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TBR News April 14, 2020

Apr 14 2020

The Voice of the White House Washington, D.C. April 14,, 2020: Working in the White House as a junior staffer is an interesting experience.
When I was younger, I worked as a summer-time job in a clinic for people who had moderate to severe mental problems and the current work closely, at times, echos the earlier one.
I am not an intimate of the President but I have encountered him from time to time and I daily see manifestations of his growing psychological problems.
He insults people, uses foul language, is frantic to see his name mentioned on main-line television and pays absolutely no attention to any advice from his staff that runs counter to his strange ideas.
He lies like a rug to everyone, eats like a hog, makes lewd remarks to female staffers and flies into rages if anyone dares to contradict him.
It is becoming more and more evident to even the least intelligent American voter that Trump is vicious, corrupt and amoral. He has stated often that even if he loses the
election in 2020, he will not leave the White House. I have news for Donald but this is not the place to discuss it.

Trump aches from his head to his toes
His sphincters have gone where who knows
And his love life has ended
By a paunch so distended
That all he can use is his nose.

Comment from April 14, 2020: “Trump is now coming unglued, and in public, at what he sees is growing public criticism of him and his bizarre behavior both at his public press conference and in his official life. Trump is unbalanced and his fluctuating policies, egomania and total arrogance is now appearing before the American public and causing him terrible political damage that will appear in the results of the forthcoming presidential election in November. Republican legislators are growing increasingly nervous about Trump’s lunatic rantings, fearful lest the aroused public take their revenge on Republicans at the polls. ‘Dump Trump’ movements are beginning to fester in Washington and the more Trump sees support slipping, the more Trump will rant, scream and threaten.”

The Table of Contents
• Trump PR Stunt Falls Flat, as White House Video Exposes His Failure to Prepare for Pandemic
• President Trump attacked the media in an off-the-rails press conference
• Trump: It’s my decision when to reopen U.S. economy
• Trump claims ‘total authority’ and attacks media in chaotic coronavirus briefing
• With working Americans’ survival at stake, the US is bailing out the richest
• As Trump Threatens Postal Service Amid Pandemic, #SaveUSPS Urges Bulk Stamp Purchases and Congressional Action
• Liberal beats Trump-endorsed conservative for Wisconsin Supreme Court seat
• U.S. Got More Confirmed “Index Cases” of Coronavirus From Europe Than From China
• Trump’s behavior this week has been so bizarre that psychologists, Republicans and ex-staffers are telling me they’re worried
• Encyclopedia of American Loons

Trump PR Stunt Falls Flat, as White House Video Exposes His Failure to Prepare for Pandemic
April 14 2020
by Robert Mackey
The Intercept
Donald Trump grinned broadly on Monday as he tricked the news networks into broadcasting a taxpayer-funded testimonial to his own leadership, in the form of a video highlight reel of presidential statements on the coronavirus crisis, set to stirring music, unveiled during the president’s 29th daily briefing on the pandemic.
The video, which was riddled with errors and deceptively edited, was apparently intended to rebut a damning report on the front page of Sunday’s New York Times that detailed how slow Trump had been to take the threat posed by the virus seriously. While Trump was obviously pleased by the production — he pointed to the screen with a look of smug triumph at several points — he seemed unaware as it was unspooling in the White House briefing room that it contained a fatal flaw that helped reinforce the central argument of The Times report.
The compilation of clips, selected by the White House social media director, Dan Scavino, attempted to create an alternative history of the first months of the crisis, according to which the American media initially “minimized the risk,” but the president “took decisive action” nonetheless, only to be unfairly maligned by his political opponents, before the nation’s governors came together to sing his praises.
The centerpiece of the video was a timeline of actions by Trump and his administration, highlighting the partial ban on travel from China he ordered on Jan. 31, and his declaration of a national emergency on March 13.
But, as the CBS News correspondent Paula Reid pointed out to Trump after the video ended, there was a huge gap in the timeline: it mentioned absolutely no action by him in February and there was, as The Times had noted, a period of “six long weeks” after the travel restrictions until he “finally took aggressive action to confront the danger the nation was facing.”
In fact, the only entry on the video timeline for February — the month Trump held mass campaign rallies and described criticism of his handling of the virus from Democrats as “their new hoax” — was Feb. 6: “CDC Ships First Testing Kits.” The fact that those test kits were defective, a massive failure at a critical moment, seems like an odd thing to brag about.
Well into March, Trump was downplaying the new coronavirus as no more threatening than the flu.
Having seemed so pleased with himself while the video was playing, Trump looked stunned by Reid’s observation that its timeline showed the period of inaction The Times had described. “The argument is that you bought yourself some time,” by imposing the partial travel ban from China, Reid noted. “You didn’t use it to prepare hospitals, you didn’t use it to ramp up testing.”
As Trump interrupted to denounce her as “so disgraceful,” the correspondent pressed on to ask what, exactly, Americans were supposed to take away from his gauzy video tribute to himself? “Right now nearly 20 million people are unemployed. Tens of thousands of Americans are dead. How is this sizzle reel or this rant supposed to make people feel confident in an unprecedented crisis?”
Trump had no response but to shift back to praising himself for restricting travel from China in January. “But what did you do with the time that you bought?” Reid asked. “The month of February… the video has a gap.”
After the briefing, Eric Lipton, one of the authors of the investigation that so enraged Trump, observed on Twitter that nothing in the video or the president’s comments “undermines even a single fact in the stories we published over the weekend.”
“The truth remains that the nation’s top health advisers concluded as of Feb. 14 that the U.S. needed to use targeted containment efforts to slow the virus spread,” Lipton added. “Trump then waited until March 16 to announce his support for these measures.”
The inadvertently revealing timeline was not the only flaw with the propaganda video produced by Scavino, Trump’s former caddie.
It began with a sequence lifted directly from the March 26 edition of Sean Hannity’s Fox News show: a series of clips of medical experts for ABC, NBC and CBS wrongly predicting in January that Americans would not be badly hit by the virus. Those clips seemed to be included as an effort to embarrass reporters from those networks, but, given that we now know the president had access to warnings from public health experts and the intelligence services that report to him, it is patently bizarre to suggest that all he had to go on to evaluate the seriousness of the threat were the opinions of TV doctors he came across while flicking the channels between morning shows.
That opening montage also includes a misleadingly edited clip of Hannity asking Dr. Anthony Fauci in January if American experts might go to China if the coronavirus outbreak there was worse than expected. In March Hannity tried to claim that this was proof that he had “warned” of a pandemic. In fact, before that clip was edited it showed that Hannity had just been asking Fauci about sending American experts to China to “help them out to try to contain this” there. Like Trump, Hannity had spent all of February comparing Covid-19 to the seasonal flu, and by the end of March he too was backpedalling furiously.
Another bizarre aspect of that sequence is that it ends with Dr. David Agus, a CBS News medical correspondent, stating that “coronavirus is not going to cause a major issue in the United States.” Agus is now a major proponent of the experimental use of the antimalarial drug hydroxychloroquine to treat Covid-19 and has reportedly spoken directly with Trump about the possible benefits of the treatment that the president has become fixated on.
The third section of the video — about Trump’s supposedly unfair treatment by political opponents — takes audio of the Times correspondent Maggie Haberman out of context to distort its meaning. In an interview with “The Daily,” Haberman did call Trump’s order to slow travel from China “a pretty aggressive measure against the spread of the virus,” but the White House edit omitted what she said immediately after that. “The problem is, it was one of the last things that he did for several weeks.”
“He did not do anything after that in terms of alerting the public, or telling people to be safe, or telling people to take precautions,” Haberman added, according to a transcript of the original interview. “And it basically squandered several weeks within the U.S.”
That same sequence included two false annotations in on-screen text of other statements by Haberman about Trump’s partial ban of travel from China. When she said, “He was accused of xenophobia,” an image of Joe Biden appeared, over the date March 12. Biden, however, was not referring to Trump’s travel ban in a speech he gave on that date; he was criticizing Trump’s nativist reference the day before, when he had shut off travel from most of Europe, to what the president called the “foreign virus.”
“Downplaying it, being overly dismissive or spreading misinformation is only going to hurt us and further advantage the spread of the disease, but neither should we panic or fall back on xenophobia,” Biden said. “Labeling Covid-19 a foreign virus does not displace accountability for the misjudgments that have benn taken thus far by the Trump administration.”
The fact that Trump subsequently made a point of calling the new coronavirus “the Chinese Virus,” inciting hatred of Asians and Asian-Americans even in his own White House, makes his claim to have been falsely accused of xenophobia all the more absurd.
Moments later in the video, as Haberman said, “He was accused of making a racist move,” an image of Nancy Pelosi appeared, over a citation to The Hill from Jan. 31. However, as the report in The Hill makes clear, Pelosi had, in fact, been referring to another travel ban issued by Trump that day — “adding Myanmar, Eritrea, Kyrgyzstan, Nigeria, Tanzania and Sudan to the travel ban that the President instituted three years ago” — when she denounced him for imposing “such biased and bigoted restrictions.”
The news conference on Monday, which brought the president’s time in the briefing room in past month to more than 40 hours, was yet another example of Trump hijacking for his own ends what was previously a news conference dedicated to conveying vital information about a public health emergency. The president, however, seems to regard the free time on television each day as primarily an opportunity for self-promotion.
That was made clear at one stage when Trump told reporters that, after watching the video, “most importantly, we’re going to get back on to the reason we’re here: which is, the success we’re having.”

