The President Is a Monster

This morning, Gov. Andrew Cuomo of New York patiently explained why the president  should have already invoked the Defense Production Act, compelling firms to begin producing ventilators and other medical equipment, and should immediately send thousands of ventilators to New York from the federal stockpile. Cuomo estimated that New York will need 30,000 ventilators to cope with the worst COVID-19 outbreak in the country. So far they’ve been able to acquire 7,000.

The president, purportedly an adult human being, responded this morning:

Usually, we’ll have 50 governors on the conference call at the same time. I think we’re doing very well. But, you know, it’s a two-way street. They have to treat us well also. They can’t say, Oh gee we should get this, we should get that. Like in New York, we’re building four hospitals… And then, I hear, you know, there’s a problem with ventilators. We sent them ventilators. And they could have had 15 or 16,000. All they had to do was order them two years ago. But they decided not to do it. They can’t blame us for that.

Unofficial Advice from Italy (and New Jersey)

Here’s unofficial advice from S. Abbas Raza, who lives in Northern Italy (there have now been more deaths in Italy than China):

• Stay calm but be concerned: this is probably the greatest single challenge the world has faced in our lifetimes. Decisions made in a panic are not good … and don’t keep reading everything about Corona all day every day—I did that for a couple of days and then I couldn’t sleep. It is very important to pay attention to one’s mental well-being at this time, as well as physical.

• It is best to get serious advice and information from reputable scientific sources…. For example:

Centers for Disease Control Coronavirus Resource Page

World Health Organization Coronavirus Resource Page

Johns Hopkins University Coronavirus Resource Center

Harvard University Coronavirus Resource Center

[Avoid the president’s daily “briefing”. He has turned them into campaign rallies. He downplayed the problem for weeks, wasting precious time, and is now bragging and spouting misinformation. Pressure is building to stop televising what he says live, since he’s become a public health risk. For example, here, here, here and especially here.]

• Stay at home. Buy groceries for at least a week at a time (two if you can do that) and then don’t be tempted to run out for that one brand of potato chips you suddenly have a craving for. Now is the time to be disciplined about this. As one doctor advised, behave as if you have the virus and don’t want to give it to others.

• A good way to make a comprehensive grocery list is to walk through each room in your house with a pad and pen and look around carefully and see what you might run out of in the next week or two. This way, I remembered to buy shaving blades when I was in the bathroom looking around, for example, which I would have forgotten otherwise. Same happened with laundry detergent in the laundry room, etc.

• Convince others to take the problem seriously and insist that they cancel plans for socializing, travel, etc. Do this calmly and without getting worked up, otherwise they will dismiss what you say as the product of irrational fear. This will only work if we all do it. Obviously.

• Avoid public transport and walk if you can. Driving a car is also better than public transport, for once.

• The natural tendency is to want to visit one’s parents and other family in a time like this. Don’t. [Use online video] with them and keep in touch more than normal through phone, email, social media, and every way except actually being there. Everyone needs reassurance these days, and it’s nice for people who love you to hear your voice.

• Just in case, make a plan with your family about what you will do if one of you gets sick. Better to do this while calm and healthy than in a panic.

• Use this time to exercise more…, read, do stuff you’ve been putting off that can be done at home. Or just watch TV….

• I’ve also found that keeping the house spic and span helps a lot psychologically to ward off thoughts of disease.

• …. Buy a variety of foods to store as you get sick of eating the same things….

• Be extra kind to everyone and remain patient and avoid emotional outbursts. And stay home if you can!

Unquote.

Also, use disposable gloves whenever possible. And consider a scarf when you have to go somewhere.

And wash your hands! A lot! Because “soap absolutely destroys the coronavirus”.

If you think governments are overreacting, see the graph from a couple days ago in this article. Italy tried to isolate the virus. Now it’s spreading and we are about nine days behind them.

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The Bestest Words of All, the Strongest Perfect Words

Today, from the actual mouth of our actual president:

I’ve always known this is a real — this is a pandemic. I felt it was a pandemic long before it was called a pandemic.

Yes, and when the first cases were reported in China, our president began working very strongly on a vaccine in his White House laboratory that will be available to everyone, in a very short time, the greatest vaccine ever, fantastic. If only the do-nothing Democrats and the fake media hadn’t underestimated the problem and fought him every step of the way. Thank you, thank you, Mr. President!

But perhaps a review of the president’s statements reveals a less heroic approach to the problem?

Elsewhere in the reality-based world, Politico has a tracker showing the number of tests being performed in the US state by state, including the results.

For another dose of reality, The New York Times offers “Inside the Coronavirus Response: A Case Study in the White House Under T—-“. 

Senior aides battling one another for turf, and advisers protecting their own standing. A president who is racked by indecision and quick to blame others and who views events through the lens of how the news media covers them. A pervasive distrust of career government professionals, and disregard for their recommendations. And a powerful son-in-law whom aides fear crossing, but who is among the few people the president trusts.

