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Gender: Male
Hometown: America's Finest City
Current location: District 50
Member since: 2001
Number of posts: 12,796

Journal Archives

Republicans' pandemic blunders keep piling higher

For most Americans, deadlines are real things. Homework must be done when the teacher says it’s due. Projects must be finished when the boss says they’re to be presented.

But when it comes to desperately needed aid for millions of Americans, Republicans are taking deadlines just as seriously as they’ve taken health experts’ guidance during this pandemic. That is to say: Not at all.

Already cutoff dates are coming and going. The federal ban on rental evictions expired Friday (though White House economic adviser Larry Kudlow promised it would be extended). The extra $600 a week in unemployment benefits under the Cares Act expire this coming Friday; the last checks have already gone out. And most small businesses that received loans under the Paycheck Protection Program have exhausted that money.

Back in May, and well ahead of these deadlines, Democrats passed the Heroes Act, which among other measures would extend the $600-a-week bonus and issue a second round of $1,200 stimulus checks. Republicans were supposed to have their version ready by the middle of last week. Wednesday came and went. So did Thursday. On Friday, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said, “Hopefully we can come together behind some package we can agree on in the next few weeks.”

Don’t worry, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin assured viewers of “Fox News Sunday”: Republicans were “just working on technical issues in the drafts” even though “we had previously agreed on all these issues earlier in the week.”

The centerpiece of the GOP plan — reducing the unemployment benefits — is, if nothing else, well-suited to conservative doctrine. That was the clear theme on Sunday morning: “We want to make sure … people don’t get paid more to stay home than they do to work,” Mnuchin said. On ABC’s “This Week,” White House chief of staff Mark Meadows criticized the expiring benefits as counterproductive: “Actually a lot of people got more money staying at home than they would going back to work.” Over on CBS’s “Face the Nation,” Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Tex.) claimed that “small business owners all over the state of Texas” can’t reopen because their workers prefer to stay home and draw unemployment benefits.


How a Chinese agent used LinkedIn to hunt for targets

Jun Wei Yeo, an ambitious and freshly enrolled Singaporean PhD student, was no doubt delighted when he was invited to give a presentation to Chinese academics in Beijing in 2015.

His doctorate research was about Chinese foreign policy and he was about to discover firsthand how the rising superpower seeks to attain influence.

After his presentation, Jun Wei, also known as Dickson, was, according to US court documents, approached by several people who said they worked for Chinese think tanks. They said they wanted to pay him to provide "political reports and information". They would later specify exactly what they wanted: "scuttlebutt" - rumours and insider knowledge.

He soon realised they were Chinese intelligence agents but remained in contact with them, a sworn statement says. He was first asked to focus on countries in South East Asia but later, their interest turned to the US government.

That was how Dickson Yeo set off on a path to becoming a Chinese agent - one who would end up using the professional networking website LinkedIn, a fake consulting company and cover as a curious academic to lure in American targets.


For many years I have been astounded by the information people freely reveal about themselves and their employment on LinkedIn; current data mining techniques can easily identify and target individuals working on sensitive government and commercial programs by using this information. Crossing LinkedIn information with other social media accounts can create a very coherent personality profile of people ripe for exploitation by governments, commercial operations, and foreign adversaries.

Donald Trump Is the Best Ever President in the History of the Cosmos

That’s no more fantastical than the rest of his re-election campaign.

It’s no longer interesting, or particularly newsworthy, to point out that Donald Trump lies. It stopped being interesting a long time ago. He lied en route to the presidency. He lied about the crowd at his inauguration. His speech itself was one big lie. And the falsehoods only metastasized from there.

Why? We’ve covered that, too, most recently in all the chatter about “Too Much and Never Enough,” by Mary Trump, who is not only his niece but also a clinical psychologist. He lies because he grew up among liars. He lies because hyperbole and hooey buoy his fragile ego. He lies because he is practiced at it, is habituated to it and never seems to pay much of a price for it.