President Trump attacked the media in an off-the-rails press conference
April 14, 2020
by Tom Jones
Stunning. Absolutely stunning.
Even by White House press conference standards.
It was supposed to be another White House briefing, meant to update the nation on the latest coronavirus numbers, lay out immediate and long term plans and, most of all, calm the nation during one of the scariest moments in our history.
Instead, President Donald Trump drove off the rails, turning the briefing into, perhaps, the most surreal news conference ever seen in the White House. He argued with the media and, in a jaw-dropping moment, showed a slickly-produced video that not only defended his coronavirus response, but attacked the media.
CNN’s John King said on the air, “That was propaganda. That was not just a campaign video. That was propaganda aired at taxpayer expense in the White House briefing room.”
And why did Trump do it? Why did he show the video?
“Because,” Trump told a reporter, “we’re getting fake news and I want to get it corrected.”
That led to a series of combative Q&As with several media members in which Trump continued his “fake news” mantra. Of particular note was a contentious exchange between Trump and CBS’s Paula Reid, who kept peppering Trump with queries about what actions he took during the entire month of February — a line of questioning that led Trump to call Reid “disgraceful.”
As all this was taking place, CNN put the following four banners across the bottom of the screen:
“Angry Trump turns briefing into propaganda session”
“Trump refuses to acknowledge any mistakes”
“Trump uses task force briefing to try and rewrite history on coronavirus response”
“Trump melts down in angry response to reports he ignored virus warnings”
Washington Post media critic Erik Wemple tweeted, “Commentators have often used ‘unhinged’ to describe Trump’s behavior. In so doing, they’ve diluted the heft of the word. In today’s coronavirus briefing, he is truly unhinged.”
CNN’s Jim Acosta, a frequent foe of the president, said, “That is the biggest meltdown I have ever seen from a president of the United States in my career. … He sounds like he is out of control.”
At one point, Trump declared, “When somebody’s the president of the United States, the authority is total. ”
In what was the most brilliant question of the day, CNN White House correspondent Kaitlan Collins asked Trump, “Who told you that?”
CNN’s King called Trump’s declaration “dangerous.”
Eventually, the news conference calmed down to a more civil tone — well, civil by current standards (although Trump and Reid tangled again) — but the first half-hour continued to linger because it was unlike anything that we’ve ever witnessed.
On MSNBC, former New York Times executive editor Howell Raines said, “I think this is one of the astonishing acts of disinformation we’ve seen from a White House since the Vietnam era and the 5:00 follies of the Lyndon Johnson administration. What we are seeing here, I think, is a kind of imploding presidency. And with an implosion, you have to have a black hole at the center. And I think what we have here is a black hole that consists of two elements: President Trump’s extremely fragile ego, and his distrust of government experts.”
It was stunning. Absolutely stunning.
Among the main themes of Trump’s shocking press conference on Monday was the frequent use of one of his favorite phrases: fake news. It remains a dangerous term, but it is used so often, it has become a cliche.
These days, other dustups between the president and the media draw more attention, such as when he calls a reporter or a question “nasty” or “not nice.” Or like what we saw between him and Reid on Monday. But while those attacks are notable and certainly no fun for the reporters on the receiving end, the phrase “fake news” is meant to do harm.
It brings into question the accuracy of stories. It accuses the reports of being false, made up or intentionally damaging even when there are facts and reliable sources to back them up.
Ultimately, the way Trump and many of his supporters use the term is meant to shift attention away from the story itself. It’s like holding up a shiny object with one hand so that we stop paying attention to what the other hand is doing.
I bring this up again today because Trump has ramped up his use of the phrase in recent days and said it throughout Monday’s news conference.
Fake news — or, more accurately, what it really means — was also the topic of the latest column from Washington Post media columnist Margaret Sullivan, written before Monday’s press conference.
“… the history of the Trump administration has shown that the loudest cries of ‘fake news’ accompany the most damning journalism,” Sullivan wrote.
“Coming from him, the phrase now dependably has another meaning: ‘all-too-accurate reporting that damages my reputation.’”
This past weekend there was plenty of damning journalism, from a major piece in The New York Times about how slow Trump’s coronavirus response was to a “60 Minutes” interview with White House trade adviser Peter Navarro in which Navarro challenged the iconic show to produce proof that it talked about a pandemic before Trump was president. Then, of course, the show proved it by airing clips from 2009 and 2005 — which included an interview with a doctor by the name of Anthony Fauci.
In both cases, the stories were based on facts. The Times story — the one that seems to have Trump particularly distressed these days — not only talked to plenty of on-the-record sources, but had written proof in the form of emails. The “60 Minutes” story simply pulled out old clips to prove it had done stories on pandemics during the Barack Obama and George W. Bush administrations.
Often, the best way to dismiss such a story is to slap a “fake news” label on it, knowing that supporters who already distrust the media need nothing more than that term to be satisfied.
As long as that’s good enough for his supporters, it will be good enough for Trump to keep saying, and the facts of the story, he hopes, will go ignored. So don’t expect that phrase to disappear anytime soon. Or ever, especially after Monday’s free-for-all.
What about these news conferences?
Only C-SPAN showed Monday’s entire press conference, which went well beyond two hours. Fox News showed a little more than two hours before going to Tucker Carlson. CNN and MSNBC showed most of the first 90 minutes before cutting out. The major networks — NBC, ABC, CBS — showed none of it.
And so here we are again: Should networks air these briefings, especially after Monday’s bizarre turn? Or, another question: Should reporters even attend? Even before Monday’s news conference, New York University journalism professor and media observer Jay Rosen asked (and answered), “Why don’t reporters just walk out?”
You could make the argument that Trump’s antics Monday needed to be seen to be fully appreciated by the American people. But there’s no question that Trump’s video felt like a campaign ad, thus lending credence to the idea that Trump is treating these briefings as the rallies that he can’t hold because of coronavirus.
Appearing on MSNBC, “PBS NewsHour” White House correspondent Yamiche Alcindor said, “I think what we saw today was really a remarkable moment of the president just being openly candid about the fact that he is using these briefings as a way to talk about his own reelection campaign. And a way to push back against people he feels threatened by. He’s clearly threatened by the dogged reporting of The New York Times, of NBC, of other networks, of other newspapers that are showing all of America that he made big mistakes when it came to the coronavirus.”

