March 10, 2020

Posted by orrinj at 9:42 PM


GOP congressman -- who warned Trump about pandemics -- offers pointed criticism of proposed CDC cuts (Aaron Blake , March 10, 2020, Washington Post)

This was the day Rep. Tom Cole (R-Okla.) has been warning about -- and essentially predicted. Back in 2017, when the Trump administration first proposed steep cuts to programs that handle disease outbreaks, Cole said, "I promise you the president is much more likely in his term to have a deal with a pandemic than an act of terrorism. I hope he doesn't have to deal with either one, but you have to be ready to deal with both."

Now that the potential pandemic has come, Cole is re-upping his long-standing criticisms of the Trump administration's posture toward preparedness. And on Tuesday, he offered a little bit of an "I told you so," even suggesting that the situation might not be as bad if the administration had listened to him.

At a House subcommittee hearing featuring Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director Robert Redfield, Cole offered some veiled rebukes of how the administration has worked with people like him on this issue.

"Your requirement is to come and do what you all do, and that's defend the presidential budget," Cole told Redfield and the other officials testifying. "But I would just submit for the record that administrations would be a lot better off had they listened to us several years ago in this area, and we would all collectively be better off. And I hope we all learn a lesson from that."

Cole said that the outbreak of coronavirus is a "sort of vindication of the bipartisan judgment over the last several years that this was really an area we needed to make investments."

Posted by orrinj at 6:48 PM


Japan begins solar powered hydrogen production at Fukushima plant (Joshua S Hill, 11 March 2020, renew Economy)

The 10MW solar-powered Fukushima Hydrogen Energy Research Field (FH2R) project has been completed, according to Toshiba Energy Systems & Solutions Corporation, which oversaw the construction and will oversee the hydrogen energy management system in the former nuclear powered prefecture.

The FH2R project can apparently produce as much as 1,200 Nm3 of hydrogen per hour and is powered by a 20MW solar farm and some power from the grid.

So-called "green hydrogen" projects such as FH2R are becoming more attractive and commonplace, using renewable generated electricity to power the electrolysis of water to create hydrogen. [...]

Japan's Fukushima Prefecture, the scene of the world's most recent nuclear disasters in 2011, has embarked on a $US2.7 billion renewable energy rebirth over the past decade, including plans to transform its now unusable agricultural land into wind and solar farms. [...]

The electricity generated will be sent to the Tokyo metropolitan area - as it was by Tepco before the 2011 earthquake and tsunami destroyed its Dai-Ichi nuclear plant.

The Fukushima government has said it expects the new renewables hub to provide 13-14 percent of Japan's national energy mix by 2030.

Posted by orrinj at 6:13 PM


The UK Government Has Reacted With "Incredulity" And "Genuine Disbelief" At Trump's Handling Of Coronavirus (Alex Wickham, 3/09/20, BuzzFeed News)

UK government ministers and officials have privately reacted with "a general level of incredulity" at Donald Trump's handling of the coronavirus outbreak.

A UK official -- one of several members of the government who spoke to BuzzFeed News on condition of anonymity about the Trump administration's response to the virus -- said the president's public statements have caused "more than the usual eyerolling" in London.

In particular, Trump's false claims about the outbreak of the disease caused by the coronavirus, COVID-19, his tweets, and the failure of the US authorities to adequately test for the virus early on have caused "genuine disbelief" in Whitehall, the official said.

Referring to the UK government's creation this week of a "fake news unit" to prevent the spread of misinformation about the coronavirus, they added: "Our COVID-19 counter-disinformation unit would need twice the manpower if we included him in our monitoring."

