This Afternoon’s Presser

There is no reason to believe it will be any different from yesterday’s.

I had the good fortune not to watch any of it myself, but some people think it’s…

Instructive.

Calling it a ‘peaceful protest,’ Trump flouts coronavirus guidelines with golf club gathering
By Toluse Olorunnipa, Washington Post
August 8, 2020

Just before 7 p.m. Friday evening, members of President Trump’s private golf club here began streaming into a gilded ballroom by the dozens. Some carried wine glasses — few wore masks.

The happy hour scene just steps from the golf course was orchestrated by Trump, who decided late Friday to hold an impromptu news conference and invite his club members to gather indoors in defiance of state restrictions aimed at slowing the spread of the novel coronavirus.

With coronavirus cases nearing 5 million in the United States and average daily deaths topping 1,000, Trump’s retreat to the confines of his private club offered him an opportunity to create a kind of alternate reality in which his presidency is not being beset by numerous crises.

After walking into the room to the sound of applause and “Hail to the Chief” playing over a loudspeaker, Trump told the crowd that newly released job numbers showed a resurging economy, the border wall was continuing to be built and executive orders were being drawn up to circumvent an intransigent Congress.

The pandemic, he told the room, “is disappearing. It’s going to disappear.”

Many in the crowd behaved as if the pandemic had already vanished, forgoing guidelines on social distancing, face coverings and avoiding nonessential gatherings.

Playing dual roles as president and business owner, Trump seemed happy to facilitate a carefree evening for his members — despite the health risks.

In the few minutes Trump spent focusing on the health crisis, he presented misleading or incomplete statistics indicating that other countries were facing a new “surge” in infections and the United States’ position as the world’s epicenter for the coronavirus was primarily due to the large number of tests being performed, an argument health experts have continuously said is incorrect.

“We’re constantly showing cases, cases, cases, cases are up,” Trump said. “Well, the reason cases are up because we’re doing, one of the reasons, we’re doing a lot of testing.”

But health experts say it will take vigilant mitigation practices by the public — not positive spin or wishful thinking — to gain control of a virus that has killed more than 157,000 Americans.

Little of that was on display when Trump’s well-heeled golf club members began making their way into the grand ballroom under a light drizzle Friday. Some people had their temperatures checked at the door, many didn’t. The group or more than 100 mingled in one small section of the 5,000-square-foot ballroom, with mere inches between each person.

Asked by reporters if they had been tested for the coronavirus before the impromptu conference, no one in the crowd responded.

After reporters noted the lack of social distancing in the crowd, a club official just told the crowd to “spread out a little bit” because “the tweets are going out.” Masks were also handed out shortly before Trump arrived.

New Jersey guidelines limit most indoor gatherings to 25 people or 25 percent of a room’s capacity, whichever is lower. People are required to wear masks and maintain a distance of at least six feet.

The office of New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy (D) referred questions about Trump’s club event to the Bedminster police and the New Jersey attorney general’s office.

“At this time we’re not going to comment on an alleged violation,” Steven Barnes, a spokesman for the attorney general’s office, said Friday. The Bedminster police did not respond to a request for comment.

Asked why he was staging an event in defiance of state guidelines, Trump denied that the gathering was unlawful. He cited an exemption that allows for indoor gatherings of up to 100 people for political events or protests.

“You have an exclusion in the law. It says peaceful protest or political activity, right?” Trump said. “And you can call it political activity, but I’d call it peaceful protest because they heard you were coming up and they know the news is fake.”

The question drew boos from the crowd and Trump’s response was greeted with applause. The president walked away as his club members continued to cheer.

But as the news conference ended, it remained unclear why Trump decided to stage the unscheduled event.

Members in the crowd were mostly silent through the president’s remarks, a far cry from the kind of raucous rallies he held before the pandemic. At some point between Trump’s remarks on the “favored-nations clause” for pharmaceuticals and the personnel policies at the Tennessee Valley Authority, a little girl in a yellow dress took a seat on the floor.

Before the 40-minute news conference, Trump briefly stepped out to privately address some of the members of his club, which reportedly has a six-figure initiation fee. He promised a one-of-a-kind show to the group, which included men in golf shorts and gem-tone polo shirts, women in sundresses and a smattering of children in miniaturized versions of these outfits.

“You’ll get to meet the fake news tonight. You’ll get to see what I have to go through,” he told the group, according to CNN, which pulled the audio from a hot mic. “Who’s there? Oh all my killers are there, wow. So you’ll get to see some of the people that we deal with every day.”

But the club’s ballroom, described on a company website as “lavishly decorated” with “exquisite French doors, crystal chandeliers and sconces,” struck some as a poor choice to hold a news conference in a middle of a pandemic that has decimated the economy.

“Who decided it would look good for Trump to speak to a bunch of rich Trump club members about the need to deliver unemployed Americans relief,” Amanda Carpenter, a former aide to Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Tex.) and a Trump critic who wrote a book titled “Gaslighting America: Why We Love It When Trump Lies To Us,” wrote on Twitter. “All this shows is that Trump isn’t in Washington, isn’t working on this with urgency, and is supported by wealthy loyalists who can’t be bothered with masks.”