Trump: It’s my decision when to reopen U.S. economy
April 13, 2020
by Doina Chiacu
WASHINGTON (Reuters) – President Donald Trump said on Monday it was his decision when to reopen the U.S. economy, not that of state governors, but legal experts disagree and governors are going their own way.
Trump last month extended federal “stay at home” guidelines through April and has made clear he wanted the economy to reopen as soon as possible after the coronavirus outbreak that has killed nearly 22,000 Americans and cost millions of jobs.
However, he also has said he would listen to U.S. health experts and others in making any recommendations.
“It is the decision of the President, and for many good reasons. With that being said, the Administration and I are working closely with the Governors, and this will continue. A decision by me, in conjunction with the Governors and input from others, will be made shortly!” Trump wrote on Twitter.
The Republican president accused news media of incorrectly saying it was the governors’ decision.
However, legal analysts say a U.S. president has quite limited power to order citizens back to their places of employment, or cities to reopen government buildings, transportation, or local businesses.
While federal health officials have issued anti-coronavirus guidelines including social distancing and wearing face coverings, Washington has not issued nationwide recommendations on school closings or shuttering public services and businesses, leaving individual states to make those determinations.
A number of states have extended their stay-at-home and social distancing orders beyond May 1, with Virginia’s governor targeting June 10.
“All these executive orders are state executive orders and so, therefore, it would be up to the state and the governor to undo a lot of that, said Chris Sununu, the Republican governor of New Hampshire.
New York Governor Andrew Cuomo, whose state has been hardest hit by the new coronavirus, said Monday he would coordinate his response with governors of neighboring states.
“So, we’ll listen to the experts, we’ll follow the data but remember this is a delicate balance,” he told reporters.
Each governor needs to make the best decision for their state and help people tap federal government benefits, including unemployment insurance, Sununu said in an interview with CNN.
“It’s a pandemic. It has no playbook,” Sununu said.
But there is the U.S. Constitution.
Under the 10th Amendment, state governments have power to police citizens and regulate public welfare.
“This is Federalism 101,” said Robert Chesney, a professor of national security law at the University of Texas. “The president can advocate to his heart’s content, but he can’t actually commandeer the state governments to make them change their policies. He has no such inherent authority, nor is there any federal statute that purports to give him such authority.”
Reporting by Doina Chiacu; Additional reporting by Jan Wolfe, Diane Bartz, Lisa Lambert; Editing by Jonathan Oatis