Posted by orrinj at 6:06 PM


On the Timeless Music of McCoy Tyner (Craig Morgan Teicher, March 9, 2020, Paris Review)

I think I saw Tyner perform live twice: once at an outdoor concert at Lincoln Center, where he was a vigorously pulsing dot in the distance, and later at the Blue Note downtown, where he was only a few feet from me and I could stare, mesmerized, at his thundering left hand. He raised it high over the keyboard, above his head, before sending it hammering down, blasting open the time that followed, filling the bars with cascading showers of high notes. That, more than anything else, was the definitive Tyner gesture: opening the musical measure with that heavy left-hand chord, which was simultaneously a drum, a cymbal, and a signal to the rest of the music about where it should begin and end; more than any pianist save Cecil Taylor, Tyner understood his instrument as a series of pitched drums.

How, from that high distance, did his hand know where to find the chord he wanted when it slammed back down to the piano? But that is the least of his miracles. As Johnny Cash said, "Your style is a function of your limitations, more so than a function of your skills." That's a humbling truism about all creative work, but the limiting factors are different for each art form. Writers are stuck with a particular vocabulary, a language, and the deep memory of the kinds of sentences they heard growing up. A singer is stuck with the particular resonating chamber that is their body. Tyner was perhaps blessed by being stuck with those catapult hands and an unwavering conviction that rhythm and melody should tell a story, enact a high drama. It can be cheesy at times, but mostly I find I agree with--am glad to be a part of--the story his music tells.

It's enough, more than enough, really, for an artist to simply find a voice, to chisel it out of the noise and to keep it ringing clear across a lifetime. Though he tried lots of modes and moods, Tyner began his professional career in the early sixties as a fully formed artist, and his last albums, from the aughts, are not unlike his first. From the beginning, his musical voice--seeking, earnest, exciting--was his alone. 

Posted by orrinj at 5:57 PM


Study: Cannabis users make for the most dangerous drivers (TIM SANDLE, 3/10/20, Digital Journal)

The research, from McLean Hospital, reveals that cannabis users tend to experience more accidents. This is related to users tending to drive at faster speeds, and having a tendency to jump red lights (based on figures for the general population). This applied whether regular cannabis users were 'high' or not.

Cannabis legalization has spread across a large portion of the U.S., displaying growth across a number of different demographic groups. This includes some 'at risk' sectors of the public, such as pregnant women (this is despite medical evidence being presented that this activity could harm their babies).

Another at risk group are young people, and here the McLean Hospital study found that earlier onset of marijuana use (defined as regular use of cannabis prior to age 16) was associated with the most unsafe driving performance, leading to a higher number of accidents. The indication of impaired driving performance, irrespective of when cannabis was last consumed, applied across all demographic groups; however, there was a particular association among those who first took the drug early in life.

Posted by orrinj at 5:42 PM


Appeals Court Affirms That the Trump Administration Has to Release the Unredacted Mueller Report (JEREMY STAHL, MARCH 10, 2020, Slate)

Judge Thomas B. Griffith, a conservative George W. Bush appointee, sided with Judge Judith W. Rogers, a progressive Bill Clinton appointee, to say that the lower court could authorize disclosure of the grand jury materials to Congress in connection with an impeachment investigation, as it had ordered in October. Judge Neomi Rao--a Donald Trump appointee--offered a lengthy dissent that would have protected the president from disclosure of the still-unreleased portions of the report.

Rao's latest efforts to shield the president from legal liability, though, appear likely to fail. The judicial precedents involved stretch back to the Nixon administration, and Rogers, in invoking them, was backed up by a jurist with conservative bona fides. Griffith added a concurrence demolishing Rao's dissent, and the DOJ now has one week to appeal the decision.* We may soon learn what is in the portions of the Mueller report Attorney General William Barr has been so desperate to keep from Congress and the public that his DOJ was willing to argue that key Watergate-era precedents should no longer be enforced.

Posted by orrinj at 2:59 PM

"HE FIGHTS" (profanity alert):

Joe Biden tells factory worker 'you're full of s---' during a tense argument over guns (Kevin Breuninger, MAR 10 2020, CNBC)

The worker accused Biden of "actively trying to end our Second Amendment right."

