On Tuesday the White House announced that scam artist phantom Stephanie Grisham was out as press secretary. Vapid right-wing talking head Kayleigh McEnany was announced as the new White House lying machine. While Grisham decided to be mysteriously invisible during her time as the White House’s main liaison to the media, McEnany has a more boisterous personality with a more storied history of spewing lies and wrongheaded predictions. For example, here she is on Fox News with now-fired Trish Regan on Feb. 25 of this year. What’s she predicting? That Trump will stop the spread of COVID-19 by way of a travel ban on China? Yes. Let’s hear about it, Kayleigh!
KAYLEIGH MCENANY: This president will always put America first. He will always protect American citizens. We will not see diseases like the coronavirus come here. We will not see terrorism come here, and isn't it refreshing when contrasting it with the awful presidency of President Obama.
You can even watch her saying it!
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell popped up Tuesday morning with a proposal that he made sound like a done deal for additional stimulus money, pushed in the Senate by unanimous consent as soon as Thursday, to pump more money into the already-troubled small business lending program. It's a startling concession from McConnell, who has up until now steadfastly maintained that Congress had done plenty. Democrats need to seize on that and make this new urgency count with some demands of their own.
McConnell announced "I will work with Secretary Mnuchin and Leader Schumer and hope to approve further funding for the Paycheck Protection Program by unanimous consent or voice vote during the next scheduled Senate session on Thursday." However, a Schumer spokeseperson says "Senator Schumer has not heard from Senator McConnell, and Senator Cardin has not heard from Senator Rubio." Cardin and Rubio, along with Sens. Collins and Shaheen drafted the PPP provision of the stimulus bill.
A week into its deployment in New York City, a crew member abroad the Navy hospital ship USNS Comfort has tested positive for COVID-19, Politico reports, and is in isolation.
This is not unexpected or surprising, and given that the Comfort was until last Friday not even taking pandemic patients, only other patients in an effort to relieve overwhelmed local hospitals, it seems possible or even likely that the crew member came aboard with the virus before the ship deployed. But it is another reminder that even highly trained professionals who know proper safety precautions are, despite those precautions, becoming infected themselves in large numbers.
Did Republicans learn NOTHING from the theater receipts from Monty Python's Life of Brian (now on Netflix)?
The 1979 film was set to be a small art-type comedy until it was banned for blasphemy:
It may not be true that all publicity is good publicity, but in the case of Monty Python’s Life of Brian, which was released 40 years ago, some of the bad publicity was heaven-sent. The comedy team’s irreverent Biblical romp had been due to open on 200 screens across the US, but after various religious groups protested against it, the number of screens was tripled. “They actually made me rich,” said John Cleese of the protesters on one American talk show. “I feel we should send them a crate of champagne or something.”
(On topic, this has been making the rounds)
Life of Brian: Trump Administration COVID edition. pic.twitter.com/NFNrqtafF0
— Maya Contreras (@mayatcontreras) April 4, 2020
So what happens when Donald Trump, The Supreme Court and Republican-stacked courts in Wisconsin make absentee voting during a pandemic more difficult? Essentially telling people voter turnout is blasphemous to Republican power?
Donald Trump is having the predictable temper tantrum over the Health and Human Services inspector general's report finding that hospitals face huge challenges—many of them caused by the Trump administration—in fighting the coronavirus pandemic. The report confirmed much of what we’ve learned from news reports about hospitals receiving unusable masks and other personal protective equipment, facing a “severe shortage of test kits,” and struggling with a lack of clear guidance from the federal government.
“Why didn’t the I.G., who spent 8 years with the Obama Administration (Did she Report on the failed H1N1 Swine Flu debacle where 17,000 people died?), want to talk to the Admirals, Generals, V.P. & others in charge, before doing her report. Another Fake Dossier!” Trump rage-tweeted.
If a tree falls in the forest....
Has Trump had an actual press secretary in almost a year?
The answer, of course, is no.
Before being tapped as Trump's White House press secretary to replace the combative Sarah Huckabee Sanders, she was working in the East Wing for Melania, a job to which she is now returning.
Grisham never once held a White House press briefing - ever. She spent most of her time getting softball questions from Fox News, OAN and sycophants like the Eric Bollings of the right-wing media world.
Her entire function was to go on Fox News and try and defend all of Donald Trump's lies, misstatements, hateful and vitriolic tweets and words against his political rivals.
Grisham never tried to keep the public informed and In watching her perform her function on the right-wing media she could never have held up to scrutiny from the mainstream press.
In Trump's White House, his administration is under constant chaos and that's made more obvious by the fact that he's on his fourth Chief of Staff in his first term in office.
