador to the European Union Gordon Sondland "should be understood as an escalation in President Donald Trump's ongoing efforts that threaten American democratic institutions".
In case there were any doubt about the motivation for all of this, a series of tweets by the president and his son made clear that Lt. Col. Vindman's ejection was a direct response to the testimony he provided Congress that pointed to the president's wrongdoing. ...

Trump was punishing key witnesses for doing precisely what the United States Congress swore them in to do: explain what they'd seen and heard. ...

Retaliating against them for their testimony was precisely the point for Trump. ... As a former Trump NSC official Fernando Cutz said, "The broader message to career officials is that you can't speak up. Even if you see something illegal, something unethical, you can't speak up. That's the message the president wants to send." ... Friday's ousters are an extension of the second article of impeachment against Trump: obstruction of Congress, and more broadly obstruction of the public's access to the truth.

The [firings] continued the transformation of the instruments of national power into tools of Trump's personal advancement. This exploitation of America's diplomatic, military, and law enforcement mechanisms was the very usurpation of power that got Trump impeached in the first place. ... Having survived impeachment, Trump now seeks to accelerate the redirection of America's instruments of power into his own instruments of power. ...

Trump's expectation for officials is a personal loyalty to him—as former FBI Director James Comey learned in his early White House meeting with Trump and as his immediate successor as Acting Director, Andy McCabe, faced when Trump asked McCabe for whom he voted in 2016. Trump directed fury at then-Attorney General Jeff Sessions when his recusal from the Russia investigation meant that Sessions wasn’t personally protecting Trump. "Where's my Roy Cohn?" Trump reportedly said to other officials in his frustration over Sessions. ...

What shoe might drop next? Trump is reportedly considering, in consultation with his advisors, firing the intelligence community's inspector general, Michael Atkinson—another official installed in his current role by Trump himself. Atkinson, very much to his credit, battled others within the executive branch to ensure that the whistleblower complaint that began to unravel Trump's extortion of Ukraine reached congressional overseers in both the House and Senate, where it belonged. Simply put, he did his job ... and, yet again, that's exactly why Trump now might fire him. ... As Trump's former head of the Office of Government Ethics, Walter Shaub, warned, "Firing an Inspector General for processing a whistleblower complaint would be an extraordinary blow to whatever shred of government integrity remains. It would be an atom bomb." ...

As Trump said in an interview with Bob Woodward, "Real power is—I don't even want to use the word—fear" ...

For months, the Trump administration has ... been firing those who've insisted on adherence to the rule of law when that insistence is at odds with the White House. ...

[Trump's recent action is] an important step in the consolidation of power by a president who intends to take the very sins for which he was impeached—exploiting American national power for Trump's personal power, and silencing those who try to call him out for it—and indulge in them more aggressively, even more brazenly.

Trump's public admission that the firings were blatant revenge against the two men for testifying (telling the truth) in his just-completed impeachment hearing is likely itself an impeachable offense. George Conway, writing in The Washington Post, states:
If Richard M. Nixon was to be impeached for authorizing hush money for witnesses, and Trump himself was actually impeached for directing defiance of House subpoenas, then there should be no doubt that punishing witnesses for complying with subpoenas and giving truthful testimony about presidential misconduct should make for a high crime or misdemeanor as well.
Conway points out that Trump's alleged order to the Pentagon to "screw Amazon", whose chief executive owns the Post, is likely also an impeachable offense. As would be his threats against Google, Facebook and Twitter, and his punishment of Puerto Rico's population because its politicians were critical of him.

Trump has committed more crimes than can be counted. It's a disgrace that the Democrats paved the way for his acquittal by bringing only two counts against him, which the Republicans easily swatted away.

Leah Litman, writing for Slate:
Last Tuesday, in explaining her vote to acquit Donald Trump of abuse of power and obstruction of Congress, Sen. Susan Collins suggested that the president had learned a "pretty big lesson" simply from being impeached and that he would be "much more cautious" about engaging in similar behavior again. By Friday, Trump had issued a series of firings of public officials who had testified against the president during the impeachment inquiry, demonstrating his takeaway from impeachment: He can use the powers of his office to do whatever he wants. Having gotten away with abuses of power again and again, Trump is now unleashed to continue to corruptly use the powers of his office without consequence. ...