What intrigues me is that last part: the impunity. I want to understand how he has gotten away with all of the lying, because I’m desperate to know whether he’ll continue to.

That’s the question at the heart of his re-election bid, because his strategy isn’t really “law and order” or racism or a demonization of liberals as monument-phobic wackadoodles or a diminution of Joe Biden as a doddering wreck. All of those gambits are there, but they spring from and burble back to a larger, overarching scheme. His strategy is fiction. His strategy is lies.


Trump's Nakedly Political Pandemic Pivot

This is how the president operates when he is desperate and in trouble.

After mocking people for wearing masks, refusing to publicly wear one himself and holding rallies and gatherings where social distancing was not required, President Trump has shifted his tone.

He has canceled his convention activities in Jacksonville, Fla., after moving the events from North Carolina when that state’s governor raised public health concerns about such a large indoor gathering.

He has resumed briefings, ostensibly about the coronavirus, after canceling them and trying to move on to other matters, as if the virus would simply vanish if he sufficiently ignored it.

Trump is in real trouble. With the election passing the 100-day-away milestone, he is down in the polls, people don’t trust or approve of his handling of the pandemic and he faces a real uphill battle to re-election.


Colombian guerrillas are using coronavirus curfews to expand their control

Lorena Paredes sat in the passenger seat of a silver SUV as it sped through the night roads of Colombia's Pacific coast. The 28-year-old lawyer was nervous. She was returning from a doctor's appointment late — well past the start of a coronavirus curfew that can be as deadly as the virus itself.

Armed groups in this violence-fraught nation of 50 million are imposing new levels of control during the coronavirus outbreak, and enforcing some of the strictest lockdown measures in the world — with harsh penalties for violators. In the port city of Tumaco, a narco-trafficking hub in the Colombian southwest, guerrillas posted pamphlets declaring all curfew violators “military targets.” In a warning to all, a medical transport responding to a call after curfew was torched in early May, its driver and patient killed.

Paredes, driven by a friend, thought she might get lucky. Then she saw the roadblock.

Enforcers with shotguns and automatic weapons opened fire, piercing the SUV. Paredes felt stabs of pain as three bullets struck her leg. Her friend, hit in the face and arm, nevertheless managed to pull over, where the pair begged for their lives. They were released with a warning, to seek assistance on their own.

“Absolutely no one helped us,” Paredes, a prosecutor in Tumaco who handles domestic abuse cases, said from the safety of a neighboring city. “One person approached us, because I screamed. I begged for help because my friend was bleeding out horribly. He came close to the window of our car and told us, ‘Hey, quiet, because here, it is prohibited to help.’ ”


Why the Big City President Made Cities the Enemy

Donald Trump — a lifelong New Yorker — declares war on urban America.

Several days ago in Central Florida, three close friends set out for a nighttime fishing expedition on a lake in the small town of Frostproof and wound up beaten and shot to death on a dirt road. In a news conference, the local sheriff, Grady Judd, described the aftermath as one of the worst crime scenes he had ever encountered — a massacre.

Three suspects were quickly apprehended in trailers in the woods. Sheriff Judd identified the accused ringleader, a 26-year-old white man from the area named Tony “T.J.” Wiggins, as someone with 230 felony arrests on his record, 15 convictions and two stints in state prison — “evil in the flesh.’'

President Donald Trump has not called out Frostproof or the surrounding area of Polk County — where he beat Hillary Clinton by a margin of 55 percent — as a hellhole lost to lawlessness and carnage. That is the language he reserves for America’s urban quarters — even as he has continued to profit from the cities he has lived in so imperially.

His re-election effort now has him both expanding the rhetorical war against cities and realizing it. Indeed, some crime has risen since the beginning of the pandemic. Gun violence has spiked in New York. Fourteen people were shot this week in a drive-by shooting in Chicago. Asked during a Fox News interview with Chris Wallace last weekend what might account for these unsettling changes, the president did not consider the toll of Covid-19, or that the police might be staging a slowdown in response to criticisms over the handling of protests in the name of ending sanctioned brutalities.