Trump claims ‘total authority’ and attacks media in chaotic coronavirus briefing
In a bizarre tirade, the president bristled at a suggestion by one of the media that his power was restricted
April 13, 2020
by Tom McCarthy
The Guardian
Donald Trump has declared in a White House briefing that his “authority is total” when it comes to lockdown rules during the coronavirus pandemic, and he denied that he was weighing firing Dr Anthony Fauci, the country’s foremost infectious diseases expert who sits on the coronavirus task force.
After a weekend reprieve from presidential briefings that have been likened to Trump rallies for their uninterrupted flow of Trumpianid, the president returned to the lectern on Monday to deliver one of his most bizarre performances yet.
He played a campaign video produced by White House staff, in a possible violation of elections laws, that he said highlighted the media’s downplaying of the coronavirus crisis in the early stages of the pandemic.
He jousted with journalists who questioned a tweet he had sent earlier in the day, in which he claimed to have fiat power to override orders by state governors to close nonessential businesses and public spaces and encourage residents to shelter at home.
And Trump bristled at the suggestion that his power was restricted by the American federalist construct, which grants autonomy to the 50 states, and which he has repeatedly during the coronavirus crisis attempted to disrupt.
“When somebody is the President of the United States, the authority is total,” Trump said, referring to matters of public health and police powers inside the states. The assertion was dogpiled by legal analysts as a gross and wild misreading of the Constitution.
But Trump not just challenged on the airwaves and on Twitter – he was challenged in the room, including by Paula Reid of CBS News, who asked him what his administration did in the month of February, when the health department declared an emergency, to fight the virus.
In response he attacked the media’s “approval rating”.
Then Trump was confronted by CNN White House correspondent Kaitlan Collins, who asked him about his “authority is total” line.
That is not true,” Collins said.
Trump spluttered in reply: “You know what we’re going to do? We’re going to write up papers on this. It’s not going to be necessary. Because the governors need us one way or the other. Because ultimately it comes with the federal government. That being said we’re getting along very well with the governors, and I feel very certain that there won’t be a problem.”
Has any governor agreed that you have the authority? Collins asked.
“I haven’t asked anybody. You know why? Because I don’t have to,” Trump said.
Who told you that the president has a total authority? Collins asked.
“Enough. Please,” said Trump.
The briefing briefly featured Fauci, who was attacked in a message retweeted by Trump on Sunday, fueling speculation that the president was preparing to push out the preeminent epidemiologist.
“I was immediately called upon that,” Trump said, “and I said, ‘No, I like him. I think he’s terrific.”
Asked whether there had been clashes between the pair, Trump said, “We have been from the beginning. I don’t mind controversy, I think controversy is a good thing, not a bad thing.”
But when he stepped to the lectern, Fauci stopped short of delivering the White House line that the country, and the economy, were on the verge of being reopened at full throttle.
“Some people may think it’s going to be like a light switch,” Fauci said. “It’s just not going to be that way.”

With working Americans’ survival at stake, the US is bailing out the richest
Without significant oversight, Congress’s economic relief bill will leave millions of everyday Americans in financial peril
April 13, 2020
by Morris Pearl and William Lazonick
The Guardian
Amid a humanitarian crisis compounded by mass layoffs and collapsing economic activity, the last course our legislators should be following is the one they appear to be on right now: bailing out shareholders and executives who, while enriching themselves, spent the past decade pushing business corporations to the edge of insolvency.
The very survival of working-class households is now at stake. Yet the $500bn dollars of public money that Congress’s relief bill provides will be used for a corporate bailout, with the only oversight in the hands of an independent council similar to the one used in the 2008 financial crisis. While that body was able to report misuses of taxpayer money, it could do nothing to stop them.
Moving forward, we need a guarantee from Congress that public money will not help billionaire shareholders or corporate executives protect, and even augment, their personal wealth. As currently structured, there is nothing to keep this bailout from, like its predecessor, putting cash directly into the hands of those at the top rather than into the hands of workers. Without strong regulation and accountability, asking corporations to preserve jobs with these funds will be nothing more than a simple suggestion, leaving millions of everyday Americans in financial peril.
Productive work and consumer spending are the dual engines that keep our economy running, which is why this pandemic poses such an acute threat. Therefore, the purpose of further government support must be to keep as many employees working as long and as productively as possible.
Working people were not prepared for this disaster. There are still tens of millions of American households that haven’t recovered from the Great Recession; nearly 50% of Americans were already living paycheck to paycheck before millions lost their jobs in the last few weeks, and 40% did not have enough savings accrued to cover a $400 emergency. It’s imperative that they be given the lifelines that they desperately need to survive.
Keeping Americans indoors to reduce their risk of spreading Covid-19 has almost completely shut down our massive service economy. It is fundamental that we ensure every company’s employees are able to be both productive and safe, and we can do that only by using every cent of corporate cash to put paychecks into their hands. America’s working class, not corporate executives, are the ones on the frontlines of America’s factories and service industries; they produce what these companies sell and make up the majority of our consumer economy. America’s workers will be the ones to resuscitate our economy long before excessively paid executives do.
When the House and Senate return to write the next stimulus package, they need to institute a total ban on share buybacks for any of the corporations that accept this bailout, rather than the temporary restrictions in last week’s bailout. “Buying back shares” is just another term for shareholders extracting value from a company. After Trump’s Tax Cuts and Jobs Act went into effect in 2018, corporations took the windfall and collectively spent over $1tn on buybacks, for the sole purpose of adding to the incomes of shareholders and executives.
Over the past five years alone, airline executives – who were first in line clamoring for a bailout – spent $52bn in corporate cash on buybacks, at the expense of employee wage increases, capital expenditures and investments in innovation. Now that these businesses are being handed government funds, we need to make sure that top executives and wealthy shareholders don’t do this again: channel money into their own bank accounts while leaving employees wondering how they are going to pay their bills.
If not properly managed, this economic disaster has the potential to be the worst in American history. Our country cannot allow a small number of executives and shareholders to profit from taxpayer funds that we have injected into these corporations for reasons of pure emergency. We need to stop this rot at the core of our economic system and realign the priorities of government with those of workers and consumers.
Even in normal times, America’s extreme economic inequality was a festering sore. Now, this previously unimaginable public-health disaster is pulling back the curtain to reveal how this inequality can make victims of all of us. As we join together in the struggle to defeat the coronavirus, it is vital that we protect vulnerable Americans against further harm.
Morris Pearl is chair of Patriotic Millionaires, which focuses on promoting public policy solutions that encourage political equality, guarantee a sustaining wage for working Americans, and ensure that wealthy individuals and corporations pay their fair share of taxes. He previously was a managing director at BlackRock, one of the world’s largest investment firms
William Lazonick is professor of economics emeritus at the University of Massachusetts, and president of The Academic-Industry Research Network.