Trump and his administration have internalized the lesson that if no one will stop you, there's no reason to stop. Less than two years ago, the Supreme Court upheld the third iteration of the president's ban on entry by nationals of several Muslim-majority countries ... [making] clear that it would not stop the president from incorporating his bigotry into official immigration policy. ... After receiving a pass on xenophobia, the president has continued to do it again and again. Last week, he expanded the entry ban to cover five additional countries (Nigeria, Kyrgyzstan, Sudan, Eritrea, and Myanmar) with substantial Muslim populations. In one of those countries (Myanmar), a group of Muslims (the Rohingya) are fleeing religious persecution and genocide. The president had previously said, according to the New York Times, that Nigerians should "go back to their huts." ...

[I]t does not take a genius to see how that decision signals that the court is unwilling to stop the president from making policy based on bigoted, thinly veiled Islamophobia or racism. The president received the message and has run with it. ... The odds of this Supreme Court reversing course and stopping him this time is virtually nil. ...

With the Senate's blessing, the president will continue to corruptly abuse the powers of his office to undermine elections and our rule of law—and, as demonstrated by the Friday Night Massacre, he will do so in even more aggressive and ostentatious ways. With the court's blessing, the president will expand his racist, xenophobic, and anti-Muslim immigration practices with little limit to what he may try to enact. ...

It is unclear what, if anything, can stop him now.

Less than 48 hours after being acquitted, Trump went on a rambling, delusional rant lasting more than hour, calling the impeachment trial "evil", "corrupt", "phony", "rotten", the work of "dirty cops", "leakers and liars", "very evil and sick people" who were "vicious as hell". "It was all bullshit." "They made up facts." "It was a disgrace." Trump whined that he "went through hell". "Did nothing wrong. Did nothing wrong." "We were treated unbelievably unfairly."

On Tuesday, Trump tweeted "WOW, BLOOMBERG IS A TOTAL RACIST!", referring to comments by the former New York mayor in 2015 defending police policy of stop-and-frisk. Shortly after posting the tweet, Trump deleted it – possibly because he has repeatedly supported the same unconstitutional activity.

Trump called for the nationwide implementation of stop-and-frisk during his 2016 campaign. A federal judge had declared the practice unconstitutional three years earlier. (Verbatim quotes should always be used for Trump.)
I would do stop-and-frisk. I think you have to — we did it in New York. It worked incredibly well. You understand — you have to have, in my opinion. I see what's going on here — I see what's going on in Chicago, I think stop-and-frisk. In New York City, it was so incredible — the way it worked. Now, we had a very good mayor. But New York City was incredible — the way that worked. So I think that could be one step you could do.
Trump repeated his support for the illegal program in 2018, claiming that it "works and it was meant for problems like Chicago".

Meanwhile, Bloomberg's presidential campaign did not deny plagiarizing material from "research publications, media outlets, and a number of nonprofit, educational, and policy groups" for eight of its plans and fact sheets (on maternal health, LGBTQ equality, the economy, tax policy, infrastructure, and mental health). Bloomberg News' style guide states: "Plagiarism is theft. Be prepared to lose your job if you plagiarize."

Bloomberg is also misleading voters when he claims he cut stop-and-frisk by 95% as mayor. In a statement posted on his campaign website, Bloomberg states that by the time he left office, "I cut it back by 95%, but I should've done it faster and sooner. I regret that and I have apologized".

Actually, under Bloomberg's administration, the stop-and-frisk program was vastly expanded, from 97,296 stops in 2002 to 685,724 in 2011 — a more than seven-fold increase. The full extent of the program will never be known because although police officers were required to fill out a form for each stop, it's highly unlikely they did so for each and every instance. Bloomberg stopped the program only after several lawsuits were filed claiming (correctly) that the program violated the basic constitutional rights of city residents.

Slate: "Trump Advisers Hope Secret Service for New Hampshire Rally Interfered With Democratic Voters"
President Donald Trump touched down in New Hampshire Monday on the eve of the state's primary to, as he tweeted beforehand, "shake up the Dems a little bit". ...

Trump, of course, has never been one for larger principles or the greater good or fairness for that matter. Or anything that doesn't suit his immediate self-interest. So it should perhaps be unsurprising that Trump's campaign is also kinda hoping that his visit to the state will make it harder for Democrats to do their civic duty of seeing and evaluating their potential representatives before casting their votes.