As for the president, he has expressed no qualms about the optics of meeting with large groups of wealthy supporters at a time when so many are struggling. He is scheduled to hold fundraisers in the Hamptons and near the Jersey Shore this weekend before returning to Washington on Sunday.

And he is scheduled to hold another news conference — or peaceful protest — at his golf club Saturday afternoon.

So, a curtain raiser. Yesterday goes in the Greatest Hits bin.

Cartnoon

What Makes A Sandwich A Sandwich?

Well, if you believe the myth it’s a piece of bread or two (there is considerable debate on this point) with a stuffing that you can eat without utensils while playing cards and not getting them greasy.

On a deeper level, what is anything?

Plato posited “Absolutes” which carried within them the definition of the essential elements that made some thing, say a Chair, a Chair regardless of superficial variation.

My question is- “Can you sit on it?”

The Breakfast Club (Originality)

Welcome to The Breakfast Club! We’re a disorganized group of rebel lefties who hang out and chat if and when we’re not too hungover we’ve been bailed out we’re not too exhausted from last night’s (CENSORED) the caffeine kicks in. Join us every weekday morning at 9am (ET) and weekend morning at 10:00am (ET) (or whenever we get around to it) to talk about current news and our boring lives and to make fun of LaEscapee! If we are ever running late, it’s PhilJD’s fault.

This Day in History

President Richard Nixon says he’ll resign; Thieves stage Britain’s ‘Great Train Robbery’; Nazi saboteurs in the U.S. executed during World War II; Mexico’s Emiliano Zapata and actor Dustin Hoffman born.

Breakfast Tunes

Something to Think about over Coffee Prozac

Originality is the fine art of remembering what you hear but forgetting where you heard it.

Laurence J. Peter

Continue reading

The Death Cult Rebellion

One thing I don’t quite buy into is the optimistic projection of saving 60,000 lives (that’s 20 9/11s by the way). I don’t think 95% compliance is achievable, look at traffic laws (another full disclosure, I work closely with a company that measures traffic law compliance), the numbers are pretty horrible. When was the last time you drove 55 outside of a 35 mph zone?

Pondering the Pundits

Pondering the Pundits” is an Open Thread. It is a selection of editorials and opinions from around the news media and the internet blogs. The intent is to provide a forum for your reactions and opinions, not just to the opinions presented, but to what ever you find important.

Thanks to ek hornbeck, click on the link and you can access all the past “Pondering the Pundits”.

Follow us on Twitter @StarsHollowGzt

Jamelle Bouie: Trump and His Allies Think They Know Who Counts

But history has a way of confounding those who think they can control it.

Over the last few years, the Trump administration has fought to shape the 2020 census to its political benefit and the benefit of the Republican Party. In 2018, it sought to introduce a citizenship question on the census itself, to reduce response rates among immigrant communities. Then, after that was rebuffed by the Supreme Court, it tried to exclude unauthorized immigrants altogether, in direct conflict with the Constitution, which calls on Congress to count “the whole number of persons in each State.” Now it wants to cut the census short and deliver it uncompleted — a last-ditch effort to rig the nation’s politics for the sake of its exclusionary political vision.

The goal is to freeze political representation in place as much as possible; to keep demographic change — the growing share of Americans who are Black, Hispanic and Asian-American — from swamping the Republican Party’s ability to win national elections with a white, heavily rural minority.

The census, as Trump and his allies correctly understand, is a critical source of dynamism within the American political system. A political majority (or in Trump’s case, a minority) can try to insulate itself from demographic shifts and transformations, but the fact of mandatory reapportionment makes that difficult. New people — whether immigrants or Americans moving from place to place — will always mean new politics.

It is ironic, then, that the origin of the census lies less in principles of democratic representation, and more in the interests of slaveholders, who wanted political recognition of their slave wealth, with constitutional assurance that this peculiar interest would always weigh on future apportionment. But in a perfect example of unintended consequences, the slaveholders’ push for a census would help lay the groundwork for the end of the institution itself.

Catherine Rampell: The July jobs report sounds pretty good — until you look at this recession chart

Two cheers for the July jobs report.

Last month the U.S. economy added 1.8 million jobs. On the one hand, this number — at least in isolation — sounds pretty big! Until quite recently, we’d never even had a monthly job growth number in the seven figures. On the other hand, it’s a big slowdown from the 4.8 million jobs added in June. More important, you also have to consider how many more jobs were lost in the spring, which was an eight-digit figure (nearly 21 million positions were axed in April alone).

Then you realize that even with the recent growth, the country is still very much in the red.

Total non-farm payrolls are down by a net of 8.4 percent, the equivalent of nearly 13 million jobs, since the recession officially began in February. The U.S. unemployment rate is 10.2 percent, still higher than it ever was during the Great Recession. If you also include workers who are involuntary part-timers, people who have given up looking for work, and those who are still being accidentally misclassified as employed despite being temporarily laid off, the underemployment rate would be closer to 17.5 percent.

