Thursday, April 9, 2020

No One Could Have Seen This Coming

No One Could Have Seen This Coming

So here's an angle that I haven't seen posted anywhere (you read it here first). One of Trump's favorite talking points these days as he seeks to deflect blame for is ill-preparedness in dealing with the Covid-19 pandemic (when he's not blaming President Obama or the WHO) is that no one could have seen the coronavirus pandemic coming. The Washington Post, among others, has examined this claim and found it to be lacking.

We know, for instance, that in 2018 Trump and his team dismantled the Global Pandemic Office of the National Security Council. We also know that in early 2017, before Trump was sworn into office, Obama administration officials briefed a group of restive, incoming Trump cabinet members on how to respond to a global pandemic.

But one thing few people have noted is that in addition to all that the year 2017, the very year that Trump took office, was notable because that flu season was the worst, in terms of the number of fatalities, that the US had experience in over 4 decades. At the time the Associated Press reported:

Last fall and winter, the U.S. went through one of the most severe flu seasons in recent memory. It was driven by a kind of flu that tends to put more people in the hospital and cause more deaths, particularly among young children and the elderly....
Fatal complications from the flu can include pneumonia, stroke and heart attack.
CDC officials called the 80,000 figure preliminary, and it may be slightly revised. But they said it is not expected to go down.
It eclipses the estimates for every flu season going back to the winter of 1976-1977. Estimates for many earlier seasons were not readily available.
Last winter was not the worst flu season on record, however. The 1918 flu pandemic, which lasted nearly two years, killed more than 500,000 Americans, historians estimate.

So not only was the Trump administration handed a bureaucracy, tools and playbooks to deal with a global pandemic like the one we are now experiencing (which they either dismantled or ignored) but Trump's first year in office saw the worst flu season in 40 years. A particularly virulent flu strain triggered over 80,000 deaths in the US. Yet even that wasn't enough to shake Team trump out of their deep slumber and cause them to consider that maybe we ought to be a little better prepared for when the "big one" comes.

Saturday, April 4, 2020

Another Trump Administration Failure

Another Trump Administration Failure

One of the biggest lies that Trump keeps repeating is that he "inherited a broken system" for dealing with pandemics. Yet every day we find out about another Obama administration pandemic mitigation initiative that the Trump administration either dismantled or failed to implement. Today the Washington Post reports that following the H1N1 swine-flu virus, the Obama Administration put in place an initiative to speed the production of N95 protective gear. A completed proposal was presented to the Trump administration in 2018, and then was promptly shelved:

In September 2018, the Trump administration received detailed plans for a new machine designed to churn out millions of protective respirator masks at high speed during a pandemic.
The plans, submitted to the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) by medical manufacturer O&M Halyard, were the culmination of a venture unveiled almost three years earlier by the Obama administration.
But HHS did not proceed with making the machine.
The project was one of two N95 mask ventures — totaling $9.8 million — that the federal government embarked on over the past five years to better prepare for pandemics.
The other involves the development of reusable masks to replace the single-use variety currently so scarce that medical professionals are using theirs over and over. Expert panels have advised the government for at least 14 years that reusable masks were vital.
That effort, like the quick mask machine, has not led to a single new mask for the government’s response.

Yet he takes no responsibility.

Thursday, April 2, 2020

The Impeachment lie

The Impeachment Lie:

The Washington Post reports:

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said Tuesday that Trump’s impeachment distracted the administration’s attention from the emerging crisis, seeming to lay blame on the congressional Democrats who led the effort. 

In fact, Trump was so distracted by impeachment he was only able to hold the following political rallies during that time period:

Jan 9 - Toledo Ohio
Jan 14 - Milwaukee, Wisconsin
Jan 28 - Wildwood, NJ
Jan 30 - Des Moines, Iowa
Feb 10 - Manchester, New Hampshire
Feb 19 - Phoenix, AZ
Feb 20 - Colorado Springs, Co
Feb 21 - Las Vegas, Nevada
Feb 28 - Charleston, SC

Yeah... that's a man who's so distracted by impeachment he doesn't have time to focus on a deadly disease that's right at the nation's doorstep. I mean, the list of events reads like a Rolling Stones concert schedule... you know... if the Rolling Stones were some crappy, no talent, White Power Death Metal band.

Dumber even than Donald Trump?

Perhaps, if you are Georgia Governor Brian Kemp. The Washington Post reports:

After resisting a statewide stay-at-home order for days, Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp (R) succumbed to the pressure and issued one on Wednesday. Part of the reason, he said, was that he had just learned some new information.
Kemp said he was “finding out that this virus is now transmitting before people see signs.”
“Those individuals could have been infecting people before they ever felt bad, but we didn’t know that until the last 24 hours,” he said. He added that the state’s top doctor told him that “this is a game-changer.”

So, yeah. Kemp just learned something that the news, the CDC and the WHO have been warning us for months.

Time to start blogging again...

These are the worst of times,
and we're being led
by the worst of men.

Case in point

 Wait.  No, I don’t want [the states] to compete because all they’re going to do is drive up the price.  I don’t want them to compete.  They should be calling us.  And we can work it so they get the ventilators and they get shipped directly.

If they’re competing, if they’re calling — even if there’s only two of them calling, they’re going to just drive up the price.  Because as nice as some of the people that do ventilators, they do want to make money.  Okay?

-Donald Trump on March 31, 2020

First of all, governors are supposed to be doing a lot of this work, and they are doing a lot of this work.  The federal government is not supposed to be out there buying vast amounts of items and then shipping.  You know, we’re not a shipping clerk.  The governors are supposed to be — as with testing, the governors are supposed — are supposed to be doing it.

