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Member since: Mon Sep 6, 2004, 09:54 PM
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Journal Archives

Al Franken: Mike Pence - The Banality of Banality


Mike Pence – The Banality of Banality
April 2, 2020

The president’s daily Covid-19 pressers are, by turn, infuriating, insulting, laughable, but mostly sad. There’s the lying, the one-eighties, the self-flattery, the boasting, the lashing out. That’s, of course, Donald Trump. But, personally, what I find the most galling is the insufferable and incessant blather from Mike Pence.

Yesterday, Pence put on a maddening six-minute display of obfuscation that will guarantee him, upon retirement, an immediate and unanimous selection into the Toady Hall of Fame.

This needs a little bit of a set-up:

A reporter asked Trump about his decision not to extend the period for Americans to enroll in the Affordable Care Act health insurance exchange. Since the vast majority of Americans get their health insurance through their employer, it was a pretty logical question. In a week in which a record 6.6 million Americans would apply for unemployment insurance, keeping the exchanges open might make just a little bit of sense.

Under the $2.2 trillion package, workers receive payments to replace their lost wages, but nothing to cover any healthcare coverage they’ve lost.

The ACA exchanges were designed to provide premium supplements so that low and middle-income families could find affordable health insurance. In fact, 80% of Americans who get their insurance through the exchanges pay less than $80 a month. That’s one of the big reasons the ACA provided coverage for 20 million more Americans.

Without the option of going into an ACA exchange, the best option for someone who has lost her job is often COBRA. COBRA allows you to stay on your employer’s plan. The rub is that you have to pay the full premium. If your current plan is $1000 a month, and your employer covered 80%, you go from paying $200 a month to $1000 a month – after you’ve been laid off. By my calculation, that’s an $800 difference. Per month.

Hence, the insanity of not extending the enrollment period.

President Trump was smart enough to realize he was being asked to answer an unanswerable question. Other than the truth: “I want to kill any achievement that Barack Obama had as president, even if it will cause terrible hardship and suffering for millions of Americans.”

Instead, he handed the question off to Vice President Mike Pence. The next six minutes were excruciating. After thanking the president, Pence started with a pivot:

“What I can tell you is the President has made a priority from the outset of our task force work to make sure every American knows that they can have a coronavirus, and they don’t have to worry about the cost.” Except that wasn’t the question. Also, it wasn’t true. Americans do have to worry about that.

Then Pence moved on to make a series of equally fallacious non sequiturs, all while telling us how inspired the task force and the American people are by the President’s engagement.

Then Pence assured us of something that we shouldn’t have to be assured of: “(T)hat the American people can be confident that health care workers are properly compensated for their extraordinary and courageous work.” Why wouldn’t they be?

The confused reporter interrupted, “Where can people go now to get health insurance if they get sick. Before they get sick?”

“All across America we have Medicaid for underprivileged Americans. And at the President’s direction, the Center for Medicaid and Medicare Services has given unprecedented waivers for states to expand coverage for coronavirus testing.” Huh? So, “underprivileged Americans” can have Medicaid pay for the coronavirus testing that they can’t get?

“Would you like that to cover the middle class?” asked the still perplexed reporter.

“We…uh…I think what we’re seeing health insurance companies do today, John, it’s really inspiring… I mean, one of the things that has animated and characterized the president’s approach is the way he has engaged American businesses to – blah, blah, blah, blah, blah…”

After six minutes of this even Trump couldn’t take it anymore and stepped in like a boxing ref stopping a fight.

“It’s a fair point,” Trump said. “We’re looking at it.” And, then acknowledging what we all had just watched “I think that’s one of the greatest answers I’ve ever heard. Because Mike was able to speak for five minutes and not even touch your question.”

But Pence had done his job. Also, Trump was lying. He won’t look at it, because he is backing the lawsuit to overturn Obamacare that the Supreme Court will be taking up next session.

I’m guessing Nikki Haley.

Posted by babylonsister | Thu Apr 2, 2020, 06:30 PM (2 replies)

Trump's Company Seeks to Ease Financial Crunch as Coronavirus Takes Toll

And here I thought $ was no object.