Amanda Marcotte: N.Y. attorney general is doing conservatives a favor by going after NRA: They’re its victims

NRA executives ran an apparent con game on conservatives for years — but the right can never admit it’s been had

On Thursday, New York State Attorney General Letitia James filed a lawsuit seeking to dissolve the National Rifle Association, on the grounds that it’s functioning as a massive grift and not, as it bills itself, a “civil rights” organization for gun owners. There’s no way to know how this will play out — the NRA still wields political power, largely because it’s been so useful to Republicans — but the evidence marshaled by James and independent journalists is overwhelming.

As James said in her statement, the NRA “went unchecked for decades while top executives funneled millions into their own pockets,” and the degree of corruption was so broad and deep that the scheme has “basically destroyed all the assets of the NRA.” [..]

Unsurprisingly, conservatives reacted to the announcement by James with outrage. The most typical talking point was misdirection, with conservatives whining “what about Planned Parenthood?” in such numbers that “Planned Parenthood” started to trend on Twitter.

The answer to this “what about,” of course, is simple: Planned Parenthood is not a fraudulent organization run by grifters who redirect millions in donor contributions into their own pockets. It’s a legitimate medical organization and reproductive rights advocacy group. Comparing the two is a little like saying that if Jeffrey Dahmer had to go to prison as a serial killer, George R.R. Martin should go to prison for being a serial storyteller. It’s not the same thing!

Heather Digby Parton: Will Trump face real consequences for his crimes? The answer will haunt America’s future

What will we tell future generations — and future Republican presidents — if Trump gets away with everything?

If the nation manages to oust Donald Trump from the presidency in November — and he actually agrees to leave in January — the new administration and the Congress will have its hands full just trying to keep the country from falling even deeper into a depression and halting the death toll from the pandemic. Foreign policy will have to be dealt with immediately, as will the assessment of the damage to the administrative state. Our failed public health response to the coronavirus is a deadly wakeup call: The federal government has atrophied under the insane fiscal and political priorities inflicted upon it over the past couple of decades by nihilist Republicans and impotent Democrats. And that’s just for starters.

But one of the most important priorities must be to re-establish democratic and ethical norms in the wake of Trump’s brazen corruption. Congress can make new laws and the president can create executive orders, but if they want to get the job done there must be some accountability for this crime spree.

It’s hard to know where to start, but as you may recall there’s a report that lays out in great detail Donald Trump’s attempts to obstruct justice in the Russia investigation. It even makes a very strong case that he can be prosecuted after he leaves office for committing these crimes.

Greg Sargent: The Trump fiasco just got worse. That gives Biden a hidden opening.

As our public health and economic crises grow more dire, due in part to President Trump’s depraved incompetence, this deterioration has increased pressure on Joe Biden to rise to this distressing national moment. He has responded by projecting his intention to function as an ambitious president in the mould of Franklin D. Roosevelt.

But what does it mean to speak to the nation about these challenges in an FDR-like fashion? What should that entail for the presumptive Democratic nominee in concrete and rhetorical terms?

Two new developments — the release of a comprehensive blueprint on our economic future from the Roosevelt Institute, and the increasing odds that Congress’ economic rescue package will fall far short — provide an occasion to look at those questions. [..]

But in the current context, it gives rise to the report’s other core idea — that our crises have exposed deeper systemic problems and injustices in our political economy, ones that predated the virus and are baked into our market rules, ones that we created and that we can change.

Paul Waldman: Another impasse on the rescue package. Imagine if the president were a dealmaker.

The country faces an economic crisis on top of a public health crisis, and Congress is at an impasse in negotiations over a rescue package. Democratic leaders said on Friday that in the latest round, they offered to reduce their proposal by $1 trillion if Republicans would add $1 trillion to their far smaller proposal, but Republicans rejected it.

Meanwhile, White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows told Republicans the biggest sticking point is the money Democrats want to give to state and local governments to help deal with their budget crises, which are already causing mass layoffs and service cuts.

What this deadlock needs is a master negotiator, someone whose extraordinary skills can break through the parties’ differences and craft a deal both sides can live with, giving Americans the help they need.

Someone like President Trump, the man who wrote “The Art of the Deal”!

You’re laughing, I know. But think about how extraordinary that is: During a difficult and complex negotiation, with incredibly high stakes for the country, we take it as a given that not only would the president of the United States much rather be off playing golf; it’s also probably best for everyone if he isn’t involved at all, because he’d only make things worse.

The Real Purpose for Sally Yates’ Testimony: Propaganda to Elect Trump

You remember Sally Yates, who served as Acting Attorney General for 10 days in the fledgling Trump Crime Regime before the unindicted co-conspirator fired her for refusing to back his Muslim ban. She was back testifying before the Senate Judiciary Committee chaired by Senator Lyndsey Graham (R-SC). Ms. Yates blew the GOP conspiracy theories undercutting the legitimacy of the investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election out of the water:

Former deputy attorney general Sally Yates provided as definitive an account as you are going to get regarding former national security adviser Michael Flynn, the Russia investigation and the politicization of the Justice Department during testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee on Wednesday. Republicans have been so immersed in a false account of events and in conspiracy-mongering for a failed president that they seemed startled when Yates corrected them again and again.