As Trump Threatens Postal Service Amid Pandemic, #SaveUSPS Urges Bulk Stamp Purchases and Congressional Action
There is no vote-by-mail if there is no postal service,” said one historian.
April 13, 2020
by Julia Conley
Common Dreams
As the Trump administration continues its refusal to save the U.S. Postal Service from financial collapse amid the coronavirus pandemic, people nationwide are stepping up to bolster the vital federal agency by purchasing stamps in bulk and demanding action from Congress and the White House.
Using the hashtags #USPostalService and #SaveUSPS, supporters are encouraging the purchase of stamps and other products from the USPS in the absence of emergency funding from the government.
The viral campaign took off after U.S. Postmaster General Megan Brennan last week called on Congress to take immediate action to shore up the USPS. First-class and marketing mail, the service’s top two funding sources, have slowed down significantly due to the pandemic.
“We are at a critical juncture in the life of the Postal Service,” Brennan said. “The sudden drop in mail volumes, our most profitable revenue stream, is steep and may never fully recover. We now estimate that the COVID-19 pandemic will increase the Postal Service’s net operating loss by more than $22 billion dollars over the next eighteen months, and by over $54 billion dollars over the longer term, threatening our ability to operate.”
According to the Washington Post, President Donald Trump in March personally blocked an emergency funding package for the USPS, claiming that higher shipping rates for private retailers delivery companies including Amazon and FedEx would create competition for the service and allow it to retain revenue.
After lawmakers agreed to including a $13 billion bailout for USPS in the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act, the administration suggested it would block the funding.
“You can have a loan, or you can have nothing at all,” Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin reportedly told Congress, leading to a $10 billion loan for the USPS instead.
The service has gone without federal funding since 2006, subsisting instead on revenue from postage stamps and other products.
Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) on Sunday joined Brennan in calling on Congress to save the postal service, saying Trump is looking to fulfill a longtime right-wing goal of privatizing mail delivery.
On social media, supporters of the USPS shared how millions of people have relied on the service which dates back to 1792 and whose existence is enshrined in the U.S. Constitution.
“The USPS is a lifeline for rural communities like mine in [Illinois’ 16th congressional district] and we should fight to strengthen it, not let it fail,” U.S. House candidate Dani Brzozowski tweeted. “The USPS employs over 600,000 Americans, and over 100,000 veterans. Their jobs are on the line.”
The service is a “vital part of the public health response,” Association of Flight Attendants President Sara Nelson tweeted, noting that millions of Americans obtain their “life-saving and life-supporting medicines, supplies, food, and other essential goods” through the mail.
In order to save the USPS, advocates said, Congress must take urgent action—and simply leaving it up to consumers to buy postal products, though an inspiring gesture, would not be enough.
“Our public Postal Service needs all American leaders—Democrats and Republicans alike—to provide urgent and ongoing financial support from the Federal Government during this public health and economic crisis,” wrote U.S. Mail Not for Sale, an advocacy group, in a petition.
Critics of Trump’s refusal to bail out the postal service—while approving a relief package which includes a $500 billion fund for wealthy, private corporations to use with little-to-no congressional oversight—said the attacks on the USPS are likely related to the right-wing push against a vote-by-mail system amid the pandemic.
“There is no [vote-by-mail] if there is no postal service,” wrote historian Joshua Zeitz. “Democrats in Congress need to draw a line in the sand.”

Liberal beats Trump-endorsed conservative for Wisconsin Supreme Court seat
April 13, 2020
by John Whitesides
(Reuters) – Liberal challenger Jill Karofsky won a hotly contested race for the Wisconsin Supreme Court on Monday, beating a conservative incumbent in state elections marred by court challenges and worries about health risks from the coronavirus pandemic
Karofsky upset Dan Kelly, who was endorsed by Republican President Donald Trump, for a 10-year court term that could help decide future voting rights and redistricting issues in Wisconsin, a vital general election battleground.
The Supreme Court race highlighted a slate of thousands of elections held last week for state and local offices, as well as a presidential primary. The release of the results was delayed by court order until Monday, the deadline for receiving absentee ballots.
Democrats said a flurry of Republican legal challenges blocking efforts to postpone last Tuesday’s in-person voting had backfired badly, but added that the voting should never have happened.
“Despite the result, the fact that this in-person election took place was a searing loss for Wisconsin. Today’s results don’t tell us how many people were exposed to coronavirus at polling places, how many were infected or how many will die,” said Ben Wikler, chairman of the Wisconsin Democratic Party.
The tumultuous process in Wisconsin, which featured an explosion in absentee balloting and long lines of voters braving health risks and stay-at-home orders, was seen as a potential preview of the national election in November if the pandemic lingers.
State Republicans had warned of possible fraud and administrative issues if the elections were delayed. But Democrats said Republicans were primarily motivated to keep down turnout in the race, particularly in Democratic-dominated urban areas such as Milwaukee, where a lack of workers meant the closure of all but five of the city’s usual 180 polling places.
Karofsky more than doubled Kelly’s vote totals in Milwaukee, and outpaced recent Democratic performances in many rural and more conservative counties in an encouraging sign for Democrats looking toward the Nov. 3 general election.
The result narrows to 4-3 the conservative majority on the non-partisan Wisconsin Supreme Court, with the next seat up for election in 2023. The court is expected soon to decide a case that seeks to purge more than 200,000 people from Wisconsin’s voter rolls.
Spurred by worries about health risks from voting in person, a record-high nearly 1.3 million absentee ballots were requested for the elections, state officials said. Some residents who requested absentee ballots said they never received them.
The state elections commission reported that as of Monday, more than 11,600 voters requested an absentee ballot and were never sent one, and more than 185,000 ballots were sent to voters but not returned.
Democratic National Committee Chairman Tom Perez said in a Monday press call that the decision to hold in-person voting last week amounted to “voter suppression on steroids,” forcing thousands of voters to choose between casting a ballot or staying at home to avoid infection.
The DNC called for Wisconsin’s next election, a special congressional race scheduled for May 12, to be entirely conducted by mail.
The election turmoil overshadowed the Wisconsin Democratic presidential primary between former Vice President Joe Biden and his then-last remaining rival, U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders.
Biden, who became the likely Democratic nominee to face Trump in November’s election when Sanders dropped out last week, was projected to win easily by the Associated Press.
Sanders dropped out the day after the Wisconsin voting was finished, and endorsed Biden on Monday.
Reporting by John Whitesides in Washington; Editing by Peter Cooney