Stephanie, we hardly knew ye, except when you were on Fox to attack Democrats. Here's a classic example:
This morning brings some Kevin bait:
— Traders Crucible (@traderscrucible) April 7, 2020
I think that any time is a good time to spend a big chunk of money on lead abatement. Future generations will thank us. Unfortunately, if there’s a worst time to do it, now is it.
The COVID-19 pandemic is throwing us into a recession, but it’s a purely technical, man-made recession. It’s not due to an oil spike or a dotcom bust or a housing bubble or even just a cyclical reduction in savings that causes households to cut back on spending. It’s due to specific government mandates that can be lifted at any time.
What this means is that we don’t need any kind of general economic stimulus. Household savings are high, consumer demand is fine, and there should even be pent-up demand working in our favor by summer. Instead, we need to specifically help the people and businesses who have been affected by the government mandates so that they can stay afloat until the emergency is over. This means:
- Workers who are laid off thanks to coronavirus restrictions.
- Small businesses that are shuttered for the duration.
- Large businesses facing revenue shortfalls.
- State and local governments who are losing revenue and facing higher expenditures.
- Hospitals and other health care providers.
Any follow-up rescue package—which we’ll probably need—needs to be directed toward these victims of the coronavirus lockdowns. A small amount of generalized stimulus—the $1,200 checks, for example—doesn’t hurt since any targeted program is bound to miss some people, but it shouldn’t be large and it shouldn’t be the focus of congressional action.
The exception to this might come later in the year. If the pandemic starts taking off in the global south just as the north is recovering, we might suffer a classic recession due to trade losses, supply chain disruptions, loan forfeitures, and so forth. If that happens, we might need a classic stimulus package to get us back on track. That would be the time for infrastructure projects and lead abatement. There’s no telling if we’ll need this, but it would certainly be wise to plan for the possibility by spending a few billion dollars now to identify and and do prep work for a trillion dollars worth of infrastructure.¹ When the time comes, it would be nice to have plenty of shovel-ready plans on the shelf ready to go if we need them.
¹Including lead abatement!
Sen. Chuck Schumer made a critical appointment Monday, naming Bharat Ramamurti to the Congressional Oversight Commission. This commission is one of the layers of oversight Democrats built into the $2 trillion stimulus package, otherwise known as the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act. Ramamurti is a longtime aide to Sen. Elizabeth Warren, and, Schumer says, "a ferocious advocate for consumers who will fight for transparency and hold bad actors accountable."
Ramamurti has been working with Warren since 2013, when he joined her staff to work on banking and economic policy—specifically the implementation of Dodd-Frank, the Wall Street reform law. So the guy who helped oversee the government, the Federal Reserve, and the Wall Street response to the Great Recession is now going to be doing the same thing in this economic upheaval, and that's a good thing. He's going to be there, carrying on Warren's laser focus on the American consumer.
On Monday, Acting Navy Secretary Thomas Modly addressed the crew of the USS Theodore Roosevelt. The ship of more than 4,000 sailors has been a focal point of novel coronavirus pandemic talk in recent days because its former commander, Captain Brett Crozier, went viral after a four-page memo he wrote asking for COVID-19 support from Navy higher-ups was picked up by the San Francisco Chronicle. Since then, at least 230 USS TR crew members have tested positive for the virus. Crozier, who reportedly tested positive for the virus himself, has been fired. And, as occurred in Modly’s leaked address on Monday, Crozier was attacked and criticized over how he sent out his plea for help.
As of Monday night, Modly apologized—sort of. And now people are calling for him to resign or be fired.
A number of American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) affiliates have sued Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) for the release of four people from two privately operated immigration detention facilities in southern California, the latest in a slew of lawsuits filed by advocates in the state and nationwide in recent weeks demanding the urgent release of detainees from ICE custody amid the novel coronavirus pandemic.
“Because of their acute medical conditions—including leukemia, lung disease and HIV infection—the plaintiffs are at increased danger of contracting and dying from COVID-19 in these ICE detention centers, where as many as 60-100 people share living quarters,” a statement said. “Detainees sleep in bunk beds only a few feet apart and share common areas, such as eating tables, showers, toilets and sinks. The recent positive test of a staff member at the Otay Mesa Detention Center heightens the risks and puts lives in immediate danger.”