Yates’s testimony boiled down to seven points: 1) The Trump transition team was not being surveilled, nor was Flynn. While she could not say why because of national security concerns, it was obvious that then-Russian ambassador Sergei Kislyak was the one being monitored. Flynn wound up being recorded when he spoke with Kislyak; 2) Flynn was attempting to undercut sanctions (per Yates’s testimony: “General Flynn had essentially neutered the U.S. government’s message of deterrence”); 3) Flynn lied to the vice president about his calls; 4) The FBI’s investigation was a counterintelligence — not criminal — investigation; 5) The investigation was not closed on Jan. 4 precisely because the FBI learned of Flynn’s conversation with Kislyak; 6) Flynn’s lying to the FBI was material and indeed at the core of the counterintelligence investigation, contrary to Attorney General William P. Barr’s assertion in trying to undo Flynn’s guilty plea by dismissing the case; and 7) It was highly abnormal and unprecedented for the attorney general to step in to rescue a friend of the president in this way, an action that damages the Justice Department’s credibility. [..]

Yates batted down a number of popular Republican lies. No, no one in the Obama administration tried to steer the investigation; to the contrary, they warned against it. (During a meeting on the topic, then-Vice President Joe Biden did not say much of anything.) No, Yates did not know of the inaccuracies in the FISA application to monitor Trump campaign adviser Carter Page at the time she signed off on it. No, the Trump campaign was not treated differently — because it was the only campaign that the Russians approached and helped.

These attempts by the Senate and House GOP to somehow discredit the investigation of Russian interference in the 2016 election on behalf of Donald Trump is nothing more that a Psychological Operation. As Adam L. Silverman explained in an article in Balloon Juice just prior to Trump’s impeachment, the short definition of Psychological Operations, popularly known as PSYOP, is the weaponization of information for effect.

The effect being to influence the targeted population, whether a group, an organization, a society, an element within a society, or a government, to either undertake an action or to prevent an action from being taken. Black PSYOP refers to the attempts to launder the influence operation through a legitimate third party that is not connected to those conducting the influence operation.

In that article Dr. Silverman explained how Attorney General William Barr strategically leaked information of his criminal investigation under US Attorney John H. Durham of how the Russian investigation began under the Obama administration. In his lasted post at Balloon Juice, he demonstrates how the Senate has now become an arm of the Black PSYOP to reelect Trump:

Since the President’s acquittal in the Senate back in January, several key senators have been working to turn their committee’s oversight functions into both an information laundry as part of the Black PSYOP against Vice President Biden and an oppo research and distribution arm of the President’s reelection campaign. These efforts are being led by Senator Ron Johnson, who chairs the Homeland Security Committee; Senator Charles Grassley, who chairs the Finance Committee; and Senator Lindsey Graham, who chairs the Judiciary Committee and are intended to do one thing and one thing only: dirty up Vice President Biden ahead of his election, as well as a number of his senior advisors who would be expect to have senior appointments in a Biden administration should he win in November. Should he indeed win, expect the Senate Republicans to use these hearings to either deny, should they hold their majority, or try to derail and deny, should they be in the minority, the Senate confirmation for these senior Biden aides and advisors. In this way the Black PSYOP campaign against VP Biden has metastasized in a new ugly way: to not just try to make him unelectable, but to damage many of his most senior and trusted aides and advisors so that they would be unconfirmable should he be elected and appoint them to the most senior positions in his administration.

Senator Graham kicked off the next phase of the Black PSYOP today with hearings into how the counterintelligence investigation into the connections between the President’s 2016 campaign and a variety of Russian nationals who all link back to Vladimir Putin, which is being referred to by Republicans and conservatives as Obamagate, was started and conducted. The focus of today’s hearing was on former Acting Attorney General Sally Yates. You can see this whole hearing at the video below:

As you can imagine, Senator Graham, as well as the other Republican senators on the Judiciary Committee were functioning in the closed epistemological bubble of conspiracies about the 2016 election.

Since the President’s acquittal in the Senate back in January, several key senators have been working to turn their committee’s oversight functions into both an information laundry as part of the Black PSYOP against Vice President Biden and an oppo research and distribution arm of the President’s reelection campaign. These efforts are being led by Senator Ron Johnson, who chairs the Homeland Security Committee; Senator Charles Grassley, who chairs the Finance Committee; and Senator Lindsey Graham, who chairs the Judiciary Committee and are intended to do one thing and one thing only: dirty up Vice President Biden ahead of his election, as well as a number of his senior advisors who would be expect to have senior appointments in a Biden administration should he win in November. Should he indeed win, expect the Senate Republicans to use these hearings to either deny, should they hold their majority, or try to derail and deny, should they be in the minority, the Senate confirmation for these senior Biden aides and advisors. In this way the Black PSYOP campaign against VP Biden has metastasized in a new ugly way: to not just try to make him unelectable, but to damage many of his most senior and trusted aides and advisors so that they would be unconfirmable should he be elected and appoint them to the most senior positions in his administration.