U.S. Got More Confirmed “Index Cases” of Coronavirus From Europe Than From China
April 12 2020
by Joe Penney
The Intercept
When pressed about his delayed response to the coronavirus pandemic, President Donald Trump has repeatedly cited the U.S. travel restrictions imposed on China, which went into effect on February 1. “Something we did very well is when we stopped the inflow from China at a very early level,” Trump said on March 29. “That was a good thing to do, a great thing to do.”
What Trump doesn’t mention, however, is his administration’s failure to restrict travelers from Europe until it was too late. An investigation by The Intercept shows that travel from Europe was a key facilitator of the virus’s spread in the U.S. — a large amount of the first Covid-19 cases in the U.S. can be traced to Europe. While the China restrictions operated as an attempt to close the front door to infections from the nation where the pandemic started, the back door — travel from Europe, where the virus took hold particularly fiercely in Italy — remained wide open until the middle of March and can be connected to a surge of cases in the U.S., especially in the New York area.
The Intercept reviewed hundreds of media reports detailing the first recorded coronavirus cases — known as the “index cases” — in U.S. states and territories. European travel preceded the index cases in at least 13 states and territories, compared to only five from China. There were more imported index cases from cruise ships (six) than from China, while Italy accounted for at least 10 of the first Covid-19 cases.
For instance, Missouri’s first case was a young woman who studied abroad in Italy, while a high school trip to Milan was behind Rhode Island’s index case. Travelers from Italy brought it to Florida, Georgia, Oklahoma, Colorado, New Hampshire, and South Carolina. Italian tourists brought
Covid-19 to Puerto Rico, and a Navy reservist stationed in Italy brought it to Maine.
A review of the known index cases also shows that the coronavirus often spread from the northeastern United States, indicating a chain of transmission from China to Europe to the East Coast of the U.S., and from there to other U.S. states. Many state governments have declined to publicly share data on the provenance of their early cases, but some, like New Mexico, Kansas, North Dakota, and Idaho, confirmed that their first cases had links to New York or the northeastern U.S.
From February 1 to when flight restrictions went into effect on the Schengen zone (the 26 European states without internal border checks) and Britain and Ireland, on March 14 and March 17 respectively, more than 10,000 direct flights from Europe had arrived in 12 major American airports, according to data from tracking agency FlightAware. Though this number includes some cargo flights, their proportion to passenger flights is very low. Occupancy data from Air France/KLM shows that those flights might have carried an estimated 1,000,000 people into the country.
In the six weeks prior to the European travel bans, the U.S. was exposed to a massive amount of travelers from a highly infected region. During that time, there were almost no checks in international airports for passengers coming from Europe, as American authorities focused their screening efforts on China travelers. The China travel restrictions were mostly cosmetic anyway — the Chinese government banned flights from the Hubei region on January 23 and was sharply reducing its cases through harsh lockdowns and quarantines.
The Trump administration appears to have considered — and rejected — an early European travel ban in January. The Washington Post reported that Matthew Pottinger, the deputy national security adviser, had proposed a travel ban on affected European countries in late January, which was supported by health officials but was rebuffed by Trump and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin. As Trump faces increased criticism for a period of calamitous early inaction, he has sought to focus the blame on China, and on Saturday he published a tweet trying to discredit a New York Times story on the role of European travel in New York’s epidemic.
The impact from Europe was particularly acute on the East Coast of the U.S., where many of those flights landed. From February 5 to the implementation of the travel bans on March 14 and March 17, nearly 4,000 direct flights from Europe arrived at New York’s John F. Kennedy Airport and Newark Liberty International in New Jersey, far more than any other metropolitan area in the country. San Francisco, by contrast, where the caseload has been kept relatively low, had a little over 600 flights from Europe in that same time period. While San Francisco also took stricter preventative measures earlier on, like issuing its stay-at-home order five days before New York did, it was also subject to less exposure overall.
A new study by researchers at NYU Grossman School of Medicine shows that, out of 91 patients studied, the vast majority of New York City’s coronavirus strains were identical to ones found in Europe. This provides additional evidence that Europe was the main source of Covid-19 in what became the pandemic’s global epicenter.
“We found that multiple chains of transmission were coming about two thirds from Europe, and the other third some from Asia and some from within other states of the United States,” said Dr. Adriana Heguy, director of the Genome Technology Center at NYU Langone and leader of the sequencing team. The proportion of strains from China was low, while there were many different European countries present. “You name the European country and it basically shows up: France, Austria, Netherlands, Italy, Madrid, I believe we had one. It was from everywhere in Europe,” she said.
Dr. Heguy said that the volume of flights from Europe is “probably the most likely explanation” for why New York City became the pandemic’s epicenter, adding that the virus might have been spreading in the U.S. from late January. “It’s very possible that there was already community transmission going on six to eight weeks” before recorded index cases, she said.
Britain was one of the last European countries to implement preventative measures like strict lockdowns, and has paid the price with some 10,000 deaths and the intensive care hospitalization of its prime minister, Boris Johnson (who is now out of the hospital). Among the nations of Europe, Britain has by far the most extensive air links to the U.S. There were at least 3,211 flights from London to the U.S. from February 5 to March 17, accounting for nearly a third of total European flights to the U.S. during that time frame. This means that one of the European countries that presented the biggest risks to the U.S. was actually excluded from the first European travel ban.
Even when the European travel bans were implemented, flights from Europe still carried a large number of Americans from virus hotspots, because U.S. citizens were not subject to them. There have been at least 246 flights from Britain, Ireland, and the Schengen zone to JFK alone after the bans. There are more daily flights from Europe than from China.
When the European travel bans went into place, TSA checks were implemented at U.S. airports, forcing some passengers to wait for hours in crowded airports, fill out forms, and answer questions from officials in protective gear. Bottlenecks formed at arrival terminals, potentially further fueling the spread of the outbreak as thousands of travelers from affected countries crammed together in tight spaces. In other words, even when a ban was belatedly imposed, it was done in a way that likely increased the number of people exposed to the virus.
When Cherie Saulter, a PhD student at American University, flew from Lisbon, Portugal to Washington, D.C. on March 15, she and her other passengers were given printouts from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention with basic information on the novel coronavirus. They waited for 1.5 hours to clear a crowded customs area. “The majority of people were not social distancing,” Saulter told The Intercept. “It would have been pretty impossible to stay six feet away from people on all sides because of the way the lines were set up.”

