March 12, 2020

Posted by orrinj at 7:03 PM


Posted by orrinj at 6:53 PM


Trump Considers Vetoing FISA Reauthorization Bill at Behest of Mike Lee, Rand Paul (TOBIAS HOONHOUT, March 12, 2020, National Review)

President Donald Trump greets supporters in Des Moines, Iowa, January 30, 2020. (Jonathan Ernst/Reuters)
President Trump suggested Thursday that he could veto a reauthorization of FISA's expiring surveillance powers, tweeting that "many Republican Senators want me to veto the FISA Bill." [...]

[T]he bill has drawn criticism from FISA hawks on both sides of the aisle, with House Republicans who support more stringent reforms telling National Review that their coalition of conservatives and progressives who wanted to substantively change FISA were rebuffed by leadership.

Senators Mike Lee (R., Utah) and Rand Paul (R., Ky.) share critical views of FISA's civil liberties abuses, and both publicly condemned the House's bill.

"I'm going to use every option at my disposal to stop the House bill and to offer up amendments," Lee told Politico. "I have given no one any reason to believe that I would be unwilling to let the clock run out." He added that he had told Trump "publicly and privately" To veto the bill.

Paul told reporters that the current bill "with no amendments is completely unacceptable and an affront to any of those who were ever concerned about FISA abuse."

The entire FISA regime should be removed---our intelligence services ought not have to seek a court's permission to spy on foreign communications, which, by definition, are not constitutionally protected.

Posted by orrinj at 6:21 PM


Trump's Coronavirus Speech Sparks 'Total Chaos' in His Own Administration (Asawin Suebsaeng & Erin Banco, Mar. 12, 2020, Daily Beast)

Two officials in the U.S. State Department told The Daily Beast that foreign service officers and diplomats were unprepared for the president's announcement and spent the early hours of Thursday scrambling to figure out how their work and travel would be impacted in the short term. 

"It is just total chaos," said one official currently abroad, adding that they did not know if they would have to return to the U.S. immediately or if they would need to quarantine for two weeks upon arriving. Diplomats and other U.S. staff overseas did not know if they'd be able to even visit their families back in the States, and frantically searched for answers that weren't immediately available from Foggy Bottom or the West Wing.

In his Oval Office address Wednesday night, President Trump announced that he was banning travel from Europe to the U.S. but did not specify the details of how that plan would be rolled out and if Americans could still travel to the region. He also did not give European officials a heads up, saying the situation required him to move with haste.

The result was confusion. Another U.S. official said they received calls from their European counterparts asking for clarification on exactly what the president was restricting in regard to travel to and from European countries. As of Thursday night, U.S. officials abroad said they were still unclear exactly how Trump's proclamation would be implemented in real-time. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo had not updated embassies with any guidance or notes on preventative measures.

"I'm used to it with this administration that we wouldn't know anything until the morning after," another U.S. official said. "But now basically a full work day later? That's surprising even for these times."

That lack of clarity extended to within the walls of the White House.

Posted by orrinj at 6:10 PM


The US stock market has now wiped out the entire $11.5 trillion of value it gained since Trump's 2016 election victory (Ben Winck, Mar. 12, 2020, Business Insider)

US stocks are down more than 8% Thursday afternoon as coronavirus risks build and investors fear near-term recession. The total market cap of the US equities market, as measured by the Russell 3000 index, has declined by $11.5 trillion from its February 19 peak to $23.8 trillion as of Thursday morning.

The current market cap is roughly equal to the size of the stock market when Donald Trump emerged victorious in the 2016 election. The Trump administration repeatedly downplayed the virus and its risks when outsized stock selling began in late February, with top economic adviser Larry Kudlow even saying the outbreak was contained on February 25.

When President Biden is sworn in, it will be like Donald never existed.  And we'll welcome his victims back to the fold.

Posted by orrinj at 6:00 PM



Experts generally agree that the key swing states to focus on this year are Arizona, Florida, Michigan, North Carolina, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin--all of which were won by Trump in 2016.

"Those will be the six most critical states," Paul Maslin, a longtime Democratic pollster who worked on the presidential campaigns of Jimmy Carter and Howard Dean, told Newsweek.