Construction crews working on Trump's border wall in southern Arizona are blasting sites at the Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument (a UNESCO International Biosphere Reserve for the last 43+ years). Rep. Raúl Grijalva, D-Ariz., who chairs the House Natural Resources Committee, told The Intercept that the ancestral homeland and sacred burial sites of Tohono O'odham Nation are along the path set to be blasted.

An internal National Park Service report obtained by The Washington Post showed that the construction could destroy as many as 22 archaeological sites. Grijalva said DHS has repeatedly failed to consult with tribal stakeholders in the region.
It's right in the path. The one indignation of the blasting on the hill is shortly to follow with other indignations and disrespect. DHS had mentioned to the tribes that they would back off on developing the hill, but the work is still being done. ... You would think that in a situation like this, that involves human remains, burial sites, bone fragments that are traced and dated a thousand years or more back, that there would be some sensitivity, for lack of a better word, on the part of DHS and the administration. There is none.
The Trump administration is using the Real ID Act, passed in 2005, to push ahead with construction. The Real ID Act allows the government to waive (i.e., ignore) certain laws because of national security. The Act has been invoked 21 times since 2005, with 16 of those coming in the last two and a half years, under Trump, who has by-passed dozens of laws, including the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act, the Endangered Species Act, and the Environmental Protection Act.

Efren Olivares of the Texas Civil Rights Project:
The idea that the secretary of DHS could come to your community and say no laws apply here, what kind of rule of law is that? People should be outraged to know that Homeland Security can wield that kind of power.
Laiken Jordahl of the Center for Biological Diversity:
Draining precious groundwater, bulldozing ancient saguaros and plowing over burial grounds isn't enough. Now they're literally dynamiting a mountain in protected wilderness lands. Nothing is sacred to them, no amount of destruction too grand. We're living a nightmare down here in the borderlands.

On Monday, J.W. Verret, a George Mason University law professor and former member of the Trump transition team, predicted on CNN that Trump will be impeached for a second time. Verrett was asked if Trump's acquittal "will lead the president to feel he can seek foreign help in the election".
There's no question but that he will attempt to do it. ... He will be impeached again, I don't know for what, and it will be legitimate. It could be for things personal having to do with his company.

The New York Times downplayed Trump's vendetta against Vindman and Sondland, relating what happened without any context and treating it as the normal give-and-take of politics.

Jim Fallows of The Atlantic said Trump's behaviour
should have been profoundly troubling to any journalist concerned with accountability. He punished people for refusing to lie under oath for him. He was sending a signal to everyone in the government that their jobs are at stake should they displease him.
The Times stated that Trump, "emboldened by his victory and determined to strike back ... ordered ... Sondland ... recalled from his post ... on the same day that ... Vindman ... was marched out of the White House by security guards".

Dan Froomkin of Press Watch states that while the Times is "technically accurate", "by refusing to plainly situate his actions in their context — that it was an authoritarian assault on people trying to bring facts to light, that those facts exposed Trump as abusing his power, and that anyone who isn't loyal to him is his 'enemy'", the Times lets Trump off too easily. (Googling "media normalizes trump" is instructive.)

Things were a bit different in the UK earlier this month. Journalists decided to collectively boycott a Downing Street briefing on February 3 after Prime Minister Boris Johnson's most senior communications adviser attempted to ban certain reporters from attending.

When reporters from the Mirror, the i, HuffPost, PoliticsHome, the Independent and others were told to leave, the remaining journalists, which included the BBC, ITV, Sky News, the Daily Mail, the Telegraph, the Sun, the Financial Times, and the Guardian, decided to walk out. The Labour party accused Johnson of "resorting to tactics imported from Donald Trump to hide from scrutiny".

The very next day, the White House excluded CNN anchors from its traditional off-the-record pre-State of the Union lunch. No other media objected, as anchors from ABC, NBC, CBS, PBS, Fox News, OANN, C-SPAN, CBN, Univision, Telemundo, Sinclair, and Gray TV were all seen in the West Wing. And, as Melanie McFarland of Salon reported:
Cut to Thursday of [last] week, when ABC, CBS, and NBC allowed Trump to ramble live and uninterrupted for more than an hour about his impeachment and the Senate's acquittal ...