Biden immediately responded: "You're full of s---."

Amen.  But ditch the expletives.

Posted by orrinj at 12:36 PM


10% of Trump 2016 voters might not vote for him in 2020 (Laurel Bliss and Brian Schaffner,  Mar 10, 2020, Vox)

The dataset we used, a large academic election survey that YouGov has conducted online every year since 2006, allows us to better understand the share of 2016 Trump voters who are up for grabs. In November 2019, the survey interviewed 18,000 American adults who had been interviewed in 2016 about their vote, asking them how they planned to vote in 2020.

They found that most of Trump's voters plan to stick with him: Ninety percent of those who voted for Trump in 2016 say they plan to vote for him again. But 10 percent seem to be up for grabs. Four percent are already planning to vote for the Democratic candidate, and another 6 percent say that they are still undecided. By contrast, 94 percent of Clinton voters are already committed to the Democrats: just 2 percent of Clinton's 2016 voters are planning to vote for Trump in 2020, with another 4 percent undecided.

The largest share of Trump's support in 2016 came from baby boomers, and only 7 percent of them are considering abandoning him in 2020. Trump's older supporters are quite loyal to him. Where Trump is losing the most support is among Americans younger than 40 who voted for him in 2016.

He's really bumping up against that 42%.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


'Remember us': could Trump lose Florida because of hurricane refugees? (Cristian Salazar, 10 Mar 2020, The Guardian)

[I]n 2017, Hurricane Maria swept through the island, destroying homes, killing thousands of people, and leaving millions of others stranded. Rivera became one of the tens of thousands of storm refugees who moved to Florida in the following months to try and build a new life.

Now Rivera and the other hurricane refugees have become a vital voting bloc coveted by both the Democratic and Republican parties in the swing state, where elections are often won by just tens of thousands of votes. While the last census data counted about 50,000 in the group, later estimates say there could now be more than 130,000 people who have resettled in Florida.

And they're largely politically active. Rivera, whose home was uninhabitable after the storm, moved close to her daughter, who already lived in the central Florida city of Gainesville. The septuagenarian left behind her church, her friends, and other relatives. But she did not want to give up her right to vote, now more powerful than ever, since Puerto Ricans can only vote in the presidential primaries when living in the territory.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Wait, so who is Nero, and why are people comparing him to Trump? (Gillian Brockell, March 9, 2020, Washington Post)

Nero, a descendant of Julius Caesar, was born Lucius Domitius Ahenobarbus in 37 A.D.; his mother, Agrippina, conspired by an incestuous marriage to make Nero the next in line for the throne. Her husband/uncle, the emperor Claudius, died by poisoning soon after, making Nero, 16 or 17 at the time, the fifth emperor of Rome.

Agrippina attempted to rule via her son but was soon exiled and later executed. And as Nero grew into a young man, he was kind of always DTFF -- down to feast and frolic. He threw lavish parties in extravagant palaces, slept with anyone he wanted and even took to the stage as an actor, poet and musician.

The elites of Rome were not impressed. Orgies were one thing, but acting? In plays? That cheapened the throne, they complained.

Then, in 64 A.D., Nero announced he wanted to level and rebuild most of the city in a more contemporary style. The Senate refused him permission. Soon afterward, the whole city caught on fire.

It burned for six days straight, then rekindled and burned for three more. Ten of Rome's 14 districts were destroyed. And Nero soon began to build his massive "Golden House" on its smoldering ashes.

Trump's Fourth of July history speech: Turns out there weren't airports back then

But did he really fiddle while Rome burned?

No, because fiddles didn't exist until the Middle Ages. But he maybe played his lyre?

His first biographer, Tacitus, wrote in his "Annals" that Nero was 30 miles away in Antium at the time, "but at the very moment when Rome was aflame, he had mounted his private stage, and typifying the ills of the present by the calamities of the past, had sung the destruction of Troy."