WRAL in Raleigh interviewed me late last week on insurance options for the recently unemployed and uninsured:
On Monday, Wisconsin Governor Tony Evers issued an executive order postponing the election—which includes a presidential primary and races for state and local office—to June 9. Republicans in the state fought the order, insisting the election go on despite the pandemic sweeping the world. The COVID-19 crisis hasn’t even peaked in places like Wisconsin, which modeling now shows will happen in approximately 10 days, on April 17, ten days earlier than the original April 27 estimate. Regardless of the exact peak, now is the most important time to stay home to avoid contracting and spreading the deadly virus.
And yet, not only have Republicans insisted on going forward, the Republican-dominated United States Supreme Court sided with Wisconsin Republicans (big surprise!) and forced the election. The result? Wisconsin residents lined up, literally around the block (see the videos below), to exercise their constitutional right to vote. As for residents who are immunocompromised, elderly, disabled and/or can’t otherwise get out to stand in a long line during a pandemic, risking their very lives? Too bad. Republicans have even worked to limit absentee voting in the state. As our Daily Kos Elections crew noted, even the in-person voting locations are struggling with staffing issues.
Here’s the coronavirus growth rate through April 6. Italy is solidly past their peak and declining at a good clip. Germany had a bad day and now looks a little farther away from their peak than I thought yesterday. The data from France is so weird that I can’t make sense of it:
There’s an almost perfect linear increase for two weeks, followed by a sudden explosion, with deaths doubling over the course of three days. Unless I did my arithmetic wrong, this looks like some kind of reporting error from the French authorities.
How to read the charts: Let’s use France as an example. For them, Day 0 was March 5, when they surpassed one death per 10 million by recording their sixth death. They are currently at Day 32; total deaths are at 1,488x their initial level; and they have recorded a total of 133.2 deaths per million so far. As the chart shows, this is above where Italy was on their Day 32.
The raw data from Johns Hopkins is here.
The MLB might play a truncated version of the 2020 season in Phoenix at the Arizona Diamondbacks' stadium if league officials and the players union agree. Via the Hill:
The Associated Press reported that the two groups are in talks about potential plans for the 2020 season, which is supposed to be already underway but has been delayed due to the coronavirus outbreak that has swept across the U.S. and around the world.
One of the plans being discussed involved teams meeting at Chase Field in Arizona, where a number of teams have training facilities. The stadium features an artificial turf field and retractable roof, and according to a top sports talent agent, could theoretically host up to three games per day.
“It allows for immediacy of a schedule, where you might be able to begin it and televise it, provide Major League Baseball to America,” Scott Boras, president of the Boras Corporation, told the AP. “I think players are willing to do what’s necessary because I think they understand the importance of baseball for their own livelihoods and for the interest of our country and providing a necessary product that gives all the people that are isolated enjoyment.”
I'm so torn. I can't tell you how much I miss baseball -- but it just won't be the same without the roar of the crowd. Still, like pizza, even bad baseball is pretty good.
How do the rest of you feel?
Consider it the political version of “if a tree falls in the forest and no one is there to hear it, did it really make a sound?” If a White House press secretary never gives a press briefing, did she really do the job? Yes, White House press secretary Stephanie Grisham is on her way out—or anyway, she’s headed back to the East Wing to serve as Melania Trump’s chief of staff.
As White House press secretary, Grisham spent her time going on Fox News or media outlets to the right of Fox. She put her name on statements claiming that impeachment was derailing legislative progress (when really Mitch McConnell’s Senate was derailing legislative progress) and calling for "retribution" against Rep. Adam Schiff. She was forced to backtrack after claiming that Obama aides left mean notes for the incoming Trump administration. She claimed that Donald Trump doesn't tell lies.
When Donald Trump said that the United States had “15 soon to be down close to zero” cases of COVID-19, the actual confirmed count was over 60. Early in the pandemic, on Feb. 12, China suddenly reported over 15,000 new cases as it acknowledged that its testing had fallen behind the actual number of cases. Just five days ago, numbers for France took a sudden lurch as thousands of cases and deaths that had occurred in nursing homes were at last added to official totals that had been until then limited to those who were tested, or died, in hospitals.
From the beginning, there has been an urge to undercount what’s happening with COVID-19. In some cases, that may be trying to paint the official response in a better light. In others, it may be confusion over how to handle an event that’s overwhelming state or local officials. And in the end it may be a simple inability to acknowledge the genuine scale of the disaster.
In any case, there are reasons to believe the actual number of COVID-19 deaths in New York is much higher than the official number.
48 states and DC have winner-take-all presidential contests. Whoever wins the state gets all of its electoral votes. The exceptions are Maine and Nebraska—both of which apportion an electoral vote to the winner of each of their congressional districts. ebrn
As such, Democrats need to contest the Omaha, Nebraska electoral vote. Because believe it or not, there are several realistic scenarios that get us to a 269-269 tie. And in that scenario, we lose the election.