In an AP story published that day, representatives from two network newsrooms expressed the thought that the president had a right to be heard "out of fairness" following weeks of TV impeachment hearing in the House of Representatives and the Senate.

This skates by the fact that Trump had ample opportunity [to] have his say in several House committee hearings where he declined to appear and before the Senate in a "trial" he influenced to be a sham. So, in fairness, the networks gave Trump an hour-plus victory lap ... [which] only served the ego of a man who just got away with abusing the power of his office with no consequences, and benefited a Senate that would rather be craven than uphold the sanctity of Constitution. ...

Knowing that nothing journalists are doing will change any minds frozen by whatever ignorance gorgon has them in its thrall should free reporters to stand with their censored and ostracized colleagues on principle.

This is wishful thinking, I realize. ...

But here's a clue for the likes of Chuck Todd, who reportedly broke midday bread with POTUS only to be insulted to his face. If he needs you, he'll grant you that interview regardless whether you share a bag of McDonald's with him or not.
It's unlikely Todd has any integrity left to lose, but selling his pride for that day for a warmed-over Big Mac? #Sad.

What else?

Trump Refuses To Give Federal Workers Their Required Raise

Trump Thinks Head Injuries [Traumatic Brain Injuries] Are A Sign Of Weakness

Did You Know That April Heat Kills A Pandemic?
The insane ramblings from an imbecile:
A lot of people think that [the Wuhan coronavirus] goes away in April with the heat. As the heat comes in. Typically that will go away in April. We're in great shape ...

Inae Oh, Mother Jones, February 9, 2020:
Trump Is About to Go After Safety-Net Programs, Just Like He Promised Not to Do

The Wall Street Journal reported on Sunday that the White House is expected to propose a $4.8 trillion budget that aims to slash these popular programs [Medicare and Medicaid] while increasing spending on NASA, defense, and veterans:
The White House proposes to cut spending by $4.4 trillion over a decade. Of that, it targets $2 trillion in savings from mandatory spending programs, including $130 billion from changes to Medicare prescription-drug pricing, $292 billion from safety-net cuts—such as work requirements for Medicaid and food stamps—and $70 billion from tightening eligibility access to federal disability benefits.
While this reported budget is sure to fail ... it's still striking to witness the vast gulf between Trump's stated pledges and his actual priorities.
January 22, 2020: "At some point they will be [cut]. ... At the right time, we will take a look at that." (CNBC)

February 4, 2020: "We will always protect your Medicare and your Social Security." (State of the Union)

February 10, 2020: "The White House proposes to cut ... $130 billion from changes to Medicare prescription-drug pricing, $292 billion from safety-net cuts—such as work requirements for Medicaid and food stamps—and $70 billion from tightening eligibility access to federal disability benefits." (Wall Street Journal)

A new national poll (Quinnipiac, February 5-9) shows that all of the top Democratic candidates can beat Trump:
Bloomberg beats Trump  51-42
Sanders beats Trump    51-43
Biden beats Trump      50-43
Klobuchar beats Trump  49-43
Warren beats Trump     48-44
Buttigieg beats Trump  47-43
Yes, yes, I know that national polls mean nothing and that it's all about the only states that matter in the Electoral College. Still, it's interesting to know that if the United States was a real democracy Trump would be facing a huge uphill climb with any of the Democrats is worth pondering. He is weak, he isn't strong. On the other hand, he cheats.

Friday, February 07, 2020

"An Invisible Radiation" – A Key Point of Propaganda Is To Exhaust Your Critical Thinking

The Billion-Dollar Disinformation Campaign to Reelect the President
How new technologies and techniques pioneered by dictators will shape the 2020 election
McKay Coppins, The Atlantic, March 2020
After the 2016 election, much was made of the threats posed to American democracy by foreign disinformation. Stories of Russian troll farms and Macedonian fake-news mills loomed in the national imagination. But while these shadowy outside forces preoccupied politicians and journalists, Trump and his domestic allies were beginning to adopt the same tactics of information warfare that have kept the world's demagogues and strongmen in power. ...