Senator Graham kicked off the next phase of the Black PSYOP today with hearings into how the counterintelligence investigation into the connections between the President’s 2016 campaign and a variety of Russian nationals who all link back to Vladimir Putin, which is being referred to by Republicans and conservatives as Obamagate, was started and conducted. The focus of today’s hearing was on former Acting Attorney General Sally Yates. You can see this whole hearing at the video below:

As you can imagine, Senator Graham, as well as the other Republican senators on the Judiciary Committee were functioning in the closed epistemological bubble of conspiracies about the 2016 election.

The short version of these conspiracies are that it was not Russia interfering in the election, nor was it the President’s campaign, campaign officials, members of the President’s family, and official and unofficial surrogates all either conspiring to and working with various elements of Russian intelligence or trying to, but being so inept they failed to actually do so. Rather, the Clinton campaign successfully conspired with both the Obama administration, especially senior Department of Justice and FBI officials like Director Comey, and the Ukrainian government of Petro Poroshenko to subvert the will of the American people and rig the 2016 election and by creating a false flag that Russia was in fact interfering in the election on behalf of the President’s campaign. [..]

The origin of the conspiracy theory that the Senate Republicans, the President, other Republicans, and conservatives are pushing was actually created by Konstantin Kilimnik and pushed to Paul Manafort who then laundered it through his criminal defense. It was also laundered through Politico by a discredited Ukrainian junior foreign service officer. And before you ask, yes the Politico reporter was Ken Vogel who has continued to try to peddle this made up garbage at The New York Times.

Former Acting Attorney General Yates did a very effective job of pushing back and knocking down the conspiracies that the Republican senators on the committee kept asking her about or suggesting happened. [..]

Senator Graham’s efforts in the Senate Judiciary Committee are not, however, the only Republican efforts to turn the US Senate and its oversight functions into an information laundry against Vice President Biden. Senators Johnson and Grassley are running the other part of the Black PSYOP, which is receiving information from some of Putin’s assets in Ukraine, who are working with the President’s private attorney Rudy Giuliani, to dirty up Vice President Biden ahead of the election. [..]

The four Ukrainians working to launder this information through Senators Johnson and Grassley are not in very good standing back in Ukraine and their information has been widely debunked and discredited. [..]

Senators Johnson and Grassley are, of course, undaunted and are both pushing ahead with their efforts and pushing back on the criticism they are receiving.

Note what Senators Johnson and Grassley have done in their letter. Despite the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence’s extensively documented multi-part report on Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election on behalf of the President, Senators Johnson and Grassley call this a “the false ‘Russian disinformation’ narrative”. They also deny that they are using Russian disinformation, despite having previously stated that they were in receipt of that information:

Spokespersons for Johnson and Senate Finance Committee Chair Chuck Grassley, who is aiding Johnson in the Biden probe, defended their inquiry and use of information from Telizhenko and other Ukrainians.

In a written response to questions, the senators told BuzzFeed News: “As with any inquiry, you get answers by asking questions. Those who restrict themselves from reviewing matters associated with ‘people of ill repute’ won’t have much luck uncovering wrongdoing or improving accountability.”

We know that these accusations against Vice President Biden and his son Hunter Biden are part of a Russian disinformation campaign that began in April 2014 and was intended to dirty up three potential candidates for president in 2016, VP Biden, Secretary Kerry, and VP Cheney, by insinuating that they were facilitating and benefiting from unethical behavior engaged in by their children. [..]

Senators Graham, Grassley, and Johnson are all twisting the Senate’s oversight function in order to launder this six year old Russian disinformation through the Senate and through the news media to damage Vice President Biden and harm his electoral chances in November and to dirty up a number of his most senior aides and advisors to harm their chances for Senate confirmation should Biden win and nominate them for senior positions in his administration. They are aided and abetted in this by conservative news, digital news, and social media. [..]

What Senators Graham, Johnson, and Grassley are doing is not intended to produce new legislation to prevent foreign interference in US elections, to require campaigns to immediately notify the FBI if members of the campaign are approached by foreign actors or agents of foreign powers, or protect the integrity of the 2020 elections – presidential, congressional, state, and local. Rather what they are doing is intended to produce disinformation and agitprop that will be laundered through conservative news media, conservative digital news media, and conservative social media to damage Vice President Biden, his campaign, and his senior aides and advisors. The laundering of this information through these sources is intended to force the mainstream news media to cover it as news that has to be reported and then fact checked, which will then push it into mainstream digital news and social media, furthering the reach of the disinformation and agitprop. Especially as most, if not all of these mainstream news sites are paywalled, which restricts the ability to access the fact checking and the debunking. Thanks to the efforts of Senators Graham, Johnson, and Grassley, the Senate is the laundry used to wash this disinformation and agitprop, disinformation and agitprop that is documented as originating in Russian state backed news media in 2014 and that has been thoroughly debunked.