The culture that President T—- has fostered and abided by for more than three years in the White House has shaped his administration’s response to a deadly pandemic that is upending his presidency and the rest of the country, with dramatic changes to how Americans live their daily lives.

It explains how Mr. T—- could announce he was dismissing his acting chief of staff as the crisis grew more severe, creating even less clarity in an already fractured chain of command. And it was a major factor in the president’s reluctance to even acknowledge a looming crisis, for fear of rattling the financial markets that serve as his political weather vane…. [More here.]

But the pivot has certainly begun. (We have always been at war with Oceania.)

So Many Best Words

David Leonhardt of The New York Times has providedA Complete List of T—-’s Attempts to Play Down Coronavirus”. But it’s not really a list. It’s an article about the past eight weeks that documents how the president “could have taken action … but didn’t” (it’s actually worse than that, since he stopped other people from taking action). 

I couldn’t stand to read it straight through. However, a researcher at Yale named Gregg Gonsalves read it and then kindly created a list of the president’s commentary. Here it is with a few additions:

January 22: “We have it totally under control. It’s one person coming in from China. It’s going to be just fine.”

January 30: “We have it very well under control.”

February 2: “We pretty much shut it down coming in from China.”

February 10:  “A lot of people think that goes away with the heat…. We’re in great shape though.”

February 19: “I think the numbers are going to get progressively better as we go along.”

February 24: “The Coronavirus is very much under control in the USA… Stock Market starting to look very good to me!”

February 25: “CDC and my Administration are doing a GREAT job of handling Coronavirus.”

February 25: “I think that’s a problem that’s going to go away… They have studied it. They know very much. In fact, we’re very close to a vaccine.”

February 26: “The 15 [cases in the US] within a couple of days is going to be down to close to zero.”

February 26: “We’re going very substantially down, not up.”

February 27: “One day it’s like a miracle, it will disappear.”

February 28: “We’re ordering a lot of supplies. We’re ordering a lot of, uh, elements that frankly we wouldn’t be ordering unless it was something like this. But we’re ordering a lot of different elements of medical.”

February 29: “My administration has taken the most aggressive action in modern history to confront the spread of this disease.  We moved very early.” [Both total lies.]

March 2: “You take a solid flu vaccine, you don’t think that could have an impact, or much of an impact, on corona?”

March 4: “If we have thousands or hundreds of thousands of people that get better just by, you know, sitting around and even going to work — some of them go to work, but they get better.”

March 5: “The United States… has, as of now, only 129 cases… and 11 deaths. We are working very hard to keep these numbers as low as possible!”

March 6: “I think we’re doing a really good job in this country at keeping it down… a tremendous job at keeping it down.”

March 6: “Anybody right now, and yesterday, anybody that needs a test gets a test [of course, that was a lie and still isn’t true]. They’re there. And the tests are beautiful…. the tests are all perfect like the letter was perfect. The transcription was perfect. Right? This was not as perfect as that but pretty good.”

March 6: “I like this stuff. I really get it. People are surprised that I understand it… Every one of these doctors said, ‘How do you know so much about this?’ Maybe I have a natural ability. Maybe I should have done that instead of running for president.”

March 6: “I don’t need to have the numbers double because of one ship that wasn’t our fault” [so let’s keep them off shore].

March 8: “We have a perfectly coordinated and fine tuned plan at the White House for our attack on CoronaVirus” [they didn’t].

March 9: “This blindsided the world” [it didn’t].

March 13: “I don’t take responsibility at all.”

Mr. Gonzalves’s conclusion:

When this is all over there should be televised Congressional hearings [on this absolute collapse of leadership].

[The president and Republicans in Congress] have imperiled the lives of millions of Americans with their incompetence & narcissism, lust for power and cult-like groupthink.

Mr. Leonhardt’s conclusion:

At every point, experts have emphasized that the country could reduce those terrible numbers by taking action. And at almost every point, the president has ignored their advice and insisted, “It’s going to be just fine.”

Earlier today, as the stock market collapsed, the president admitted that “it’s bad”.

Still the Best Words

A few minutes ago, the president finally acknowledged the seriousness of our situation.

When asked to rate his own performance, however, he said “10 out of 10”.

When asked if the buck stops with him, he said: “Yeah, normally, but I think when you hear the — this has never been done before in this country”.

This Is Not Working Out

Margaret Sullivan of The Washington Post is encouraging one powerful old man to rein in another one:

The insidious feedback loop between President T—- and Fox News is no secret.

When T—- says “jump,” the network leaps into action. And what the president hears on Fox News often dictates his own pronouncements and policies — which, in turn, are glowingly represented in Fox News’s coverage and commentary.