“I explain it very simply,’’ he answered instead, “by saying they’re Democrat-run cities. They are liberally run. They are stupidly run.”


What's Going on Inside the Fearsome Thunderstorms of Cordoba Province?

Scientists are studying the extreme weather in northern Argentina to see how it works — and what it can tell us about the monster storms in our future.

When he thought back to the late-December morning when Berrotarán was entombed in hail, it was the memory of fog that brought Matias Lenardon the greatest dread. He remembered that it had drifted into the scattered farming settlement in north-central Argentina sometime after dawn. Soon it had grown thicker than almost any fog the young farmer had seen before. It cloaked the corn and soybean fields ringing the town and obscured the restaurants and carnicerias that line the main thoroughfare. He remembered that the fog bore with it the cool mountain air of the nearby Sierras de Córdoba, a mountain range whose tallest peaks rise abruptly from the plains just to the town’s northwest. Like any lone feature in flat country, the sierras had long served as lodestar to the local agricultural community, who kept a close watch on them for signs of approaching weather. But if Lenardon or anyone else in Berrotarán thought much of the fog that morning in 2015, it was only that it obscured their usual view of the peaks.

At the time, Lenardon was at the local radio station, where he moonlighted as the town’s weather forecaster. It was a role the 22-year-old had inherited, in some sense, from his grandfather Eduardo Malpassi, who began recording daily weather observations in a family almanac almost 50 years before. Like many farmers in Córdoba Province, Lenardon had learned from older generations how to read the day’s advancing weather according to a complex taxonomy of winds and clouds that migrated across the pampas — the vast pale grasslands that blanket much of the country’s interior. If the winds turned cool as the day wore on, Lenardon knew it meant rain, brought north from Patagonia. More troubling were the winds that blew in wet and hot from the northwest — off the sierras.

As forecaster, Lenardon’s chief concern was identifying weather patterns that might breed a thunderstorm, which on the pampas are notoriously swift and violent. Few official records are kept in Córdoba and the surrounding regions, but over the previous two years alone, newspapers reported that hail, flooding and tornadoes had damaged or razed thousands of acres of cropland, displaced more than five thousand people and killed about a dozen. Locals described barbed hailstones, shaped like medieval flails, destroying buildings and burying cars up to the hoods. Lenardon’s own family had lost their entire harvest to flooding three of the last five years, forcing them at one point onto state assistance. People in Berrotarán spent much of their summer bracing for the atmosphere to explode; the fire department had recently taken to standing at the ready with rescue equipment and heavy machinery, in hopes of getting a jump on digging people out of debris. Even so, Lenardon didn’t think much of the fog when he first saw it. The cool, moist air didn’t indicate anything, as far as he knew, except a welcome relief from the heat.

As Lenardon prepared to leave the station, he pulled up the feed from the region’s lone radar dish in the nearby city of Córdoba, more out of habit than anything else. When the radar completed its 15-minute sweep, a massive red splotch flashed on the screen — a powerful storm appeared to be bearing down on them. Convinced it was a glitch, Lenardon raced outside to check the sky — forgetting in his panic that it was shrouded by fog. While the fog had little meteorological effect on the storm, it had nonetheless ensured that it would be maximally destructive. “No one could feel the wind,” he said. “No one could see the sierras.” Though he rushed to go live on the radio, it was already 9 a.m. by the time he issued a severe storm warning for 9:15.

The storm descended quickly. It engulfed the western side of Berrotarán, where winds began gusting at over 80 m.p.h. Soon, hail poured down, caving in the roof of a machine shop and shattering windshields. In 20 minutes, so much ice had begun to accumulate that it stood in the street in mounds, like snowdrifts. As the hail and rain continued to intensify, they gradually mixed into a thick white slurry, encasing cars, icing over fields and freezing the town’s main canal. With the drainage ditches filled in and frozen, parts of the town flooded, transforming the dirt roads into surging muddy rivers. Residents watched as their homes filled with icy water.