Trump’s Company Seeks to Ease Financial Crunch as Coronavirus Takes Toll
As companies nationwide look for relief, the Trump Organization has talked with Deutsche Bank and a Florida county about delaying payments on some loans and other obligations.
By David Enrich, Ben Protess and Eric Lipton
April 2, 2020
Updated 4:25 p.m. ET

All over the country, businesses large and small are seeking breathing room from their lenders, landlords and business partners as they face the financial fallout from the coronavirus crisis.

President Trump’s family company is among those looking for help.

With some of its golf courses and hotels closed amid the economic lockdown, the Trump Organization has been exploring whether it can delay payments on some of its loans and other financial obligations, according to people familiar with the matter and documents reviewed by The New York Times.

Representatives of Mr. Trump’s company have recently spoken with Deutsche Bank, the president’s largest creditor, about the possibility of postponing payments on at least some of its loans from the bank.

And in Florida, the Trump Organization sought guidance last week from Palm Beach County about whether it expected the company to continue making monthly payments on county land that it leases for a 27-hole golf club.

The discussions with Deutsche Bank and Palm Beach County are preliminary, and it isn’t clear whether Mr. Trump’s company will be able to delay or reduce its payments, according to people briefed on the discussions.

“These days everybody is working together,” said Eric Trump, the president’s son, who helps manage the family business. “Tenants are working with landlords, landlords are working with banks. The whole world is working together as we fight through this pandemic.”


Posted by babylonsister | Thu Apr 2, 2020, 06:09 PM (2 replies)

The Rude Pundit: Trump Must Resign or Be Removed from the Presidency


The Rude Pundit
Proudly lowering the level of political discourse
Trump Must Resign or Be Removed from the Presidency


We know so many things since March 13, like that Trump didn't really take the death toll seriously. On March 23, a week after the Imperial College report came out predicting up to 2.2 million deaths in the United States, Trump said, "You know — and again, I say we have a very active flu season; more active than most. It’s looking like it’s heading to 50,000 or more deaths. Deaths, not cases. Fifty thousand deaths, which is — that’s a lot. And you look at automobile accidents, which are far greater than any numbers we’re talking about. That doesn’t mean we’re going to tell everybody, 'No more driving of cars.'" For the record, for the last few years, the number of Americans who died in motor vehicle accidents is around 37,000. The number of people who will likely die of this single strain of coronavirus will exceed the deaths from multiple strains of influenza (which is what we mean when we say "the flu" and the number of motor vehicle deaths combined.

But Trump was playing games with numbers, again failing to acknowledge the human beings behind any of the numbers. Even today, when he finally admitted that at least 100,000 people, maybe as many as 240,000, maybe fewer, maybe more, were going to die in this country, most in the next few weeks, he painted it as a victory that he was leading because it wasn't a million, ignoring that that it could have been far, far fewer had he just acted like a president instead of preening and prancing for his followers before heading to Florida to golf and schmooze with donors and hangers-on, some of whom became infected with the virus.

While some newspapers have called out Trump as being entirely unsuited to this moment in history, of failing not only to rise to the occasion, but to drag us all down with him, they have mostly said things like, as the Boston Globe did, "Come November, there must be a reckoning for the lives lost." But we can't wait until November, or, really, January for Trump to be out of office. It must happen now. It should have happened a month ago (and, yes, it should have happened as soon as he was inaugurated, but it didn't).

While I have not previously been one of the liberals calling on the invocation of the 25th Amendment, which allows for the removal of a president who is unfit to do the job, physically or mentally, I wholeheartedly advocate for it now, as Mehdi Hasan does in a recent piece. Trump can't do what needs to be done. Call it mental illness or some other cognitive impairment or whatever you like. He only thinks in transactional terms about what benefits him, and we don't have time for that anymore. Frankly, at this point, I'd be willing for someone to offer him and his terrible family immunity from prosecution in exchange for leaving office. Trump and his dreadful children will face an angry New York justice system when he's no longer president. Give him the "get out of jail free" card if we can save some lives now.