That’s never been anything short of dangerous, since the effect has been to create a de facto state-run media monster more devoted to maintaining power than shedding light on the truth. But now the mind-meld of Fox News and T—- is potentially lethal as T—- plays down the seriousness of the coronavirus and, hearing nothing but applause from his favorite information source for doing so, sees little reason to change.

There’s one person who could transform all that in an instant: Fox founder Rupert Murdoch, the Australian-born media mogul who, at 89, still exerts his influence on the leading cable network — and thus on the president himself….

So imagine if the word flowed down from on high that Fox News should communicate to T—- that he needs to take an entirely new tack on the virus. Imagine if Murdoch ordered the network to end its habit of praising him as if he were the Dear Leader of an authoritarian regime and to instead use its influence to drive home the seriousness of the moment….

The network’s influence on T—- is clear from the presidential tweets that follow fast on the heels of a Fox News broadcast. He was always a fan of Fox News, but after entering the White House, he made it even more of an obsessive daily habit,  … to the extent of blotting out dissenting voices from other sources.

T—- made specific reference to his reliance on Fox News during his misleading press event Friday, when he offered unwarranted reassurance rather than urging extreme caution and decisive action…

The message: Go about your business, America, and it will all disappear soon….By contrast, German Chancellor Angela Merkel is telling hard truths: As much as 70 percent of that country could end up being infected.

Matt Gertz, a Media Matters senior fellow … connected the dots: “Roughly an hour before his comments, a Fox News medical correspondent argued on-air that coronavirus was no more dangerous than the flu; a few hours later, the same correspondent argued that coronavirus fears were being deliberately overblown in hopes of damaging T—- politically…. The network’s personalities have frequently claimed that the T—- administration has been doing a great job responding to coronavirus….”

But it’s not just the opinionators … who are at fault. The news segments — while certainly more tied to reality — seldom push back in a meaningful way against the T—- message.

On Tuesday, news anchors … docilely sat back and lobbed soft questions while the president’s son Eric praised his father’s crisis-management skills and blamed liberal media figures who criticize him…

Even if all that changed today, great harm has already been done. As The Washington Post and others have documented, the administration has repeatedly squandered chances to prepare for and manage the epidemic.

Meanwhile, reality chugs on. From Crooked Media’s daily newsletter:

The World Health Organization … pointedly noted that while all countries can still change the pandemic’s course, “some countries are struggling with a lack of resolve.” It always feels nice to be seen. Anyway, President T—- is still hiding the truth about the pandemic from the public:

The White House has ordered federal health officials to treat top-level coronavirus meetings as classified, for no conceivable reason other than to prevent embarrassing leaks about the administration’s response. Officials have had dozens of improperly classified discussions in a high-security meeting room at the Department of Health and Human Services, and staffers without security clearances, including key health experts, were thus unable to attend….

A day after T—- once again insisted, “it will go away. Just stay calm. It will go away,” top health officials told the House Oversight and Reform Committee the opposite…. Dr. Anthony Fauci informed lawmakers that the outbreak is “going to get worse,” and that COVID-19 has a mortality rate ten times higher than the seasonal flu. 

Centers for Disease Control director Robert Redfield, who has taken up residence in T—-’s pocket, told the committee there are no CDC plans to implement curbside coronavirus testing, because “we’re trying to maintain the relationship between individuals and their health-care providers”, a comically terrible justification for several reasons…. Minnesota care providers have begun their own curbside testing, and hopefully other states will soon follow suit.

From the start, the U.S. outbreak has been a story of state and local officials doing their best to respond in the face of egregious federal delays….

It’s still unclear how many Americans have been tested—the CDC said around 8,500 swabs have been taken, but that number would be much higher than the total number of tested patients. By devastating contrast, South Korea has been able to test 10,000 people per day since late February. …

The White House’s imposed secrecy around the federal response has restricted crucial information, delayed action, and will ultimately cost lives. At the heart of the cover-up is the cavernous gap between what T—- and top health experts have said about the coronavirus threat, and so far, T—-’s only acknowledgement of the contradiction has been to call it “fake news”…

The president could declare a national emergency. That would give the government more power to deal with the virus. Politico reports, however:

T—- is reluctant to declare an expansive emergency to combat the escalating coronavirus outbreak, fearful of stoking panic with such a dramatic step, according to three people familiar with the situation.

Instead, the president is expected to sign within days what the White House calls a more limited designation… Any emergency declaration would go significantly beyond that move, bringing in the Federal Emergency Management Agency and freeing up funding and resources for states struggling to contain the rapidly spreading virus.

T—-’s concern at this point is that going further could hamper his narrative that the coronavirus is similar to the seasonal flu and could further agitate Wall Street….

Health experts have rigorously disputed any assertion that the coronavirus is equivalent to the seasonal flu, noting it is much more lethal and particularly dangerous to the elderly and those with other health conditions….