In conversations with political strategists and other experts, a dystopian picture of the general election comes into view—one shaped by coordinated bot attacks, Potemkin local-news sites, micro-targeted fearmongering, and anonymous mass texting. ... [I]n the hands of a president who lies constantly, who traffics in conspiracy theories, and who readily manipulates the levers of government for his own gain, their potential to wreak havoc is enormous.

The Trump campaign is planning to spend more than $1 billion, and it will be aided by a vast coalition of partisan media, outside political groups, and enterprising freelance operatives. These pro-Trump forces are poised to wage what could be the most extensive disinformation campaign in U.S. history. Whether or not it succeeds in reelecting the president, the wreckage it leaves behind could be irreparable. ...

As the digital director of Trump's 2016 campaign, [Brad] Parscale didn't become a household name like Steve Bannon and Kellyanne Conway. But he played a crucial role in delivering Trump to the Oval Office—and his efforts will shape this year's election.

In speeches and interviews, Parscale likes to tell his life story as a tidy rags-to-riches tale, embroidered with Trumpian embellishments. He grew up a simple "farm boy from Kansas" (read: son of an affluent lawyer from suburban Topeka) who managed to graduate from an "Ivy League" school (Trinity University, in San Antonio). ...

Over time, he built enough websites for plumbers and gun shops that bigger clients took notice—including the Trump Organization. In 2011, Parscale was invited to bid on designing a website for Trump International Realty. An ardent fan of The Apprentice, he offered to do the job for $10,000, a fraction of the actual cost. ... The contract was his, and a lucrative relationship was born. ...

Parscale slid comfortably into Trump's orbit. Not only was he cheap and unpretentious—with no hint of the savvier-than-thou smugness that characterized other political operatives—but he seemed to carry a chip on his shoulder that matched the candidate's. ...

Perhaps most important, he seemed to have no reservations about the kind of campaign Trump wanted to run. The race-baiting, the immigrant-bashing, the truth-bending—none of it seemed to bother Parscale. While some Republicans wrung their hands over Trump's inflammatory messages, Parscale came up with ideas to more effectively disseminate them. ...

Parscale was hailed for Trump's surprise victory. Stories appeared in the press calling him a "genius" and the campaign's "secret weapon," and in 2018 he was tapped to lead the entire reelection effort. The promotion was widely viewed as a sign that the president's 2020 strategy would hinge on the digital tactics that Parscale had mastered.

Through it all, the strategist has continued to show a preference for narrative over truth. Last May, Parscale regaled a crowd of donors and activists in Miami with the story of his ascent. When a ProPublica reporter confronted him about the many misleading details in his account, he shrugged off the fact-check. "When I give a speech, I tell it like a story," he said. "My story is my story." ...

[A Facebook campaign in the Philippines, falsely tying grisly local crime stories to drug cartels in order to boost the campaign of Rodrigo Duterte] was emblematic of an emerging propaganda playbook, one that uses new tools for the age-old ends of autocracy. The Kremlin has long been an innovator in this area. (A 2011 manual for Russian civil servants favorably compared their methods of disinformation to "an invisible radiation" that takes effect while "the population doesn't even feel it is being acted upon.") But with the technological advances of the past decade, and the global proliferation of smartphones, governments around the world have found success deploying Kremlin-honed techniques against their own people.

In the United States, we tend to view such tools of oppression as the faraway problems of more fragile democracies. But the people working to reelect Trump understand the power of these tactics. ... [T]hey're building a machine designed to exploit their own sprawling disinformation architecture.

Central to that effort is the campaign's use of micro-targeting—the process of slicing up the electorate into distinct niches and then appealing to them with precisely tailored digital messages. The advantages of this approach are obvious: An ad that calls for defunding Planned Parenthood might get a mixed response from a large national audience, but serve it directly via Facebook to 800 Roman Catholic women in Dubuque, Iowa, and its reception will be much more positive. ...

Parscale didn't invent this practice—Barack Obama's campaign famously used it in 2012, and Clinton's followed suit. But Trump's effort in 2016 was unprecedented, in both its scale and its brazenness. ...

Christopher Wylie, who was the director of research at Cambridge Analytica and later testified about the company to Congress, told me that "with the right kind of nudges," people who exhibited certain psychological characteristics could be pushed into ever more extreme beliefs and conspiratorial thinking. "Rather than using data to interfere with the process of radicalization, Steve Bannon was able to invert that," Wylie said. "We were essentially seeding an insurgency in the United States." ...