Not a great look.

Later biographers were even less charitable. Suetonius claimed that witnesses caught him setting the fires, and that he watched the city burn from a tower, "and exulting, as he said, in 'the beauty of the flames,' he sang the whole of the 'Sack of Ilium,' in his regular stage costume." Cassius Dio claimed he hired a bunch of thugs to set fires and then watched from the palace, singing and playing the lyre in costume.

The famous expression that "Nero fiddled while Rome burned" came later, according to Encyclopaedia Britannica, but it was adapted over centuries from an original story.

In any case, Nero's feckless response to the tragedy is now being compared to Trump's Twitter behavior amid the growing crises of the coronavirus outbreak and its economic fallout. 

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


The new Biden: Shorter speeches (and less time for gaffes) (Cleve R. Wootson Jr. , March 9, 2020, Washington Post)

It is a seismic shift for Biden, 77, who in five decades of political office and three White House runs has never had a reputation for breviloquence. It's a habit perhaps nurtured in the Senate, which prides itself on limitless debate and has a special term -- filibuster -- for talking endlessly.

In his shortened speeches, Biden still touches on his platform points, takes subtle jabs at Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and makes more than a few passing references to former president Barack Obama -- he just does it all much faster.

It requires a discipline that Donald certainly isn't capable of and that will test Uncle Joe.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM



With Tuesday's Democratic primaries hours away, former Vice President Joe Biden has found an unexpected supporter in Sterling Heights, Michigan Mayor Michael Taylor, a Republican.

"Since announcing my endorsement of Joe Biden I have received an outpouring of encouraging messages and believe even more strongly that Joe Biden is the candidate who can defeat Donald Trump in Macomb County and the State of Michigan," Taylor said in a statement to Newsweek on Monday.

While Taylor, a life-long Republican, voted for President Donald Trump in 2016, he said he would cast his ballot for Biden this year because Trump is "deranged."

Polls: Trump loses ground in key battleground states (Axios, 3/09/20)

Quarterly polling by Republican-founded Firehouse Strategies and 0ptimus finds that President Trump's lead dropped considerably against both Joe Biden and Bernie Sanders since December in Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


The Cost of Trump's Obama Hatred: The president is wasting one of the country's most valuable assets: the wisdom of his predecessor. (Markos Kounalakis, March 10, 2020, Washington Monthly)

When Roosevelt died, he left an unprepared Harry Truman to take over as his constitutionally mandated successor. Truman inherited an ongoing war, the overblown legacy of a four-term president and a decision to make about blowing up Japan with the world's newest weapon--the atomic bomb.

FDR never deeply briefed Truman, and 82 days into his vice presidency, Truman was thrust into the role of 33rd president. He sought a lifeline from the only other person alive who knew the pressures he was facing and understood the presidency. He needed an ex-president, and the only one available was a vilified California Republican: Herbert Hoover. Truman and Hoover joked that this was the beginning of a "former presidents' club."

Hoover, desperately seeking rehabilitation and respect, hungrily accepted the role of hidden adviser, careful consultant, proven European post-war logistics master and savior.

Trump has not only taken a page from FDR's playbook, he's writing a whole new chapter on political purges, with updated sections on baiting, backbiting and bullying former presidents. Barack Obama meet Herbert Hoover

In the recent past and on solemn national occasions, group photos of living presidents showed the world America's power and unity. It is remarkable to see pictures of Nixon, Ford, Carter, Bush and Clinton together. It is powerful to know that they relied on each other for insights into foreign leaders, difficult hostage negotiations, secret two-track discussions with adversaries, joint humanitarian missions and general counsel on thorny issues.

Today, those photos seem like relics of a bygone era. Instead of former U.S. presidents posing for Associated Press photos in the Oval Office, spying foreign journalists are now welcomed into the White House to shoot Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and Ambassador Sergey Kislyak who yuk it up near Andrew Jackson's portrait.