Pundits and politicians keep saying that they want Trump to act like we're in an emergency. Except Trump is simply too feckless, too narcissistic, and too arrogant to even pretend that it's an emergency. Even today he was talking about a "very, very painful two weeks," as if this is still going to be over in April. He hasn't faced the full force of reality because to do so would mean having to admit failure, and admitting failure means having to say he's wrong. He will not do that.

We have witnessed betrayal after betrayal, and we have heard lie after lie. We need to act like it's an emergency. We need to act like it's life and death on the line.

So he needs to be asked to leave or be removed. I know the likelihood of this is slim to none. But the idea should be out there. The calls for his resignation should be screaming from every newsroom and every media outlet. Democrats should be demanding he step down. He is not a president. At best, he is an accessory to murder. At worst, he's holding the knife and standing on a pile of bodies.
Posted by babylonsister | Thu Apr 2, 2020, 05:10 PM (19 replies)

Navy expected to relieve captain who raised alarm about COVID-19 outbreak on aircraft carrier


Navy expected to relieve captain who raised alarm about COVID-19 outbreak on aircraft carrier
The United States Navy is expected to relieve the captain who sounded the alarm about an outbreak of COVID-19 aboard the USS Theodore Roosevelt.

April 2, 2020, 4:23 PM EDT / Updated April 2, 2020, 4:31 PM EDT
By Courtney Kube

The Navy is expected to announce it has relieved the captain who sounded the alarm about an outbreak of COVID-19 aboard the USS Theodore Roosevelt, according to two U.S. officials.

Capt. Brett Crozier, who commands the Roosevelt, an aircraft carrier with a crew of nearly 5,000, will be relieved of his command, but keep his rank and remain in the Navy.

Crozier raised the alarm earlier this week that sailors on the ship need to be quarantined to stop the spread of the virus. His plea for assistance quickly made headlines.

Crozier sent a letter to the Navy on Monday begging for help addressing the coronavirus outbreak aboard his ship, which was forced to dock in Guam last week. The ship leadership began testing everyone on board. By Wednesday, there were 93 positive test results and more than 1,000 people had departed the ship into isolation on Guam. In total, 2,700 people are expected to disembark the ship this week, with a smaller crew remaining to maintain the ship.

The move is expected to be announced in a briefing by Acting Secretary of the Navy Thomas Modly Thursday evening. The official reason for Crozier's relief of duty is a loss of trust and confidence, according to the officials who spoke to NBC News.
Posted by babylonsister | Thu Apr 2, 2020, 04:49 PM (22 replies)

Pandemic profiteers are making a fortune off the deaths of Americans, while Trump stands aside

Pandemic profiteers are making a fortune off the deaths of Americans, while Trump stands aside
Mark Sumner
Daily Kos Staff
Thursday April 02, 2020 · 10:52 AM EDT

What happens when you begin to research a story about how not-so-black market retailers are selling masks, gloves, and other protective gear at exorbitant prices during an unprecedented crisis? You get a browser filled with ads for masks, gloves, and other protective gear, available to anyone willing to pay exorbitant prices … because God forbid Google and Facebook don’t get a cut of the action.

Not only are pandemic profiteers setting 50 states and the federal government bidding against each other in a process that is costing billions of dollars and hundreds of thousands of lives—they’re doing it openly. This isn’t secret. This isn’t idiots in a truck, scouring a state for hand sanitizer. This is major suppliers, including manufacturers, raking in profits and shipping away the products that health care workers need to do their jobs. These are actions that the federal government could stop … but hasn’t.

On Monday, Forbes reported on an extended look at the market for masks and other protective gear, and that report could not be more infuriating. Because the shortage of protective gear doesn’t exist. There are millions of medical-grade N95 masks available in the United States. Those masks, and other needed supplies, aren’t the product of last-minute enterprise; they’ve been out there all along. It’s just that the market is being driven by … the market.

Protective gear, like every other aspect of life in America, is subject to laws of supply and demand, and as with any other commodity, even a slight excess of demand can generate huge spikes in prices as the market responds by doing what it does best: maximizing profit. It doesn’t take overwhelming demand to drive prices through the roof; it only takes one more person willing to pay more than the current price, and one person willing to pay more than that, and one more person, etc.

