May 16, 2020

Posted by orrinj at 9:34 PM


'It eats him alive inside': Trump's latest attack shows endless obsession with Obama (David Smith, May. 16th, 2020, The Guardian)

President Barack Obama and President-elect Donald Trump once sat together in the Oval Office. "I was immediately struck by Trump's body language," wrote journalist Jon Karl in his memoir Front Row at The Trump Show. "I was seeing a side of him I had never seen. He seemed, believe it or not, humbled."

It was November 2016 and, just for once, Trump was not in charge of the room, Karl recalls. Obama was still president, directing the action and setting the tone. His successor "seemed a little dazed" and "a little freaked out". What the two men discussed in their meeting that day, only they know.

But what became clear in the next three and a half years is that Obama remains something of an obsession for Trump; the subject of a political and personal inferiority complex.

Observers point to a mix of anti-intellectualism, racism, vengeance and primitive envy over everything from Obama's Nobel peace prize to the scale of his inauguration crowd and social media following.

Posted by orrinj at 9:28 PM


Mike Pompeo recommended Trump firing of State Department inspector general, White House says (Spencer Kimball, 5/16/20, CNBC)

"Secretary Pompeo recommended the move, and President Trump agreed," a White House official said. [...]

A Democratic aide told NBC News that Linick was scrutinizing Pompeo's alleged misuse of a political appointee to perform person tasks for himself and his wife, Susan. 

The firing of Linick was also met with skepticism by some Republican lawmakers. Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, said Trump must provide details to Congress about why Linick was removed. 

Attorney General is going to be the most sought after job in the Biden Administration; Kamala needs to stake her claim now.

Posted by orrinj at 3:43 PM


Georgia candidates embrace group with extremist ties (Chris JoynerTia Mitchell, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution)

The photo shows Rep. Matt Gurtler, R-Tiger, with Chester Doles, a Georgia man with longstanding ties to numerous white supremacist organizations, including the National Alliance and Hammerskins, a racist skinhead gang. It was taken earlier this year at a meeting of American Patriots USA, a group founded by Doles last year in an attempt to appeal to more mainstream conservatives in the region. Other candidates for office in Georgia also appeared in the photograph with Doles, though none as high profile as Gurtler.

Posted by orrinj at 8:16 AM

GOLD COAST (profanity alert):

Two Coasts. One Virus. How New York Suffered Nearly 10 Times the Number of Deaths as California.: California's governor and San Francisco's mayor worked together to act early in confronting the COVID threat. For Andrew Cuomo and Bill de Blasio, it was a different story, and 27,000 New Yorkers have died so far. (Joe Sexton and Joaquin Sapien May 16, 2020, ProPublica)

In San Francisco, Breed cleaned up her language in a text to California Gov. Gavin Newsom. But she was no less emphatic: The city needed to be closed. Newsom had once been San Francisco's mayor, and he had appointed Breed to lead the city's Fire Commission in 2010.

Newsom responded immediately, saying she should coordinate with the counties surrounding San Francisco as they too were moving toward a shutdown. Breed said she spoke to representatives of those counties on March 15 and their public health officials were prepared to make the announcement on their own. On March 16, with just under 40 cases of COVID-19 in San Francisco and no deaths, Breed issued the order banning all but essential movement and interaction.

"I really feel like we didn't have a lot of good options," Breed said.

In an interview, California Health and Human Services Secretary Dr. Mark Ghaly said it was critical to allow Northern California counties to rely on their own experts, act with a degree of autonomy and thus perhaps pave the way for the state to expand on what they had done. And three days after San Francisco and its neighboring counties were closed, Newsom, on March 19, imposed the same restrictions on the rest of California.

Breed, it turns out, had sent de Blasio a copy of her detailed shelter-in-place order. She thought New York might benefit from it.

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, however, reacted to de Blasio's idea for closing down New York City with derision. It was dangerous, he said, and served only to scare people. Language mattered, Cuomo said, and "shelter-in-place" sounded like it was a response to a nuclear apocalypse.

Moreover, Cuomo said, he alone had the power to order such a measure.

For years, Cuomo and de Blasio, each of whom has harbored national political ambitions, had engaged in a kind of intrastate cold war, a rivalry that to many often felt childish and counterproductive. When de Blasio finally decided to close the city's schools, it was Cuomo who rushed to make the public announcement, claiming it as his decision.

"No city in the state can quarantine itself without state approval," Cuomo said of de Blasio's call for a shelter-in-place order. "I have no plan whatsoever to quarantine any city."

