and yet this is perfectly on-brand for trump

Jesus suffering fuck. We’re at the very beginning of a national health care disaster; we  just had approximately six and a half MILLION citizens put out of work and apply for unemployment benefits, people are looking at massive hospital bills while being unable to pay their rent or mortgages, and Comrade Donald J. Trump is bragging about talking his friend — Mohammed bin Salman, who had a Washington Post reporter murdered and dismembered — into working with the dictator of Russia — who interfered with the 2016 U.S. election in order to drop Trump into the White House — to raise the price of gasoline in order to increase profits for the oil and gas industry, which supports his bid for re-election.

There are SO MANY THINGS WRONG WITH THIS that you’d need a quantum computer to enumerate them. The only thing NOT wrong with this tweet is he spelled everything correctly.

It’s not just that Trump is tone deaf to the suffering of…well, everybody other than himself — it’s that he thinks there’s nothing wrong with associating with murderous dictators in order to aid industries that destroy the climate and the ecology for profit while his constituents are being killed by a pandemic he didn’t bother to mitigate.

I’ll say it again. Jesus suffering fuck.

ventilate, from the latin ‘ventulus’ meaning ‘a breeze’.

Comrade President Donald Trump is, of course, the worst possible leader in any sort of crisis. Because he views everything through a transactional lens, he’s singularly inept when it comes to a medical crisis. I mean, I understand he dislikes criticism, even (or especially) when it’s deserved. But to delay or withhold critical medical equipment from a state because that state’s governor was mean to you? Jesus suffering fuck, what a petty-minded, vindictive thing to do.

But here’s Trump:

I don’t believe you need 40,000 or 30,000 ventilators. You go into major hospitals sometimes, and they’ll have two ventilators. And now all of a sudden they’re saying, ‘Can we order 30,000 ventilators?’

I have some experience with ventilators. This is how old I am: I was a medic when the military first began developing specialized respiratory therapy units. I was assigned to the first RT unit at the medical center where I was stationed. There were only six medics in the unit, two of whom were senior NCOs whose duties were largely supervisory. The other four of us did the actual work — which meant we worked 24 hour shifts. One day on, two or three days off.

Sometimes we were busy, sometimes we spent most of a 24 hour shift sitting around waiting for an emergency. For the most part, we spent our shifts giving positive pressure breathing treatments, nebulizing patients with asthma, checking on patients getting oxygen through nasal O2 tubes. For critically ill or ICU patients, we also set up and managed the ventilators.

The Bennett PR2, our primary volume ventilator back in the day.

There are basically two types of mechanical ventilators — pressure ventilators and volume ventilators. The ventilators you hear about on the news are volume ventilators, which allow patients with incapacitated lungs to breathe. It’s that simple. Without the aid of a ventilator, patients with badly damaged lungs will probably die.

We had a total of six volume ventilators. We rarely needed more than three. But ‘rarely’ means we sometimes needed more. And there were times during my career when we needed seven.

Bird Mk7 — this is what it used to look like.

You can see the problem. When you have six volume ventilators and seven patients who need them to breathe, somebody has to go without. Somebody dies. The doctors make that decision. They decide that Patient A has a better chance of survival than Patient B.

But it’s the technicians who do the work.

Nobody tells you how do that. Remember, this was a new unit. There was no written process — no manual detailing what to do about unhooking a living person from a ventilator. And the first time we got the order, we didn’t have time to consider how to do it. Patient A needed the ventilator. So we winged it.

I unhooked the ventilator from Patient A, the supervisor moved the ventilator to Patient B, and I stayed with Patient A. Until his damaged lungs stopped working. Until his body stopped struggling to draw air. Until he stopped gasping and making sucking noises. Until his heart stopped. Until he died.

After the first time, that became the process. We felt somebody needed to stay with the patient until the patient became a body. We felt the person who unhooked the patient was the person who should stay. If you’re going to kill somebody, you have some sort of an obligation to stay with them until they’re dead.

I’ve had to do that five times.

Patients die. Sometimes even with the assistance of a volume ventilator, the patient dies. That’s part of the job and you accept that. But it’s one thing to have a patient die; it’s another thing to kill them. Even if you’re following a doctor’s orders, even if there’s logic and reason behind the decision, the fact remains that you’re killing somebody.

What it looks like now.

I’m sure things are different now. That was a long time ago in a military hospital and military hospitals operate under slightly different rules than civilian hospitals. As a medic I was allowed — and sometimes even required — to do stuff that wouldn’t be allowed in a civilian hospital. I’m sure now there are medical ethicists who get involved in the process, and there are detailed written procedures outlining the circumstances under which a patient can be removed from a ventilator. I’m sure it’s a lot more regimented and orderly and lawyerly now.