"There will be others that'll be important in varying degrees," he said, "but those will be ones we'll ultimately look back on and say, 'How many of them did Democrats win back and were they able to win enough to win the presidency?'"

Billionaire Michael Bloomberg is making those areas a centerpiece of his revised 2020 agenda for Democrats. The former New York City mayor abandoned his own White House run this week after a disastrous Super Tuesday performance and endorsed former Vice President Joe Biden. He's now using his wealth and resources to boost the Democratic nominee in the general election.

Bloomberg's soon-to-be-formed super PAC will focus on advertising in those six critical swing states. Staff in each of those areas have signed contracts to work on the election effort through November, The Washington Post reported last week.

America's Mayor.

Posted by orrinj at 5:54 PM


HOW TRUMP MADE AMERICA FAR LESS PREPARED FOR CORONAVIRUS: After ignoring warnings and ousting experts, the national security apparatus is now scrambling to address the pandemic. (ERIC LUTZ, MARCH 12, 2020, Vanity Fair)

After slashing federal pandemic response teams and kneecapping other public health initiatives throughout his first term, he failed to prioritize the potential for outbreak, declining to devote adequate resources to the looming threat. Now, as the DNI's grim forecast last year proves correct, the United States' national security apparatus is scrambling both to address a growing crisis in the country--and, potentially, within its ranks.

America's national security and defense agencies are grappling with how to combat the virus quickly spreading across the globe--and the country--while simultaneously keeping their own staffs safe. But, critics and observers told Politico Thursday, actions by the Trump administration, like the 2018 ouster of Tim Ziemer, the White House's top pandemic response expert, could make an effective response more challenging. "[Staff shakeups] have had a profound ripple effect, the consequences of which we are seeing play out now, I think," Ned Price, who served in the CIA and on the National Security Council under Barack Obama during the 2014 Ebola outbreak, told the outlet.

As Politico pointed out, Ziemer, who was not replaced; Luciana Borio, the National Security Council's director for medical and biodefense preparedness; and Tom Bossert, the former Homeland Security adviser who oversaw a since-disbanded global health security team, all were ousted in 2018, shortly after John Bolton joined the Trump White House. According to Price, that leaves the current administration with fewer tools than its predecessors to combat public health threats. "There are directorates that can pick up the slack," Price said. "But you don't have the same level of expertise of people who have lived through Ebola, H1N1, and other disease responses."

"It would be nice if that office was still there," Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases and a leading voice in the U.S. on the coronavirus threat, said on Capitol Hill Wednesday of the global health security directorate the Trump administration disbanded.

Posted by orrinj at 3:49 PM


Joe Biden already sounds as if he's the president (Jennifer Rubin, March 12, 2020, Washington Post)

Speaking from Wilmington, Del., without an audience, former vice president Joe Biden demonstrated what a president should sound like and do in the midst of a pandemic. He was calm, forceful and direct. He had a detailed plan to offer. And most of all, he showed compassion for those afflicted -- something President Trump seems incapable of doing -- and made clear we are all in this together. "It will infect Republicans, independents and Democrats alike," Biden said. "It will touch people in positions in power, as well as the most vulnerable in our society." He added, "The coronavirus does not discriminate based on national origin, race, gender, or Zip code."

The contrast with Trump's inept performance Wednesday night was breathtaking. Biden rebuked Trump for xenophobia and blame-casting. "Neither should we panic or fall back on xenophobia," he said. "Labeling covid-19 a 'foreign virus' does not displace accountability for the misjudgments that have been taken thus far by the Trump administration. Let me be crystal clear: The coronavirus does not have a political affiliation."

He made clear that the White House had dropped the ball, pointing to its failure to test Americans on a massive scale. "The administration's failure on testing is colossal, and it's a failure of planning, leadership and execution," Biden said. "By next week, the number of tests should be in the millions, not the thousands."

Most important, he laid out a detailed plan both in his speech and in writing, displaying a mastery of the topic and of government light-years beyond anything the White House has devised.