A long and excellent article about what we may expect in future decades due to the effects of a warming atmosphere.

Coronavirus ravaged Florida, as Ron DeSantis sidelined scientists and followed Trump

As Florida became a global epicenter of the coronavirus, Gov. Ron DeSantis held one meeting this month with his top public health official, Scott Rivkees, according to the governor's schedule. His health department has sidelined scientists, halting briefings last month with disease specialists and telling the experts there was not sufficient personnel from the state to continue participating.

"I never received information about what happened with my ideas or results," said Thomas Hladish, a University of Florida research scientist whose regular calls with the health department ended June 29. "But I did hear the governor say the models were wrong about everything."

DeSantis (R) this month traveled to Miami to hold a roundtable with South Florida mayors, whose region was struggling as a novel coronavirus hot spot. But the Republican mayor of Hialeah was shut out, weeks after saying the governor "hasn't done much" for a city disproportionately affected by the virus.

As the virus spread out of control in Florida, decision-making became increasingly shaped by politics and divorced from scientific evidence, according to interviews with 64 current and former state and administration officials, health administrators, epidemiologists, political operatives and hospital executives. The crisis in Florida, these observers say, has revealed the shortcomings of a response built on shifting metrics, influenced by a small group of advisers and tethered at every stage to the Trump administration, which has no unified plan for addressing the national health emergency but has pushed for states to reopen.


Obama Passes Cognitive Test by Reciting the First Fifty Digits of Pi

WASHINGTON (The Borowitz Report)—Barack Obama recently passed a cognitive test that required him to recite the first fifty digits of pi, the former President has disclosed.

Obama took the test voluntarily, he said, in order to reassure his employers at Netflix that he was “of sound mind.”

“Netflix has made a big investment in me as a producer, and I thought it was important for them to know that I was all right upstairs,” Obama said.

The former President said that he enjoyed taking the test, including a section that required him to memorize and then recite a hundred verses of the Iliad.

“That was actually a lot of fun,” Obama said. “Greek is such a beautiful language.”

Although he passed the test, Obama said that there were moments when he felt “rusty” and “not as sharp as I was back in the day.”

“I definitely need to do some more mental exercises,” he said. “One hour of three-dimensional chess with Bill Gates every morning isn’t getting it done.”


Republicans say they're for small, local government. Apparently not in Portland.

What ever happened to “Don’t tread on me”?

Against the express wishes of Portland’s mayor, Oregon’s governor and both of its U.S. senators — all Democrats — a federal crackdown cartoonishly named “Operation Diligent Valor” proceeds against demonstrations at the city’s federal courthouse that have gone on for nearly two straight months.

In Georgia, there’s an ongoing battle over mask mandates in response to covid-19: Republican Gov. Brian Kemp issued an order suspending mask requirements in more than a dozen cities, barring them from implementing policies that are more restrictive than the state’s. Kemp sued Atlanta’s mayor and city council, and accused Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms of ordering the Atlanta Police Department not to enforce the state’s ban on gatherings of more than 50 people.

And who can forget President Trump declaring in April that he could order states to reopen their economies? “When somebody’s the president of the United States, the authority is total,” he said. “And that’s the way it’s got to be. It’s total. It’s total. And the governors know that.”

Once upon a time, the rejoinder from right-wing radio hosts, activists and Republican politicians would have been “Don’t tread on me” (or, in the case of federal gun-control legislation, a more direct challenge along the lines of “Come and take it”). In the tea party movement’s heyday — a decade ago — Republicans and conservatives were evangelists of federalism and limited government. In a 2014 Wall Street Journal op-ed headlined “The Imperial Presidency of Barack Obama,” Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Tex.) warned that “an imperial presidency threatens the liberty of every citizen.” In 2016, the GOP platform condemned the Obama administration’s “unconstitutional expansion into areas beyond those specifically enumerated, including bullying of state and local governments.”

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