After the Cambridge Analytica scandal broke, Facebook was excoriated for its mishandling of user data and complicity in the viral spread of fake news. Mark Zuckerberg promised to do better ... But then, last fall, he handed a major victory to lying politicians: Candidates, he said, would be allowed to continue running false ads on Facebook. ...

The Republican National Committee and the Trump campaign have reportedly compiled an average of 3,000 data points on every voter in America. They have spent years experimenting with ways to tweak their messages ...

Beyond Facebook, the [Trump] campaign is also investing in a texting platform that could allow it to send anonymous messages directly to millions of voters' phones without their permission. ...

One afternoon last March, I was on the phone with a Republican operative close to the Trump family when he casually mentioned that a reporter at Business Insider was about to have a very bad day. The journalist, John Haltiwanger, had tweeted something that annoyed Donald Trump Jr., prompting the coterie of friends and allies surrounding the president's son to drum up a hit piece. The story they had coming, the operative suggested to me, would demolish the reporter's credibility. ...

[A] few hours later, the operative sent me a link to a Breitbart News article documenting Haltiwanger's "history of intense Trump hatred." The story was based on a series of Instagram posts—all of them from before Haltiwanger started working at Business Insider—in which he made fun of the president and expressed solidarity with liberal protesters.

The next morning, Don Jr. tweeted the story to his 3 million followers, denouncing Haltiwanger as a "raging lib." Other conservatives piled on, and the reporter was bombarded with abusive messages and calls for him to be fired. His employer issued a statement conceding that the Instagram posts were "not appropriate." Haltiwanger kept his job, but the experience, he told me later, "was bizarre and unsettling." ...

According to people with knowledge of the effort, pro-Trump operatives have scraped social-media accounts belonging to hundreds of political journalists and compiled years' worth of posts into a dossier. ... Once a story has been marked for attack, someone searches the dossier for material on the journalists involved [a problematic old joke; evidence of liberal political views] ... Descriptions of the dossier vary. One source I spoke with said ... the dossier had expanded to at least 2,000 people, including not just journalists but high-profile academics, politicians, celebrities, and other potential Trump foes. ...

In the past year, the operatives involved have gone after journalists at CNN, The Washington Post, and The New York Times. They exposed one reporter for using the word fag in college, and another for posting anti-Semitic and racist jokes a decade ago. These may not have been career-ending revelations, but people close to the project said they're planning to unleash much more opposition research as the campaign intensifies. "This is innovative shit," said Mike Cernovich, a right-wing activist with a history of trolling. ...

Instead of trying to reform the press, or critique its coverage, today's most influential conservatives want to destroy the mainstream media altogether. ...

It's a lesson drawn from demagogues around the world: When the press as an institution is weakened, fact-based journalism becomes just one more drop in the daily deluge of content—no more or less credible than partisan propaganda. ...

This attitude has permeated the president's base. At rallies, people wear T-shirts that read ROPE. TREE. JOURNALIST. SOME ASSEMBLY REQUIRED. A CBS News/YouGov poll has found that just 11 percent of strong Trump supporters trust the mainstream media—while 91 percent turn to the president for "accurate information." This dynamic makes it all but impossible for the press to hold the president accountable, something Trump himself seems to understand. "Remember," he told a crowd in 2018, "what you're seeing and what you're reading is not what's happening."

Bryan Lanza, who worked for the Trump campaign in 2016 and remains a White House surrogate, told me flatly that he sees no possibility of Americans establishing a common set of facts from which to conduct the big debates of this year's election. Nor is that his goal. "It's our job to sell our narrative louder than the media," Lanza said. "They're clearly advocating for a liberal-socialist position, and we're never going to be in concert. So the war continues."

Parscale has indicated that he plans to open up a new front in this war: local news. Last year, he said the campaign intends to train "swarms of surrogates" to undermine negative coverage from local TV stations and newspapers. Polls have long found that Americans across the political spectrum trust local news more than national media. If the campaign has its way, that trust will be eroded by November. "We can actually build up and fight with the local newspapers," Parscale told donors, according to a recording provided by The Palm Beach Post. "So we're not just fighting on Fox News, CNN, and MSNBC with the same 700,000 people watching every day."