The Trump administration has gone from telling governors they're on their own in fighting coronavirus to sweeping in and taking equipment that state or local governments or hospitals—or other countries—have ordered. From Jared Kushner insisting that “the federal stockpile is supposed to be our stockpile, not supposed to be state stockpiles,” to the federal government preventing states from getting equipment anywhere other than the federal government.
But as the federal government, in the form of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, finally, finally gets ramped up to obtain the amount of personal protective equipment and ventilators that it should have been acquiring in January or early February, it’s repeatedly screwing over states, local governments, and hospitals.
In an effort to protect the public, attorneys, court staff, and judges from the health risks associated with COVID-19, the Wisconsin courts have issued orders temporarily suspending in-person proceedings statewide, with certain limited exceptions.
Yes, those are the same Wisconsin courts that just refused to allow Gov. Tony Evers to postpone today's primary election because of the pandemic. Their ruling was upheld by SCOTUS in a blatantly political decision reminiscent of Bush v. Gore.
Ruth Bader Ginsburg wrote in her dissent, "The Court's order requires absentee voters to postmark their ballots by election day, April 7--i.e, tomorrow--even if they did not receive their ballots by that date. That is a novel requirement."
And this being Wisconsin, it's all about preserving the Republican majority on the state Supreme Court. They want to force the election because they want the low turnout. They assume it will help them win the most important race on the ballot, that state supreme court seat.
So many people in Wisconsin are trying to figure out how to vote safely today. We have a hotline for that. 608-336-3232 pic.twitter.com/DGpqdbWxO3
— Ben Wikler (@benwikler) April 7, 2020
We’re starting to find out what they knew and when they knew it. Senator Brian Schatz of Hawaii calls the Trump administration out:
THEY ALL KNEW AND THEY DIDN’T TELL YOU. https://t.co/Y2z4jXklTa
— Brian Schatz (@brianschatz) April 7, 2020
Axios obtained memos from the economic adviser who sounded the warning, but there were probably similar warnings from other sectors that we haven’t seen yet. Via Axios:
In late January, President Trump’s economic adviser Peter Navarro warned his White House colleagues the novel coronavirus could take more than half a million American lives and cost close to $6 trillion, according to memos obtained by Axios…
Navarro’s grim estimates are set out in two memos — one dated Jan. 29 and addressed to the National Security Council, the other dated Feb. 23 and addressed to the president. The NSC circulated both memos around the White House and multiple agencies…
The Jan 29 memo set out two stark choices “Aggressive Containment versus No Containment.”
Navarro compared cost estimates for the choices and wrote that the Council of Economic Advisers’ estimates for stopping travel from China to the U.S. would be $2.9 billion per month. If the virus turned out to be a pandemic, that travel ban could extend 12 months and cost the U.S. $34.6 billion.
Doing nothing (the “No Containment” option) could range from “zero economic costs” to $5.7 trillion depending on the lethality of the virus.
On the high end, he estimated a scenario in which the coronavirus could kill 543,000 Americans.
The Feb. 23 memo…was titled as a memorandum to the president via the offices of the national security adviser, chief of staff and COVID-19 task force, and the subject line described as a request for supplemental appropriation.
It began: “There is an increasing probability of a full-blown COVID-19 pandemic that could infect as many as 100 million Americans, with a loss of life of as many as 1-2 million souls.”
He called for an “immediate supplemental appropriation of at least $3 billion” to support efforts at prevention, treatment, inoculation, and diagnostics.
He described expected needs for “Personal Protective Equipment” for health care workers and secondary workers in facilities such as elder care and skilled nursing. He estimates that over a four-to-six month period, “We can expect to need at least a billion face masks, 200,000 Tyvek suits, and 11,000 ventilator circuits, and 25,000 PAPRs (powered air-purifying respirators.)”
Trump sat on his ass for weeks after that memo was circulated, tweeting inanities like this:
“Low Ratings Fake News MSDNC (Comcast) & @CNN are doing everything possible to make the Caronavirus look as bad as possible, including panicking markets, if possible. Likewise their incompetent Do Nothing Democrat comrades are all talk, no action. USA in great shape!”
The administration didn’t get around to ordering ventilators and masks until mid-March.
Since the Trump administration’s natural state is chaos punctuated by palace coups and the president is a lazy-ass retiree who watches TV all day, it’s possible Trump himself was in the dark about what was coming. It’s also possible he knew and was moving behind the scenes to secure a personal advantage.
Regardless, it’s clear Trump was derelict in his duty to protect Americans. We’re going to need a bigger select committee.