-Donald Trump on March 18, 2020

Sunday, March 6, 2016

On Taking Responsibility

Flipping through the digital pages of the online edition of the Washington Post the other day, I chanced upon a "Fact Checker" piece that examined accusations of complicity of the Michigan Governor's office in the poisoning of the water supply that feeds the city of Flint. It's not much of a surprise to see such a piece, after all the incident is much in the news these days and being that this is the political season the trading of accusations of malfeasance, corruption and incompetence, always a popular subject of conversation in political circles, is, if anything, amplified in both frequency and volume of late.

This piece looked in particular at the charge leveled by Hillary Clinton that the tainting of the water supply in the aforementioned Michigan town was a result of the governor "wanting to save a little money." Ultimately the charge was awarded a score "two Pinocchios" out of a possible four, meaning, I suppose, that the glass is either half full for the claim, or half empty, depending on what side of the political spectrum your allegiances happen to reside.

But aside from the accusations and counter-accusations, the damning and the mitigating evidence, the punches laded and the punches blocked, what struck me as most curious about the piece was the juxtaposition of the following two statements. 

The first, early in the piece, is a nutshell summary of the Fact Checker's findings:
"There are signs pointing to decisions possibly being made in the governor’s office, but a direct link to the governor himself is hard to find."
The second, is taken from a statement read by Ari Adler, Governor Rick Snyder's communications director:
"Gov. Snyder has apologized, taken responsibility for what happened and has begun a top to bottom culture change in Michigan state government,”
Harry Truman, 33rd President of the United States, famously kept a sign on his desk at the Oval Office that read "The Buck Stops Here." It was meant to reassure voters and the public that in his administration there would be no shirking of responsibility, no "passing of the buck" as it were. The failures of the administration would be acknowledged as failures of the President himself. The phrase is as iconic to and colors popular perceptions of the Truman administration as the legend of the cherry tree informs popular views of George Washington and his upright moral fiber. It has also become a kind of litmus test of an administration's trustworthiness and willingness to claim responsibility for its failures. The following exchange delivered by George W. Bush press secretary Scott McClellan in the wake of the Hurricane Katrina fiasco is just one such example of the many we could produce:
Q ... First, just to get you on the record, where does the buck stop in this administration?
MR. McCLELLAN: The President.
Q All right. So he will be held accountable as the head of the government for the federal response that he's already acknowledged was inadequate and unacceptable?
MR. McCLELLAN: The President's most important responsibility is the safety and security of the American people. He talks about that often. That is his most important responsibility. ..."
George W. Bush paid an enormous political price for the Federal Government's bungling of the Hurricane Katrina relief effort, perhaps no further proof is needed than the various attempts that Republicans have made over the years to label some incident or other "Obama's Katrina." But the truth is, that President Bush didn't pay that price because he accepted responsibility for Katrina, but rather because the aid effort his administration undertook was so woefully inadequate to the task and his initial response to the disaster so inadequate that any attempt to deflect responsibility would have been met with disdainful laughter by all but the most sycophantic of supporters.

Indeed, there's a good case to be made that the formal acceptance of responsibility is more often an attempt deflect actual responsibility than embrace it, as when, for instance, John Pointdexter echoed Harry Truman's famous phrase in an attempt to shield Ronald Reagan from responsibility for the Iran/Contra scandal.

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

July Forecast: Storm Clouds Over Cleveland

A pair of articles are worth considering side by side today. The first comes via Politico and deals with the likelyhood that the GOP nomination race will reach its climax in a brokered convention:

Republicans are waging a shadow primary for control of delegates in anticipation of what one senior party official called “the white whale of politics”: a contested national convention.

The endgame for the most sophisticated campaigns is an inconclusive first ballot leading to a free-for-all power struggle on the floor in Cleveland.
“This is going to be a convention like I’ve never seen in my lifetime,” said veteran operative Barry Bennett, who managed Ben Carson’s campaign until December and is now advising Trump. “It’s going to be contentious from Day One.

The rules of the GOP convention require a candidate to carry a majority of delegates coming in to the convention to win the thing outright. Failing that, it becomes a high-stakes game of horse trading as leading candidates attempt to convince delegates to switch to their side. And given that Donald Trump and Ted Cruz seem in this thing for the long-haul, and that at least one establishment candidate (Rubio? Kasich?) is bound to tag along, there's a very good chance this race comes down to the wire.

Which leads to the second article, this time via Vox, where Jeff Stein notes that twice in as many days, Donald Trump has threatened to mount an independent campaign for the presidency if he feels that the party has slighted him:
In September 2015, Trump signed a pledge not to launch an independent bid for president if he lost the GOP primary. There was a catch: He added an exception to the pledge that made it invalid if the Republicans mistreated him — "a loophole so enormous it could mean anything Trump wants," as New York magazine's Jonathan Chait pointed out. 

Trump affirmed his willingness to exploit that crater-size exception during a town hall in South Carolina on Monday, in which he criticized the GOP for allegedly packing the last Republican debate audience with Trump opponents. 

"The RNC better get its act together because, you know, I signed a pledge. The pledge isn’t being honored by the RNC," Trump said, according to ABC News. "I signed a pledge, but it’s a double-edged pledge. As far as I’m concerned, they’re in default on their pledge."
The pressing question now is this: if Donald Trump heads into the GOP convention holding a plurality of delegates, but loses to Cruz, Rubio or Kasich through bartering and back-room deals, what comes next? Does Trump swallow his pride, shake hands with the other men in the room, congratulate them on a race well run and then go home? Or does he stage a press conference, point an accusatory finger at the RNC and announce that he will make good on his pledge to run as an independent as a result of what he decrees as the Republican Party's failure to abide by its pledge to treat him fairly?

Stay tuned...