Posted by orrinj at 3:12 PM


Trump's Botched Coronavirus Speech (DANIEL LARISON, 3/12/20, American Conservative)

The president's speech on the outbreak last night went over like a lead balloon. The new 30-day ban on travel from some parts of Europe took our allies completely by surprise, because they had not been consulted about it at all:

European officials strongly condemned President Trump's decision to severely restrict travel from Europe to the United States on Thursday, a sudden move that took them by surprise and that many saw as politically motivated.

Of all the slights between Washington and Europe in recent years, the new travel restrictions represented a blow an order of magnitude beyond previous disputes. In a short statement on Thursday morning rare in its directness, the European Union expressed only exasperation.

It is not the most urgent problem right now, but once the outbreak is over our allies are going to remember how our government treated them in the middle of a pandemic. Instead of the solidarity and cooperation that one would expect between allies, they get a gratuitous travel ban.

Trump also botched his explanation of the details of his own policy, which created panic among Americans still in Europe who thought that they might be cut off from coming home. That isn't the case, but that didn't stop a run on last-minute airline tickets because Americans thought that they had just a couple days to get out [...]

Markets also tanked because the president initially said that the ban would also apply to goods as well as people... the assertion that he's not senile, which just takes away an excuse.

Posted by orrinj at 12:52 PM


Pence attempts damage control after Trump's address but makes things worse (Dan Desai Martin, March 12, 2020, American Independent)

Trump declared that cargo from Europe would be prohibited from entering the United States, but hours later he tweeted that trade would not be impacted.

Trump also said that he would suspend "all travel from Europe to the United States for the next 30 days." Afterward, the administration had to clarify that the restrictions did not apply to U.S. citizens and legal permanent residents.

The administration also had to correct Trump to state that new travel restrictions only apply to parts of Europe rather than all of it. Though none of the travel restrictions are directed at countries where Trump owns hotel properties.

Pence also discussed coronavirus testing availability in the United States, struggling to provide accurate information.

He was asked about numbers released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention showing a decline in coronavirus testing over the past week, from more than 1,200 tests administered on March 5 to only eight tests administered on March 10.

"Why are the number of tests going down?" Pence was asked.

"Well, I don't believe are," Pence replied.

Pence then said that labs in every state are able to conduct coronavirus testing, but did not repeat Trump's promise that anyone who wanted to be tested could be tested.

Instead, Pence touted the ability of private companies to produce more tests at some point in the near future.

"Ultimately, it's going to be the commercial laboratories that have the capacity to get tests all over the country, and we're making steady progress," Pence said.

When pushed about the testing numbers released by CDC, Pence equivocated.

"I'm not saying they're wrong," he said, but the numbers "may not be complete, because we don't necessarily collect today all the information from state laboratories about tests that are being done."

When asked yet again how many tests have been administered across the country, Pence replied, "Well, I would leave that to the experts."

Pence was not clear as to which experts he was referring.

Posted by orrinj at 12:41 PM


Four Eyes or Six? (William Malcolmson, 12 March, 2020, The Critic)

Texas GOP Senator Ted Cruz recently questioned the UK's future role in the 'Five Eyes' intelligence sharing partnership in the light of the British Government's decision to continue allowing the Chinese company Huawei access to its 5G network. He joined Donald Trump in criticising the decision and ominously remarked that 'four eyes are better than six eyes', at least, if that extra eye is looking in the wrong direction.

The US extracted a top spy from Russia after Trump revealed classified information (Sonam Sheth, Sep 10, 2019, Business Insider)

The US decided to extract a top-secret source from Russia after President Donald Trump revealed classified information to two Russian officials in 2017, CNN reported on Monday.

A person directly involved with the discussions told the outlet the US was concerned that Trump and his administration routinely mishandled classified intelligence and that their actions could expose the covert source as a spy within the Russian government.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Besieged Trump announces Europe travel ban in effort to stem coronavirus pandemic (Philip Rucker and Anne Gearan, March 11, 2020, Washington Post)

For the 11 minutes he addressed the nation Wednesday, Trump turned in a laboring performance -- one intended to project calm competence that instead seemed to reveal uncertainty. Seated behind the Resolute Desk, the president struggled at moments to read the words on the teleprompter. He clasped his hands and twiddled his thumbs. He spoke with a curious affect, his voice sounding raspy and his delivery lacking the passion typically evident in his speeches. [...]