Cuomo's conviction didn't last. On March 22, he, too, shuttered his state. The action came six days after San Francisco had shut down, five days after de Blasio suggested doing similarly and three days after all of California had been closed by Newsom. By then, New York faced a raging epidemic, with the number of confirmed cases at 15,000 doubling every three or four days.

Health officials well understood the grim mathematics. One New York City official said of those critical days in March: "We had been pretty clear with the state about the implications of every day, every hour, every minute."

As of May 15, there were nearly 350,000 COVID-19 cases in New York and more than 27,500 deaths, nearly a third of the nation's total. The corresponding numbers in California: just under 75,000 cases and slightly more than 3,000 deaths. In New York City, the country's most populous and densest, there had been just under 20,000 deaths; in San Francisco, the country's second densest and 13th most populous, there had been 35.

The differing outcomes will be studied for years, as more is learned about the virus, its unique qualities, its varying strains, its specific impact on certain populations, and the role of factors like poverty, pre-existing health problems and public transportation in its spread and lethality.

Posted by orrinj at 7:57 AM


The radical wrongness of Bernard Mandeville: the free marketeer whose bee analogy came back to sting him: His cherished text "The Fable of the Bees" is undermined by the fate of our modern pollinators (Julian Baggini, May 10, 2020, The Prospect)

Like its 18th-century predecessor, this 21st-century bee story is a fable with wider resonance. To understand this we have to see how the attraction of Mandeville's original metaphor rested in large part on the naturalness of the hive. Proponents of free markets ever since have played the same card, most obviously when appealing to a Darwinian survival of the fittest to justify the "creative destruction" in free markets.

Coupled with this appeal to the glory of mother nature was a dim view of human nature. This view has been celebrated and defended as robust realism. As Mandeville said in his discussion of his fable, "Most writers are always teaching men what they should be, and hardly ever trouble their heads with telling them What they really are."

But Mandeville's logic contained two fatal flaws. In the fable, main character Jove becomes so indignant at the vice of the bees that he "in anger swore, he'd rid The bawling hive of fraud." The result was calamity. The economy collapses and everything runs to ruin. In case the reader is too dim to understand the message, Mandeville ends the poem with "the moral," namely

Fools only strive
To make a Great an Honest Hive. [...]
Fraud, Luxury and Pride must live,
While we the Benefits receive:
Hunger's a dreadful Plague, no doubt,
Yet who digests or thrives without?

Mandeville gives private vice all the credit for creating general prosperity and portrays private virtue as wholly harmful. Half a century later, Adam Smith saw through this caricature of human nature. Smith is often is presented as endorsing Mandevellian cynicism. Out of context, one of his most famous passages does indeed sound like something from The Fable of the Bees:

It is not from the benevolence of the butcher, the brewer or the baker that we expect our dinner, but from regard to their own self-interest. We address ourselves, not to their humanity but to their self-love, and never talk to them of our own necessities but of their advantages.

But Smith explicitly condemned "the system of Dr Mandeville" saying that it is "wholly pernicious." Smith's attack on Mandeville came in The Theory of Moral Sentiments (1759) in which he argued that "How selfish soever man may be supposed, there are evidently some principles in his nature, which interest him in the fortune of others, and render their happiness necessary to him, though he derives nothing from it except the pleasure of seeing it."

Not only did Smith believe that human motivation cannot be reduced to pure egotistical drives, he also saw that whatever the natural benefits of markets it took artifice to preserve them. In The Wealth of Nations (1766) he argued that without regulation, monopolists would artificially restrict production and raise prices. A beehive many not need regulating but the human hive most certainly does. If the "invisible hand" is attached to a corrupt, unchecked body, it will wreak havoc.

The plight of present-day pollinators alerts us to a deeper problem with both Mandeville's logic and the cruder applications of Smith's. Both appeal to the "naturalness" of market mechanisms and human avarice. But human civilisation is not a hive and human beings not wholly bad. What's more, bees never alter nature, human beings often do. In doing so, we can undermine precisely what makes nature work.

Posted by orrinj at 7:18 AM


Trump to restore partial WHO funding after halt over pandemic handling - report (Times of Israel, 5/16/20)

The US was the biggest funder of the WHO, providing it $400 million last year -- Fox News said that if the plan goes ahead, the US funding level of the WHO would be around one-tenth of that sum. just one example of how much he loathes America. Imagine RWR or W saying we want to be the equal of the PRC.

Posted by orrinj at 7:13 AM