But when it happens, there still going to be some poor bastard doing the ugly work.

Like I said, it was a long time ago and I haven’t thought about this very often over the last few years. I mean, you see something in a hospital scene on television or in a movie and it comes immediately back. But the sad fact is that killing those five people isn’t even in the top five of my most common ugly memories.

At least it wasn’t until recently. Now, because of the news, I remember those five people a few times every day. I remember sitting or standing by their beds, holding their hands, watching and waiting for their bodies to give up and die. And when I hear Trump say nobody needs thirty thousand ventilators, I think about that thirty thousand and first patient. And I think about the poor bastard who’s going to have to kill somebody in order to try to save somebody else.

relax guys, trump is dealing with the pandemic by bringing in carnival cruise ships

Legit question: why are news media still covering Comrade Trump’s Covid-19 briefings? They know he’s going to spread misinformation; they know he’s going to lie. It’s bad enough that Trump misinforms and lies about political stuff, but when it comes to public health his misinformation and lies actually endanger lives.

Another legit question: IF the news media feel the MUST cover Trump (because he’s the president, after all), why do they have to clean up the nonsense he spouts? When he says something incomprehensible, which he does all the time, they edit it so that it appears to make sense. Why?

“I’m hearing good things on the ground.”

Here’s an example. Yesterday the network evening news accurately reported this part of Trump’s statement: “I also just invoked the Defense Production Act to help facilitate distribution of essential supplies if necessary.” That makes Trump sound reasonable, proactive, presidential — none of which is true. They did NOT report his responses to some of the questions asked about the Defense Production Act.

Q: You “enabled” — I guess, is probably the best way to put it — the Defense Production Act yesterday, but you didn’t pull the trigger on it.

A: No, because we hope we’re not going to need that.

So he invoked the DPA, but he hasn’t actually used it. The entire point of invoking the act is to require manufacturers to produce material needed in a national emergency. Like a pandemic.

Here’s another question.

Q: Under what conditions would you put the Defense Production Act into action?

A: Well, if we were desperately in need of something — and we, frankly, will know about that very shortly. We want to be ahead of — we don’t want to do it as it happens but before it happens. We’re going to know a lot over the next two or three days. We’ll know a lot.

“We don’t want to do it AS it happens, but BEFORE it happens.” We’re going to wait a few days to see if we’re really as desperate as every doctor and every nurse in every hospital and clinic in every state claims we are. Then we’ll act before it happens. Trump fails to comprehend simple causality. He doesn’t understand you can’t wait until AFTER an event to act BEFORE the event.

“No, really, I’m the president. I’m NOT a shipping clerk.”

But wait, there’s more:

Q: I wanted to just follow up on John and Kaitlan’s question. So it’s not just masks. Doctors are saying now that they are desperate for other personal protective gear — gloves, other equipment. Governors are saying that they don’t have access to respirators, and they’re terrified. What is your reticence about invoking the Defense Production Act?

A:  Governors are supposed to get it. The states are supposed to get it. But we’re helping the states.

Q: But people are saying there’s nowhere to buy them, that there aren’t enough in the country.

A: Well — look, for years, they bought them, and now, all of a sudden, they’re coming to the federal government.

Q: They need more now.

A: We are working with the states. We’re working with the governors. We’re working with everybody. The relationships are great. One of the things that happened this morning: I spoke with Micky Arison of Carnival Cruise Lines, and he’s going to make ships available.

He’s invoked the Defense Protection Act because it’s a national emergency, but it’s up to the governors of the individual states to get the equipment — the equipment that isn’t being rushed into production by the DPA. Besides why do they need this stuff ‘all of a sudden’? Why aren’t they prepared? Good news, though. Micky is going to provide cruise ships — I guess because of their stellar record public health record.

“Yeah, I don’t know where the buck stops. It’s got to stop someplace. But it’s not stopping here. We’ll see how it goes.”

But wait again, there’s still more.

Q: But, Mr. President, what is your reticence about invoking the Defense Production Act?

A: I’ve done it. I’ve done it.

Q: But you said that you don’t want to invoke it yet.

A: Yeah, if we find that we need something, that we will do that. And you don’t know what we’ve done. You don’t know whether or not we’ve ordered. You don’t know if we’ve invoked it. You don’t know what’s been ordered, what’s not been ordered.

Did you wash behind your ears? Yes, I did. But your ears are still dirty. I’ll wash them if they need washing and you weren’t there so you don’t know if I washed them or not stop picking on me.

None of that was seen on the evening news. None of the wildly contradictory claims, none of the childish tantrums. Just ‘Trump said something that sounded presidential’.

But wait one more time, there’s still more.