The stately Oval Office setting underscored the gravity of the crisis, but Trump's demeanor made clear how hemmed in he has become. For weeks now, Trump's handling of the growing crisis has invited intensifying criticism. He has contradicted the public health experts in his own government, spread misinformation, accused the media of overhyping the threat of the virus to hurt his presidency, sought to lay blame on Democrats and the Chinese, and erupted in private meetings with advisers.

The coronavirus is testing Trump's governing philosophy that gut instinct is better than traditional expertise, that preparation and careful study is no match for impulse and luck. And the outcome is threatening his chief claim for a second term: a booming economy.

Trump's latest attempt to calm markets only makes stocks fall more (Emily Singer, March 12, 2020, American Independent)

Donald Trump attempted to mitigate investors' fears about the novel coronavirus and stop the stock market slide with an address to the nation Wednesday night.

However, following the address -- in which he announced a travel ban for most of Europe, getting facts about his own administration's policy wrong in the process -- the market slide more.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average opened down 1,696 points -- erasing another 7% from the market, according to trading data. It triggered yet another automatic stop to trading for the second time in two weeks.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


US chides Likud campaign for 'promoting hatred' against Arab Israelis (RAPHAEL AHREN , 3/12/20, Times of Israel)

The US State Department on Wednesday criticized Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's Likud party for "promoting hatred" against Arab Israelis in the two 2019 Knesset election campaigns.

"During the April and September national election campaigns, the Likud Party deployed messages promoting hatred against Arab citizens," the department's annual human rights report says.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM



Dr. Anthony Fauci, a leading health expert and member of President Donald Trump's coronavirus task force, predicted three years ago that the administration would have to deal with a surprise disease outbreak.

The director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) told a Georgetown University event on pandemic preparedness in January 2017 that there was "no doubt" President Trump's team would face "challenges that their predecessors were faced with" over infectious diseases.

He also called for the creation of a "public health emergency fund" aimed at handling situations such as a surprise virus outbreak, adding that waits for funding had been "painful" in the past.

Delivering a keynote speech at the Georgetown University Medical Center event, Dr. Fauci said: "If there's one message that I want to leave with you today... is that there is no question that there will be a challenge to the coming administration in the arena of infectious diseases.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Democrats smell blood in Texas after sky-high primary turnout (ALLY MUTNICK, 03/12/2020, Politico)

Staggeringly high Democratic turnout in the Texas suburbs last week has the party bullish about capturing a half-dozen seats that slipped through its grasp in the 2018 midterms.

Democratic primaries in six GOP-held districts saw a roughly 100 percent increase in voters compared to 2016, according to a POLITICO analysis of turnout data. The spike indicates that a lethal recipe might be brewing for Republicans in the run-up to November: President Donald Trump's unpopularity in the suburbs, combined with rapid demographic change and an amped-up Democratic base.

The loss of TX is how Nativism ends.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Florida poll shows Biden with staggering 44-point lead over Sanders (GARY FINEOUT, 03/12/2020, Politico)

Biden is lapping Sanders in voter support, with support from 66 percent of likely Democratic primary voters to 22 percent for Sanders, according to a University of North Florida poll taken March 5-10.

Fun watching the Left/Right decompensate as they realize that the relative success of Bernie/Donald was just a function of no one liking Hillary.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Trump's Authoritarian Blindness Comes Home to RoostCOVID-19 is revealing one of Trump's biggest weaknesses. (ROBERT TRACINSKI  MARCH 12, 2020, The Bulwark)

What is "authoritarian blindness"? It's a term for the well-documented tendency of an authoritarian state to be unaware of what is happening in the world around it and unable to respond appropriately. The paradox of authoritarian regimes is that the more efficient and all-pervasive the surveillance state, the less it knows about what is going on. The regime becomes blinded because people are afraid to tell the truth.

A fascinating article by Zeynep Tufekci described how this phenomenon was a factor in the Chinese government's initial response to the COVID-19 outbreak. Because an authoritarian system is designed to suppress information, rather than absorb it, the doctors on the front lines who initially warned about the disease were ignored and sometimes punished: "If people are too afraid to talk, and if punishing people for 'rumors' becomes the norm, a doctor punished for spreading news of a disease in one province becomes just another day, rather than an indication of impending crisis."