If we stipulate that Senators Graham, Grassley, and Johnson are not Russian assets or under Russian influence, the question is what would they be doing differently if they were? And the answer is nothing!

Dr. Silverman’s other articles on the BlaclPSYOP of the GOP to discredit Democrats and especially, Vice President Biden can all be read at Balloon Juice, no pay walls or membership required.

Black PSYOP, l’Affaire Ukraine, AG Barr’s Investigation, and the Impeachment Inquiry of the President

Black PSYOP Part II: The Republicans Are Trying To Turn the US Congress Into an Information Laundry for Misinformation, Disinformation, and Information for Provocation,

 

Cartnoon

More about Freemasonry than Doggies actually. I suppose for disclosure’s sake you should know I was Master of a Lodge, but I’ve already told you that.

The Breakfast Club (The Fool)

Welcome to The Breakfast Club! We’re a disorganized group of rebel lefties who hang out and chat if and when we’re not too hungover we’ve been bailed out we’re not too exhausted from last night’s (CENSORED) the caffeine kicks in. Join us every weekday morning at 9am (ET) and weekend morning at 10:00am (ET) (or whenever we get around to it) to talk about current news and our boring lives and to make fun of LaEscapee! If we are ever running late, it’s PhilJD’s fault.

This Day in History

U.S. embassies bombed in E. Africa; Congress OKs powers to expand the Vietnam War; The Battle of Guadalcanal begins; Kon-Tiki ends its journey; Comedy icon Oliver Hardy and news anchor Peter Jennings die.

Breakfast Tunes

Something to Think about over Coffee Prozac

The fool is like those people who think themselves rich with little.

Luc de Clapiers

Continue reading

Pondering the Pundits

Pondering the Pundits” is an Open Thread. It is a selection of editorials and opinions from around the news media and the internet blogs. The intent is to provide a forum for your reactions and opinions, not just to the opinions presented, but to what ever you find important.

Thanks to ek hornbeck, click on the link and you can access all the past “Pondering the Pundits”.

Follow us on Twitter @StarsHollowGzt

Eugene Robinson: Trump is on a reckless quest to reopen schools

Is it possible that President Trump could do a worse job handling the covid-19 pandemic, causing even more needless illness and death? I fear we’re about to find out.

“OPEN THE SCHOOLS!!!” he tweeted again this week, for the umpteenth time. That’s the equivalent of chugging blindly down the Niagara River, approaching the lip of the falls — and giving the order to proceed full speed ahead.

Aided and abetted by Republican governors, Trump is pushing hard for in-person classroom instruction this fall in all of the nation’s schools, some of which have already started the new year. He has threatened to withhold federal funding from public school districts that don’t fully open; and while the official White House position acknowledges that “flexibility” is needed, Trump continues to bully local officials to “open 100 percent.”

Amanda Marcotte: Schools aren’t safe, and parents won’t believe President Bleach-Injector when he claims otherwise

Trump thinks that saying “OPEN THE SCHOOLS!” over and over will make it happen. Parents and teachers know better

Like a landlord trying to get potential renters to sign the lease before they notice the spreading mildew stain in the ceiling, Donald Trump is hoping to bamboozle Americans into reopening the schools, likely hoping that the coronavirus incubation period will delay a drastic explosion in cases until after Election Day. Despite fawning headlines late last month congratulating Trump for his supposedly “somber” tone and an alleged “shift” to taking the pandemic seriously, our president has returned to his standard operating procedure, which is trying to sell the public on flat-out lies about the coronavirus in much the same way he bamboozled investors into backing his craptastic real estate properties.

The good news, however, is that this probably isn’t working and may even backfire, as the public is simply not interested in the medical opinions of a man who went on live television in April and suggested that since household disinfectants kill coronavirus on countertops, doctors should consider “something like that by injection inside” the lungs of human beings.

“My view is the schools should open. This thing’s going away. It will go away like things go away,” Trump told the credulous crew at “Fox & Friends” on Wednesday morning.

Trump failed to explain the mechanics of how he imagines this working — perhaps by Lysol injections? — nor did any of the so-called “journalists” on Fox News press him on the particulars.

Paul Waldman: Trump’s voter suppression effort has devolved into farce

With less than three months before Election Day, President Trump’s efforts at voter suppression are becoming so desperate that they would not be out of place in a black comedy. It’s one more example of his ability to take something bad that others have done and create his own unique version of it, one that is simultaneously shameless, corrupt, and so ham-handed that it crosses over into farce.

Someone may try to produce a “Veep” or “Dr. Strangelove” satirizing the Trump era, but it won’t manage to be as absurd and horrifying as the reality.

This is illustrated by a pair of lawsuits Republicans have filed in an effort to make voting as difficult as possible in Nevada and Pennsylvania. You may have heard about the former, but the latter is even crazier and has gotten far less attention.