Trump’s behavior this week has been so bizarre that psychologists, Republicans and ex-staffers are telling me they’re worried
‘We should not ignore the president’s ability to initiate a conflict with other countries in order to distract from his political troubles, perhaps with the hope of rallying the country around him’
October 18, 2019
by Andrew Feinberg
The Independet/UK
Washington DC Donald Trump is going through the motions of being President of the United States. He still lives resides at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, he is still the head of the executive branch, and he’s still the commander-in-chief of the world’s most powerful military force.
He can still give orders and be reasonably sure that they will be followed, like the order he gave to a small group of US soldiers 12 days ago, requiring them to abandon the Syrian Kurdish allies with whom they’d shed blood on the way to defeating Isis. Those soldiers, loyal American servicemen, will follow those orders, even though doing so made them — in the words of one soldier — “ashamed for the first time in my career.”
But ordering US servicemen to and fro seems to be the limit of Trump’s power at the moment. Because the rest of the world has figured Donald Trump out.
Such was the degree of anger at Trump’s sudden abandonment of America’s Kurdish allies — seemingly for no other reason than to please Turkey’s leader — that on Wednesday, all but 60 House Republicans joined Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s caucus to approve a resolution condemning the move, 354-60. In the Senate, a bipartisan group of senators is readying legislation to impose crippling sanctions on the Turkish regime, with a veto-proof majority expected to join their House colleagues in expressing their disapproval of the Trump administration’s enabling of Erdogan’s ethnic cleansing.
But Trump seems to think he’s doing great and that everything is fine.
After the House dealt his Turkey policy a humiliating rebuke, Pelosi and the rest of the House and Senate leadership gathered at the White House for a briefing on the disastrous situation Trump had created. The president was so eager to boast of the “tough” stance he’d taken that he distributed a letter he’d sent to Erdogan — a letter which was so bizarre and childish in its wording that when it inevitably leaked to the media, journalists had to double-check to make sure it wasn’t fake.
According to Pelosi, he “was not relating to the reality” that a supermajority of House members disagreed with him, to the point where she walked out of the meeting, joined by House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer.
Schumer explained how he’d reminded Trump of the dangerous conditions that could be created with the release of Isis fighters who’d been held by Kurdish forces, and noted that even retired Marine General James Mattis — Trump’s former Secretary of Defense — had said that pulling out of Syria would enhance the terrorist group. According to a source who was in the meeting, Trump’s response was to call Mattis “the world’s most overrated general” and declare that he had personally “captured Isis in a month.”
Another source, who spoke to CNN’s Jamie Gangel, said that Trump’s demeanor left even Republicans “completely shaken,” “shell-shocked” and “sickened.”
“He is not in control of himself, it is all yelling and screaming,” the source said, adding that Trump was “100 per cent worse” and that even Republicans are now worried about his stability.
As if to prove the anonymous source’s point, Trump has spent the past two days claiming that he has brought peace to the region, rather than hand an unearned victory to Erdogan, Vladimir Putin, and Bashar al-Assad.
“Without spilling a drop of American blood… we’ve all agreed on a pause or ceasefire in the border region of Syria,” the president said while speaking at a rally on Thursday, failing to mention that militias backed by Turkey have continued to fire on Kurdish forces during the five-day “pause”.
While congressional Republicans may be surprised to discover that Trump’s present grip on reality seems tenuous at best, it’s no surprise to Dr Bandy Lee, an assistant clinical professor at the Yale School of Medicine and the editor of The Dangerous Case of Donald Trump, which contains essays from 27 mental health professionals on the “clear and present danger” posed by The Donald’s mental health (or lack thereof).
“It’s gotten to the point where you don’t have to be a doctor to see there’s something seriously wrong here,” Lee told me, adding that the decline into instability many are now observing in Trump was actually made inevitable by his ascent to the presidency. “Such mental instability in a position of power would eventually get worse because of rising expectations after the taste of power with the constraints of reality catching up with them.”
Lee explained that although she has not examined Trump personally, she and a group of mental health experts concluded that based on the reports of his conduct contained in Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s report, Trump “doesn’t have the mental capacity to carry out his duties.”
Lee and the other experts she’s worked with joined more than 200 mental health professionals in signing a letter to members of Congress, in which they warned that “the unfolding of an impeachment inquiry raises the specter of President Trump feeling threatened in ways he never has before.”
“We also should not ignore the president’s ability to initiate a conflict with other countries in order to distract from his political troubles, perhaps with the hope of rallying the country around him, as often happens at the beginning of armed conflict,” they wrote in the letter, which is dated October 3, three days before Trump ordered US special forces to leave their Kurdish allies behind.
“What happened over the last week is the result of his irrational decision-making under increasing pressures,” she said to me. ”He will make decisions without heeding advice, he will not be able to take in facts, he will be impulsive in his decision-making, he will not be able to make sound reality-based decisions… That’s all we’ve seen over the last week and a half.”
Although Trump’s defenders argue that the analysis of Lee and her colleagues is invalid because none of them have examined or even met President Trump, Skybridge Capital founder Anthony Scaramucci has met him, and he sees things pretty much the same way.