Tufekci provides a great analogy:

An Orwellian surveillance-based system would be overwhelming and repressive, as it is now in China, but it would also be similar to losing sensation in parts of one's body due to nerve injuries. Without the pain to warn the brain, the hand stays on the hot stove, unaware of the damage to the flesh until it's too late.

You can begin to see how this might apply to the Trump administration. No, we do not live under an authoritarian system, and there is no well-developed surveillance state or regime of censorship in America. But Donald Trump has developed and promoted two key concepts that produce much the same effect as authoritarian blindness: "fake news" and the "deep state."

The point of the "fake news" concept is to describe information from any media not obsequiously friendly to the president as some kind of conspiracy intended to hurt him. Veteran reporter Lesley Stahl says Trump told her he uses the term "to discredit you all and demean you all so that when you write negative stories about me no one will believe you."

The point of the "deep state" concept is to describe information coming to the president from within the federal bureaucracy as a partisan conspiracy to overthrow him by means of a "coup." (That's the president's word, not mine.) Thus, some of Trump's prominent supporters dismissed a warning from a CDC official by spinning a conspiracy theory connecting her to the investigation of Russian interference in the 2016 election.

The practical effect of these two concepts is that they create a voluntarily accepted, self-induced authoritarian blindness, in which the administration and its circle of sycophants will accept no information from outside their bubble.

You can already see this blindness manifesting itself in the administration's muddled messages about COVID-19. 

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


The White House scrambles to clarify key details from Trump's speech announcing his coronavirus response (Grace Panetta, 3/11/20, Business Insider)

Minutes after President Donald Trump delivered a major address on the administration's response to the novel coronavirus, COVID-19, his own administration and other US officials publicly contradicted three important claims from his speech. 

It's not like a guy his age even knows what he's saying.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Coronavirus: Greta Thunberg urges climate protesters to avoid large gatherings (The Local, 12 March 2020)

Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg, who has mobilised millions of young people across the globe, asked fellow campaigners to avoid mass protests in a bid to help halt the spread of the coronavirus.

She said her "Fridays for Future" movement would organise online strikes instead.

The Swedish activist warned her followers it was vital they listened to the advice of health experts who have advised people to avoid large public gatherings to slow down the spread of the virus which has infected more than 125,000 people worldwide.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Trump's travel ban sidesteps his own European resorts (RYAN HEATH, 03/12/2020, Politico)

President Donald Trump's new European travel restrictions have a convenient side effect: They exempt nations where three Trump-owned golf resorts are located.

Trump's coronavirus speech was laced with xenophobia (Laura McGann, Mar 11, 2020, Vox)

Seated behind his desk in the White House Wednesday, Trump looked into the camera and warned Americans of an enemy who has infiltrated our borders. We are at war, he said, with a "foreign virus." [...]

Trump rode into office on a message of division, of fear and hate and xenophobia. He announced his campaign in 2015 by smearing Mexicans. Even his inaugural address was laced with dark notes. "From this day forward," he said during his address, "it's going to be only America first." Xenophobia isn't a bug in the system for him; it's a feature.

Throughout his time in office, again and again, he's rallied his supporters through fear of outsiders -- whether it was fear of travelers from Muslim-majority countries or asylum seekers at the US-Mexico border. He's portrayed foreigners as filthy and derided others' homelands as "s[***]hole countries."

Now, faced with explaining his government's response to an outbreak that's getting worse, he's relying on the same tropes.

On Wednesday night, when he should have been calling on Americans to come together, he attempted to make us afraid of all of Europe. "To keep new cases from entering our shores, we will be suspending all travel from Europe to the United States for the next 30 days," Trump said (excluding the UK for some reason).

This isn't the first time in history a leader has stoked fears among the public by linking outsiders to germs, of course. It's been part of many dark chapters in world history. Researchers have documented the repeated, often unfounded fears of connections between germs and immigrants throughout the 20th century. In a moment of crisis, it's particularly jarring and dangerous.