The administration is “not comfortable with the optics of national emergency” because of how it might impact Wall Street, tourism and air travel, a former Department of Homeland Security official said….

T—- has spent weeks trying to reassure the public about the outbreak, while the stock market shows daily declines not seen since the 2008 recession.  He is especially sensitive to variations in the stock market, seeing it as a key talking point in his reelection campaign.

“Everything is about the election now,” said a former T—- adviser….

Unquote.

Having the most self-centered man in America as our president is not working out.

Another Post Mortem

When she opened Saturday Night Live last night, Elizabeth Warren pointed out that she’s not dead, she’s merely in the Senate.

Still, Moira Donegan says the Democrats would be more viable for the presidency if:

… if the media and the electorate were less blinded by cynicism, sexism and fear and more willing to see Warren for who she was – the most capable, competent and kindest candidate in the race.

As a woman, the Massachusetts senator always faced an uphill battle of double standards and misogynist resentment. She had to be competent but not condescending, cheery but not pandering, maternal but not frumpy, smart but not haughty. As she rose in the polls last summer and fall, she came under the kind of scrutiny that male frontrunners are not subjected to, and faced skepticism about her claims and character that male candidates do not face.

As she rose in the polls last summer and fall, she came under the kind of scrutiny that male frontrunners are not subjected to.

This is the fate of a lot of women who come close to attaining power, and empirical data backs up the phenomenon: writing in the Washington Post, the Cornell philosopher Kate Manne cited a 2010 Harvard study that found that women are viewed more negatively simply by seeking office. “Voters view male and female politicians as equally power-seeking, but respond to them quite differently,” Manne writes. “Men who seek power were viewed as stronger and tougher, while power-seeking women provoked feelings of disgust and contempt.”

As a result, all of Warren’s virtues were recast as vices in the public eye. Her impressive credentials and superlative intellect became out-of-touch elitism. Her joyousness and enthusiasm were cast as somehow both insincerely pandering and cringingly over-earnest. This kind of transformation of neutral or positive character traits into negative ones is not something that happens to men in similar positions. Sanders can aestheticize his practiced cantankerousness for laughs and sympathy without anyone asking if its a put-on. Biden can use slang from the 1930s without anyone ever questioning whether the ostentatious folksiness of his “no malarkey” messaging might be just a tad affected. But for Warren, every smile was interpreted as a sign of concealed hatred, of secret, nefarious motives.

Her policy efforts, too, were cast as a repudiation of her principles rather than as steps toward realizing them. Her attempt to transform Medicare for All from a symbolic rallying cry into a substantive, workable and affordable policy change that can be made in our time brought, paradoxically, accusations that she was less serious about the policy for trying to make it a reality. Her plans to break up tech monopolies, repair the damage to black wealth done by historic redlining policies and reshape massive federal spending projects to make them environmentally sustainable were all cast as signs of duplicity and lack of commitment to her stated values. Meanwhile, male candidates who did not have substantive plans to implement such policies were believed, largely uncritically, when they told the public that they would put them in place.

In this race, men’s statements – about who they are, what they value, what they would do as president – have largely been taken at face value, even when male candidates have made false or exaggerated claims or contradicted themselves. But Elizabeth Warren was never given the benefit of the doubt. Her flaws and missteps were magnified, and interpreted in ways disproportionate to their significance, while comparatively greater mistakes by male rivals were all but ignored. When she referred to her father as having worked as a janitor, a days–long news cycle asked why, if he was really a janitor, her brother had once referred to him as a “maintenance man”. That these are effectively the same did not matter: the irrelevant non-story was interpreted as a sign of her constitutional untrustworthiness.

Warren was said to be not really running for president, but running as a spoiler; not really happy to meet voters, but shamelessly pretending with her long selfie lines; not really committed to economic inequality, but merely devoting her life to it as some sort of long con. None of these accusations made much logical sense, but that didn’t matter, because they were backed up by the force of feeling – a very strong feeling, held by many men and women alike, that a woman seeking power and status just can’t be trusted.

The epistemic philosopher Miranda Fricker calls this tendency to disbelieve women, and to believe powerful men, “testimonial injustice”: the harm done to speakers when prejudiced listeners discount their credibility. Women face testimonial injustice in particular when they challenge or contradict men, as cultural tropes that depict women as conniving, scheming, and selfish can be mustered to make her seem less credible, him more believable. Fricker doesn’t apply her concept of testimonial injustice to gender conflict exclusively, but it is an obstacle that many women recount in their own experiences of gendered injustice: the sense that they cannot be believed, that they cannot achieve equal credibility and moral footing with men in the minds of their peers, that they will always be assumed to be either stupid or dishonest. Branded as dishonest even as she told the truth, duplicitous even as she kept her promises, Warren faced testimonial injustice on a huge scale, and it ultimately doomed her campaign.

Unquote.