In the case of protective gear, that “one person” is really one hospital system, one state emergency response department, one federal agency, or one other member of the retail chain hoping to elevate prices even further while taking a slice. The result is that there is genuine overwhelming demand. And it’s a dream situation for the people sitting on top of tens of millions of pieces of life-saving kit.

At this point, the only constraints on prices are the possibility of government intervention. There have been scattered cases of people being charged with profiteering, but these cases have been very few and mostly small timers. They certainly haven’t been sufficient to stop retailers from peddling masks that were two for a dollar a month ago, at $7 apiece on ads that pop up even on prominent websites. These highly visible excess prices are driving a scramble that’s making it nearly impossible to find supplies at anything less than a maximum price defined by little more than how frightened retailers feel of being made into an example.


Posted by babylonsister | Thu Apr 2, 2020, 12:16 PM (1 replies)

What If Trump Hadn't Ignored Months Of Pandemic Warnings?


What If Trump Hadn't Ignored Months Of Pandemic Warnings?
White House economists in September cautioned that a pandemic could lead to hundreds of thousands of U.S. deaths and devastate the economy—but the administration brushed it off.
By Eric Lutz
April 1, 2020

As the coronavirus crisis has escalated, Donald Trump has attempted to cast the public health emergency as an “unforeseen” problem for which it was impossible to prepare. But even some within the administration seem to have seen the pandemic coming. White House economists cautioned in a report last fall that a pandemic like the one that has since gripped the world could exact an enormous human toll in the United States and take a wrecking ball to the nation’s economy, according to the New York Times. Unfortunately, the warning fell on deaf ears.

In analyzing how a pandemic akin to the 1918 Spanish flu could impact the U.S., White House economists predicted that a disease even less contagious and deadly than coronavirus appears to be could kill 500,000 Americans and damage the economy to the tune of $3.8 trillion. With that in mind, the authors of the September study urged the administration to take action to prepare for such a scenario, including by ramping up federal efforts to “speed up the time it takes to develop and deploy new vaccines.”

But the administration didn’t act decisively, even as the virus ravaged China, Italy, and other countries, and began to spread in the U.S. “I don’t think corona is as big a threat as people make it out to be,” Tomas Philipson, acting chairman of the Council of Economic Advisers, told reporters in February, likening the virus to the seasonal flu and suggesting such a public health threat would have little economic impact.

Maddeningly, the economists specifically discouraged this very comparison, which has also been made repeatedly by Trump himself. “People may conflate the high expected costs of pandemic flu with the far more common, lower-cost seasonal flu,” the authors wrote. “It is not surprising that people might underappreciate the economic and health risks posed by pandemic flu and not invest in ways to reduce these risks.”

Trump certainly didn’t invest in ways to reduce the risks. Not only did he dismantle the pandemic response teams that could’ve been utilized now, but he spent months minimizing the threat of coronavirus—even as it began to spread in America. “We have it very much under control in this country,” he claimed in February. But as the threat grew into a full-fledged crisis, killing thousands of Americans and paralyzing the nation, he began casting it as an emergency that appeared out of the blue, that nobody could have predicted. “It’s an unforeseen problem,” he said last month. “What a problem. Came out of nowhere.”

That it obviously didn’t, and that so many warnings were missed, is one of the most infuriating aspects of Trump’s bungled handling of the pandemic. Before the president took office, Obama administration officials briefed their successors on the possibility of a pandemic—but Trump and his incoming administration brushed off the exercise, with one Cabinet official, Wilbur Ross, reportedly dozing off at points during the briefing. (In January, Ross suggested coronavirus could be good for the U.S. economy). Moreover, Trump has reportedly ignored a step-by-step guide from the Obama administration detailing how to fight a pandemic. Even when U.S. intelligence officials directly warned Trump in January and February that a pandemic was likely, he failed to act—all the while playing down the threat the virus posed to Americans.