At the end of June, the Trump campaign and the Republican National Committee sued election officials in all 67 counties in Pennsylvania, charging that the use of drop boxes where voters can deliver mail ballots violates the 14th Amendment. This terrifying threat to election integrity, they insisted, must be stopped.

Stephen M. Hahn: FDA commissioner: No matter what, only a safe, effective vaccine will get our approval
Stephen M. Hahn, a physician, is commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration.

Since the outbreak of the covid-19 pandemic, developing a safe and effective vaccine has been an urgent worldwide priority: to save lives, and to bolster the public’s confidence in returning to a semblance of normal life.

At the Food and Drug Administration and our parent agency, the Department of Health and Human Services, we recognize the vital importance of vaccine development. The framework in the United States to support a covid-19 vaccine is now in place. Testing is underway and manufacturing capacity is rapidly expanding. But let’s be clear: The development effort must adhere to standards that will ensure any covid-19 vaccine’s safety and effectiveness.

Large-scale clinical trials already have begun for several promising vaccine candidates. The data from these trials will enable the scientists at the FDA to determine which of these candidates has the greatest potential to provide protection from the virus, what the possible side effects are and how long immunity is likely to last. FDA scientists will need the information to decide whether approval of the vaccine for general use is justified. This fall, we expect to start identifying which vaccine candidates are truly viable.

Leana S. Wen: The fast one or the accurate one? How we can get more out of our covid-19 test options.

A friend of mine went to get tested for covid-19 recently and was asked, “Do you want the faster one or the more accurate one?”

The faster test would give her a result within 24 hours. It had a very low false positive rate but a 20 percent false negative rate, meaning that if the result was positive, she almost certainly had covid-19, but if it came back negative, she still had a 20 percent chance of having the disease. The more accurate test had a very low false and false negative rate, but because of the testing backlog, she wouldn’t get the result for 10 days.

As I thought through the decision with her, I saw the question she was asked as the key to our national testing strategy. In the absence of widespread testing that’s both fast and accurate, there’s one question to ask to determine which test you need: What’s your risk of covid-19?

The Breakfast Club (Lesser Evil)

Welcome to The Breakfast Club! We’re a disorganized group of rebel lefties who hang out and chat if and when we’re not too hungover we’ve been bailed out we’re not too exhausted from last night’s (CENSORED) the caffeine kicks in. Join us every weekday morning at 9am (ET) and weekend morning at 10:00am (ET) (or whenever we get around to it) to talk about current news and our boring lives and to make fun of LaEscapee! If we are ever running late, it’s PhilJD’s fault.

This Day in History

The United States drops an atomic bomb on Hiroshima, Japan during World War II; LBJ signs the Voting Rights Act; Pope Paul VI dies; Scientist Alexander Fleming born; Funk singer Rick James dies.

Breakfast Tunes

Something to Think about over Coffee Prozac

Never open the door to a lesser evil, for other and greater ones invariably slink in after it.

Baltasar Gracian

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Pondering the Pundits

Pondering the Pundits” is an Open Thread. It is a selection of editorials and opinions from around the news media and the internet blogs. The intent is to provide a forum for your reactions and opinions, not just to the opinions presented, but to what ever you find important.

Thanks to ek hornbeck, click on the link and you can access all the past “Pondering the Pundits”.

Follow us on Twitter @StarsHollowGzt

Amanda Marcotte: Right-wing conspiracy theorists get (even more) unhinged as Trump’s chances fade

With QAnon on the rise, Alex Jones tells his fans to “kill” progressives: Trump Nation is going full cuckoo

A pandemic is spiraling out of control and Donald Trump’s reaction is to roll his eyes and say, “It is what it is.” Unsurprisingly, polling data shows that his Democratic opponent, former Vice President Joe Biden, is pulling ahead, not just in national polls, but in a number of battleground states like Pennsylvania, Michigan and Florida, none of which Trump can afford to lose. After all, the incumbent has nothing real to run on. The economy is the worst it’s been since the Great Depression of the 1930s, Americans are losing health insurance by the millions, and Republicans are responding by trying to shortchange unemployment benefits for the millions of people who’ve lost their jobs.

With nothing real to hang on to, it’s no surprise that conservatives — already prone to spreading misinformation — are increasingly addicted to conspiracy theories, wallowing in paranoid fantasies to justify the ludicrous notion that there’s any reason to keep on supporting Trump and the Republican Party.

Unfortunately, this turn towards even greater conspiratorial thinking on the right is also extremely dangerous. There’s already a strong link between right-wing paranoia and right-wing violence. Add the increasing likelihood of Trump’s defeat, the rising stress from the coronavirus, and a blitz of violent propaganda, and there’s a real chance that right-wing conspiracism will lead to even more domestic terrorism, hate crimes and neofascist goons in the streets.

Heather Digby Parton: Trump’s claims about mail voting were always incoherent: Now they’re falling apart

Donald Trump can’t keep his story straight: Now mail-in voting is totally fine in Florida. Anyone remember 2000?