Running parallel to this effort, some conservatives have been experimenting with a scheme to exploit the credibility of local journalism. Over the past few years, hundreds of websites with innocuous-sounding names like the Arizona Monitor and The Kalamazoo Times have begun popping up. At first glance, they look like regular publications, complete with community notices and coverage of schools. But look closer and you'll find that there are often no mastheads, few if any bylines, and no addresses for local offices. Many of them are organs of Republican lobbying groups; others belong to a mysterious company called Locality Labs, which is run by a conservative activist in Illinois. Readers are given no indication that these sites have political agendas—which is precisely what makes them valuable. ...

According to one study, bots accounted for roughly 20 percent of all the tweets posted about the 2016 election during one five-week period that year. And Twitter is already infested with bots that seem designed to boost Trump's reelection prospects. ...

As the president's reelection machine ramps up, Democratic strategists have found themselves debating an urgent question: Can they defeat the Trump coalition without adopting its tactics?

On one side of this argument is Dmitri Mehlhorn, a consultant notorious for his willingness to experiment with digital subterfuge. During Alabama's special election in 2017, Mehlhorn helped fund at least two "false flag" operations against the Republican Senate candidate, Roy Moore. For one scheme, faux Russian Twitter bots followed the candidate's account to make it look like the Kremlin was backing Moore. For another, a fake social-media campaign, dubbed "Dry Alabama," was designed to link Moore to fictional Baptist teetotalers trying to ban alcohol. ...

When The New York Times uncovered the second plot, one of the activists involved, Matt Osborne, contended that Democrats had no choice but to employ such unscrupulous techniques. "If you don't do it, you're fighting with one hand tied behind your back," Osborne said. "You have a moral imperative to do this—to do whatever it takes."

Others have argued that this is precisely the wrong moment for Democrats to start abandoning ideals of honesty and fairness. ... "I don't think the Democratic campaign is going to need to make stuff up about Trump," Judd Legum, the author of a progressive newsletter about digital politics, told me. "They can stick to things that are true." ...

There is perhaps no better place to witness what the culture of disinformation has already wrought in America than a Trump campaign rally. One night in November, I navigated through a parking-lot maze of folding tables covered in MAGA merch and entered the BancorpSouth Arena in Tupelo, Mississippi. ...

Once Trump took the stage, he let loose a familiar flurry of lies, half-lies, hyperbole, and nonsense. He spun his revisionist history of the Ukraine scandal—the one in which Joe Biden is the villain—and claimed, falsely, that the Georgia Democrat Stacey Abrams wanted to "give illegal aliens the right to vote." At one point, during a riff on abortion, Trump casually asserted that "the governor of Virginia executed a baby"—prompting a woman in the crowd to scream, "Murderer!"

This incendiary fabrication didn't seem to register with my companions in the press pen, who were busy writing stories and shooting B-roll. ...

After the rally, I loitered near one of the exits, chatting with people as they filed out of the arena. Among liberals, there is a comforting caricature of Trump supporters as gullible personality cultists who have been hypnotized into believing whatever their leader says. The appeal of this theory is the implication that the spell can be broken, that truth can still triumph over lies, that someday everything could go back to normal—if only these voters were exposed to the facts. But the people I spoke with in Tupelo seemed to treat matters of fact as beside the point.

One woman told me that, given the president's accomplishments, she didn't care if he "fabricates a little bit." A man responded to my questions about Trump's dishonest attacks on the press with a shrug and a suggestion that the media "ought to try telling the truth once in a while." Tony Willnow, a 34-year-old maintenance worker who had an American flag wrapped around his head, observed that Trump had won because he said things no other politician would say. When I asked him if it mattered whether those things were true, he thought for a moment before answering. "He tells you what you want to hear," Willnow said. "And I don't know if it's true or not—but it sounds good, so fuck it."

The political theorist Hannah Arendt once wrote that the most successful totalitarian leaders of the 20th century instilled in their followers "a mixture of gullibility and cynicism." When they were lied to, they chose to believe it. When a lie was debunked, they claimed they'd known all along—and would then "admire the leaders for their superior tactical cleverness." Over time, Arendt wrote, the onslaught of propaganda conditioned people to "believe everything and nothing, think that everything was possible and that nothing was true."