Trump can’t be faulted for a pandemic. But how might things have been different had he not brushed off the warnings? It’s hard to say—though the president himself hazarded a guess last month. “If people would have known about it, it could have stopped,” he said. “It’s too bad.”
Posted by babylonsister | Thu Apr 2, 2020, 12:01 PM (6 replies)

How Christian Siriano Turned His Fashion House Into a Mask Factory

On and Off the Avenue
How Christian Siriano Turned His Fashion House Into a Mask Factory
By Rachel Syme
March 31, 2020

On the morning of March 20th, the thirty-four-year-old fashion designer Christian Siriano sat in the living room of his country house, in Danbury, Connecticut, watching the must-see TV of the moment: the daily press briefings of Andrew Cuomo, the governor of New York, about the state’s battle against the coronavirus pandemic. Cuomo was asked, by one reporter, whether he wished that President Trump would invoke the Defense Production Act, which would allow him to force companies in other industries to begin manufacturing desperately needed medical supplies, including ventilators and P.P.E., or personal protective equipment, like masks and goggles. “Look, if I had a New York State Defense Production Act I would use it,” Cuomo answered, adding, “If you’re making clothing, figure out if you can make masks. I’ll fund it.”

Siriano, a former “Project Runway” winner who has dressed the likes of Michelle Obama and Taylor Swift, realized that he was in a position to help. He had closed his atelier a week earlier, as the outbreak in New York City was accelerating. But his team of eight sewers had brought their machines with them. Siriano had intended to keep them busy—and on the payroll—with client orders for wedding dresses and gowns for fall galas. At noon, he tweeted at the governor: “If @NYGovCuomo says we need masks my team will help make some. I have a full sewing team still on staff working from home that can help.” Within an hour, a representative from Cuomo’s office had slid into Siriano’s direct messages and accepted his offer.

The governor’s office sent Siriano a stock pattern. The mask was not a medical-grade N-95, which requires special materials, such as non-woven polypropylene, to filter microscopic particles. It was a cloth surgical mask, with three pleats, elastic ear bands, and a small metal strip that could be molded to fit the nose. Siriano had a suitable polyblend fabric in his atelier, which he had delivered to each sewer’s home. For two days, the team worked remotely. (Siriano, who does not have a sewing machine in Connecticut, served as a kind of virtual Rosie the Riveter.) But, with each sewer working on her own, they were only able to make around fifty masks a day. So Siriano asked Cuomo’s office for permission to reopen his atelier as an “essential” business. He returned to the city and gathered the team under one roof (six feet apart, of course), where they could form an assembly line. In the first week, they produced almost two thousand masks. The first box they shipped went directly to the new field hospital at the Javits Center.

On March 25th, as the mask-making was in full swing, Siriano took me on a FaceTime tour of his atelier, which occupies a prewar Beaux-Arts town house on Fifty-fourth Street and Fifth Avenue. It sits on what, during New York’s Gilded Age, was the site of St. Luke’s Hospital, and in the nineteen-forties served as an office for the Victory Clothing Collection for Overseas Relief, a service that gathered warm clothes from civilians to send to soldiers in need. “At one point, I’m sure similar things were being made here,” he said.


Posted by babylonsister | Thu Apr 2, 2020, 11:56 AM (5 replies)

David Corn: How Donald Trump Plans on Spinning 200,000 Coronavirus Deaths as a Win

April 1, 2020
How Donald Trump Plans on Spinning 200,000 Coronavirus Deaths as a Win
Like a virus, the president knows how to adapt.
David Corn
Washington, DC, Bureau ChiefBio | Follow

A virus can adapt quickly, and so can Donald Trump.

Through the course of the coronavirus crisis, Trump has demonstrated the adaptability that has so often helped his career in business and politics, as he shifted from predator developer to scammy brand-marketer to reality-TV celebrity. And one element of that flexibility is Trump’s unparalleled capacity to say whatever he needs at a given moment to gain an advantage or serve a personal interest.

This skill, if it can be called that, was on display at a recent Trump campaign rally, which these days are held daily in the White House, where Trump and members of his coronavirus task force brief reporters and the rest of the world. (Trump has been bragging about the ratings for these briefings, cheering his audience numbers, as Americans perish.) When Trump at this particular session on Sunday wasn’t bashing the media, belittling his perceived foes, or praising himself, he made a startling remark: “So you’re talking about 2.2 million deaths, 2.2 million people from this. And so if we could hold that down, as we’re saying, to 100,000. It’s a horrible number, maybe even less —but to 100,000. So we have between 100 and 200,000, and we altogether have done a very good job.”