Encyclopedia of American Loons
Douglas Taylor

“Religious debates over the Harry Potter series” denotes debates initiated by fundies of various stripes who struggle to distinguish fiction from reality, and who claim that the Harry Popper novels contain occult or Satanic subtexts. There are lots of these people, and we’ve covered a number already, from Richard Abanes, through Marshall Foster to Berit Kjos. Douglas Taylor of the Oneness Pentecostal Church (or Jesus Party Church – we have seen both, and the latter sounds much more fascinating) in Lewiston, Maine, is another. After being denied a city permit to burn books, the Rev. Taylor has held several annual gatherings at which he cuts the Potter books up with scissors. “It’s no secret I enjoy what I’m doing now,” said Taylor, and we don’t doubt that he does, but added that he would have preferred to burn the books – “the Bible gives me the authority to burn magic books,” said Taylor. He also added that the book-shredding wasn’t censorship (because he was destroying his own property); what really is censorship, he claimed, is the fact that Bible studies (by which he means proselytizing, of course) are not allowed in public schools; meanwhile, bringing the Harry Potter books inside schools apparently does violate the division between church and state, as Taylor sees it. His supportive wife Susan helpfully explained that “if you do not have the spirit of God in you, you have the spirit of the devil in you,” which is not a particularly healthy way of viewing the world.
To Taylor, an installment in the series like Chamber of Secrets is nothing other than an instructional manual for the dark arts that can ensnare children in a destructive obsession with the occult. Satan is the inspiration for the Potter series, Taylor says. Of course, it doesn’t take much testing to determine that the spells described doesn’t actually work, but Taylor’s is not the kind of mind crossed by the idea of testing its hypothesis against reality or checking whether the ideas it entertains are correct. “‘Harry Potter’ is repackaged witchcraft,” Taylor says, and “our ministry is not going to remain quiet.” His events have actually managed to draw some protests, too, a fact to which Taylor replies “Controversy! I love it, and I’m on the cutting edge of it. Amen! This is a beautiful opportunity that J.K. Rowling has provided for me. It’s so sad that so many ministers are missing this opportunity.”
Diagnosis: In fairness, he does seem to be mostly hungry for attention, but he certainly manages to come across as a notoriously unsavory fellow. Just stay out of arm’s reach, and you’ll probably be fine.

Barry Martin

Barry Martin is the owner of the blog jfkspeaks.blogspot.com, where he channels the spirit of former president J.F. Kennedy: “The information on this blog was given to me by a spirit, President John F. Kennedy,” says Martin. Apparently post-demise Kennedy has taken a keen interest in New Age woo, and freely relates to mr. Martin, through automatic writing, information for instance “concerning our friends, the Pleiadians and dolphins.” The Pleiadians – we’ve had ample opportunity to deal with them already – are humanoid aliens that come from the stellar systems surrounding the Pleiades stars. Dolphins, according to Kennedy/Martin, are “a gift from the Pleiadians”. Sayeth Kennedy: “The Pleiadian realms, the planets are roughly about 90 to 95 percent water. Their atmosphere is the same type as on earth, although the light there is a bit hazier. The sky is a bit hazier in some places. They brought dolphins to our world. Dolphins are Pleiadians. Man will communicate and interact freely with dolphins much more one day. Just as dogs inhabit the earth as pets, dolphins will be the new pet of man, as the world after the Shift will be about 87 percent water with many inlets and waterways and much sea water.” One may lament that JFK seems to have lost some of his eloquence after passing over to the spirit realm, but death generally tends affect people’s ability to come up with memorable turns of the phrase.
Apparently JFK was no fan of Clinton. Regarding the 2016 election, JFK said that “Mrs. Clinton will most likely win the 2016 Election. This is not something that makes us happy. She is a member of the New World Order.” There is also plenty of stuff about Atlantis and aliens and ancient technology and suchlike, and Kennedy helpfully tells us that under some ranch in the American southwest, “one would find the remains of crystal generators that powered whole cities, whole continents, nations and civilizations. With the power of crystals, this would enable mankind to power cities with a smaller output of electricity than mankind uses. This is a different type of electricity and is truly peaceful. It’s a form of clean fusion.” Kennedy’s grasp of the concepts electricity and fusion seems somewhat tenuous. Perhaps this was Robert Kennedy. It seems that Martin occasionally channels Bobby Kennedy as well.
In any case, everything will ostensibly culminate in “the Revelation of life everywhere in the universes,” which “is going to happen in 2018 we believe.” (It is not entirely clear who “we” refers to.) Also, there will be a major Shift that “will include major seismic and weather events, starting in about 2018 and lasting well into the 2020’s. The world will survive these events, but look much different geographically. The planet will be about 83% water and the population will be much lower.” It’s a poor prophet who can’t give us a proper Armageddon. Apparently the Shift will bring back Martin Luther King, only in this reincarnation he “will be a white man”. So it goes.
We assume that our Barry Martin is a different character – and way less hateful – than Monroe School District superintendent Barry Martin, who thinks books featuring gay characters are unsuitable for children.
Diagnosis: Mostly harmless, and one of the characters that frankly provide some color (mostly teal and pastels) to the Internet. (The other Barry Martin, superintendent, is a different matter.)

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