I don’t know about you, but when I saw Donald Trump do an abrupt pivot on his crusade to depict mail-in voting as a form of voter fraud on Tuesday, I felt the hair on the back of my neck stand up.

That certainly wasn’t because I believe he’s seen the light and has realized that mail-in voting is perfectly safe, or that he realizes it’s imperative at a time when in-person voting may expose people to the deadly coronavirus. No, it was because he singled out Florida as the one state he believes really knows how to handle elections. Anyone who was around 20 years ago to observe the 2000 election will understand why I felt that awful sense of dread.

You may recall how that disputed election result, with a 538-vote difference in Florida and a recount in progress, was decided in favor of the Republican candidate — whose brother just happened to be the governor — helped along by the conservative majority on the Supreme Court, two of whom happened to have been appointed by their father, the former president. Let’s just say that the Republicans controlled the levers of government and they knew how to use them.

Ryan Goodman and Andrew Weissmann: Will Bill Barr Try to Help Trump Win the Election?

Two investigations appear to be potential fodder for pre-election political machinations.

Today, Wednesday, marks 90 days before the presidential election, a date in the calendar that is supposed to be of special note to the Justice Department. That’s because of two department guidelines, one a written policy that no action be influenced in any way by politics. Another, unwritten norm urges officials to defer publicly charging or taking any other overt investigative steps or disclosures that could affect a coming election.

Attorney General William Barr appears poised to trample on both. At least two developing investigations could be fodder for pre-election political machinations. The first is an apparently sprawling investigation by John Durham, the U.S. attorney in Connecticut, that began as an examination of the origins of the F.B.I. investigation into Russia’s interference in the 2016 election. The other, led by John Bash, the U.S. attorney for the Western District of Texas, is about the so-called unmasking of Trump associates by Obama administration officials. Mr. Barr personally unleashed both investigations and handpicked the attorneys to run them.

But Justice Department employees, in meeting their ethical and legal obligations, should be well advised not to participate in any such effort.

Val Demings: Remember Senate Republicans who dismissed Trump’s wrongdoing — and show them the door

It has been six months since Senate Republicans voted to acquit President Trump in his impeachment trial. This November, voters have a remarkable opportunity to prove they have a stronger moral compass than those senators ― and show them the door.

There are lessons my parents taught me about America. They taught me there is dignity and honor in working hard and playing by the rules. That the Constitution and the law mattered. That voting was a civic responsibility and an obligation. That our nation and our family were worth defending against people who would take advantage. That I should treat others as I would want to be treated. That honesty, duty and integrity were inherently good and that to cheat, lie and steal was wrong. [..]

Of the lessons my parents taught me, the most important was the difference between right and wrong. When the president illegally demanded that a foreign country help him cheat in a U.S. election, that was wrong. When he illegally used U.S. national security policy to pressure them to do it, that was wrong. When he illegally tried to cover it up, that was wrong.

A child could understand this. Why not Sen. Martha McSally of Arizona? Why not Sen. Cory Gardner of Colorado, Sen. David Perdue of Georgia or Sen. Joni Ernst of Iowa? Why was it too hard for Sen. Susan Collins of Maine to say, “It’s wrong to break the law and undermine our democracy”? Why couldn’t Montana’s Steve Daines or North Carolina’s Thom Tillis, or 45 other Republicans take a simple stand for right rather than wrong?

Perhaps, as Upton Sinclair once wrote, “It is difficult to get a man to understand something when his salary depends upon his not understanding it.”

But you, reader, have no such impediment. And in just a few short months, you may be able to remove that burden from your senator.

Michael McFaul: Why Trump’s complacency about Putin is a problem — whatever his motives

President Trump has changed his mind on many issues. Yet there is one theme of his presidency that remains strikingly constant: his peculiar deference to his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin. We witnessed it again in Trump’s new interview with Jonathan Swan of Axios, when he once again refused to criticize the Russian president for allegedly offering Taliban fighters bounties in return for killing U.S. soldiers, and also excused Russian arming of the Taliban by arguing, “Well, we sold them weapons when they were fighting Russia, too. The Taliban, in Afghanistan. … I’m just saying, we did that, too.” (Note: The Taliban, which was formed in 1994, never fought Soviet forces, which left the country five years earlier.) We already knew that Trump had avoided raising the issue in a series of phone calls with Putin in the past few months.

Trump’s stubborn refusal to criticize Putin remains a mystery. But the damage this position has done to U.S. interests is known, and could become even greater in the future. Most troubling, Trump’s stance on Putin — which often contrasts with policies of his own administration — creates an ambiguity that is destructive in his own right. [..]

Given this consistent track record of supporting Putin, it should not be surprising that Putin might misjudge Trump’s commitment to NATO or deterrence more generally. Trump’s latest signal of weakness — refusal to even raise the issue of Russian actions against U.S. soldiers in Afghanistan — can only deepen Putin’s doubts about American resolve. Such doubts in turn can birth dangerous adventurism.

Blue Voices

I have my opinions, some of which you have heard. A Two-Part piece from Vice.

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