At this briefing, Trump 16 times pointed to the 2.2 million estimate. That number comes from a new British study that Trump’s health care advisers had shown him that projects this level of death in “the (unlikely) absence of any control measures or spontaneous changes in individual behaviour.” That is, without social distancing, testing, and the like. (Trump’s experts had put this report in front of him so he would see that his idiotic idea to ease social restrictions by Easter would cause hundreds of thousands of deaths.) Trump, who on February 26, when there were 15 reported coronavirus cases in the United States, said the number would soon be “down to close to zero,” was now tossing out a horrendous number. It was quite the turnaround—and very purposeful.

It appeared Trump had finally realized that the amount of coronavirus death in this country on his watch is going to be astronomical. His weeks of denial, inaction, and dangerous happy-talk—downplaying the threat, claiming the virus would disappear in better weather, saying it was no worse than the flu, hinting social restraints could soon be lifted—had done nothing to stop the lethal threat spreading across the country. (A virus can’t be stopped by BS.) Trump, who originally worried that bad coronavirus numbers would spook the markets and undercut his the-economy-is-great! reelection argument, needed to pivot. To adapt.

Now that Trump could no longer pitch himself as the beautiful-economy president, he recast himself as the great lifesaver of America. And he initiated a cynical and loathsome expectations game. If the coronavirus might kill 2.2. million, then what a hero he would be if it only claims the lives of 200,000 Americans. Should this come to pass, Trump will claim that 2 million Americans owe him their lives.


Posted by babylonsister | Thu Apr 2, 2020, 10:36 AM (11 replies)

Trump Blames New York for 'Late Start'

Still a POS who accepts no responsibility.


Trump Blames New York for ‘Late Start’
April 2, 2020 at 9:50 am EDT By Taegan Goddard

President Trump took to Twitter to slam Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY) for “complaining” about the federal response to the coronavirus pandemic.

Said Trump: “New York has gotten far more than any other State, including hospitals & a hospital ship, but no matter what, always complaining… The complainers should have been stocked up and ready long before this crisis hit. Other states are thrilled with the job we have done.”

He continued: “It wouldn’t matter if you got ten times what was needed, it would never be good enough. Unlike other states, New York unfortunately got off to a late start. You should have pushed harder. Stop complaining and find out where all of these supplies are going.”

But he also added: “Cuomo working hard!”

Posted by babylonsister | Thu Apr 2, 2020, 10:31 AM (7 replies)

Journalists skipping Trump's daily press briefings, saying they don't have enough news value

Journalists are skipping Trump's daily coronavirus press briefings, saying they don't have enough news value
Tom Porter
23 hours ago

There have been rows of empty seats in recent coronavirus briefings by President Donald Trump.

Reporters increasingly don't believe the briefings have enough news value to merit breaking social-distancing measures to attend, The Washington Post reported Tuesday.

TV networks have also cut away from the briefings, or chosen not to broadcast them altogether, as the president continues to use the sessions to spread misinformation and troll the press.

Reporters are skipping President Donald Trump's daily coronavirus news briefings, and TV networks are increasingly choosing not to broadcast them live, because they believe they don't have enough news value to risk breaking social-distancing rules.

In recent days there have been scores of empty seats in the White House press-briefing room, where Trump has delivered updates on the US battle against the novel coronavirus alongside public-health officials.

But instead of delivering key information and sober assessments of the situation to the American public, Trump has frequently resorted to tactics more familiar from his raucous campaign rallies: boasting of his accomplishments, floating misinformation, attacking the press, and taunting Democrats — with Gov. Andrew Cuomo of New York a favored target.

According to The Washington Post, reporters are now "keeping their distance because they are concerned about the health risks at a time when many consider the president's evening news conferences to have become increasingly less newsworthy."


Posted by babylonsister | Thu Apr 2, 2020, 09:16 AM (14 replies)
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