Q: Could you explain the gap in — for the American people — in what you’re saying here today about there being tens of thousands of tests available, about how there being a huge amount of masks available and what we’re seeing on the ground, which is really the opposite of that? People are — people are saying that they can’t get tested even when they have symptoms. People are saying that they — doctors are telling us they don’t have access to vital equipment. Can you explain that gap?

A: Well, I can’t. I cannot explain the gap. I’m hearing very good things on the ground, and we’re dealing with — look, they had to ramp up. They had an obsolete system, and they had a system, simultaneously, that was not meant for this. It wasn’t meant for this. Nobody knew there’d be a pandemic or an epidemic of this proportion.

He can’t explain why people are saying they don’t have necessary equipment because he’s hearing very good things about people having equipment, but whatever the problem is, it’s not his fault. Who knew there might be a pandemic?

“Nobody knows the trouble I’ve seen. Nobody knows my sorrow. Nobody knows the trouble I’ve seen. I blame it on Obama.”

I know the evening network news doesn’t have the time to include news segments that take more than a couple of minutes. They can’t show six or seven minutes of the president blathering like a nincompoop; they have advertisers to please, and there’s a sports team scandal, and there was severe weather someplace, and of course they need to have final feel-good segment about a high school play that got canceled but the kids did it anyway on Skype and boy you just can’t hold back American spirit, can you, no sir.

But Jesus suffering fuck, surely the American people need to know their president is a bonehead without a gram of compassion and entirely lacking in the skills necessary to deal with an interoffice squabble let alone a national crisis. Don’t they? Shouldn’t that be newsworthy? Shouldn’t the news media report the actual news?

trump, burr, and the missing worldwide threat assessment

Here’s a curious thing. Last month Senator Richard Burr (R-North Carolina) spoke at a luncheon sponsored by the Tar Heel Circle (which is more formally known as The North Carolina State Society of Washington DC). That’s not the curious thing; members of Congress routinely meet with ‘important’ people from their home state — business owners, social leaders, local politicians.

This smarmy fucker knew.

The curious thing is what Burr told those ‘important’ people. He warned them about a virus coming to the U.S. He told them it was “much more aggressive in its transmission than anything that we have seen in recent history. It is probably more akin to the 1918 pandemic.” You know, the pandemic that killed millions of people worldwide. He talked about travel restrictions and schools closing. He talked about how the military might need to be mobilized.

Here’s another curious thing. At the same time Burr was giving his speech, Comrade Trump was assuring the public that “the coronavirus is very much under control in the USA.” He acknowledged a small number of US citizens had become ill, but “they’ve gotten very much better. Many of them are fully recovered.” We know, of course, that wasn’t true.

Had we been told the truth, the butcher’s bill wouldn’t be so high.

Here’s yet another curious thing. Every year in January or February, the US intelligence community provides the House and Senate intelligence committees with a briefing on global threats. That briefing is usually accompanied by a public hearing and the publication of an unclassified report called the Worldwide Threat Assessment. This year, the public hearing for the 2020 Worldwide Threat Assessment was canceled. It hasn’t been rescheduled. The report, which is usually unclassified, was suddenly classified.

One more curious thing: Senator Richard Burr, who issued that dire warning to the ‘important’ people of the Tar Heel Circle, is the chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee. The committee that first learns the details of the Worldwide Threat Assessment.

More curious things. In 2017, the Worldwide Threat Assessment said this about the threat to public health:

“A novel or reemerging microbe that is easily transmissible between humans and is highly pathogenic remains a major threat because such an organism has the potential to spread rapidly and kill millions.”

The 2018 WTA:

“A novel strain of a virulent microbe that is easily transmissible between humans continues to be a major threat, with pathogens such as H5N1 and H7N9 influenza and Middle East Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus having pandemic potential if they were to acquire efficient human-to-human transmissibility… a severe global influenza pandemic could cost the equivalent of 4.8 percent of global GDP—more than $3 trillion—and cause more than 100 million deaths.”

The 2019 WTA:

“We assess that the United States and the world will remain vulnerable to the next flu pandemic or largescale outbreak of a contagious disease that could lead to massive rates of death and disability, severely affect the world economy, strain international resources, and increase calls on the United States for support.”

We can, I think, safely assume the now-classified 2020 Worldwide Threat Assessment repeated what the last three WTAs said. We can, I think, assume that what Senator Burr reported to the ‘important’ people of North Carolina came directly from the 2020 WTA. We don’t have to assume that information was kept from the general public for at least six weeks; we know that’s true. Six weeks during which the US government failed to respond to a health threat they knew was coming. Six weeks in which the Trump administration could have prevented needless sickness and death.

We can’t blame every Covid-19 death on folks like Trump and Burr. But we can hold them responsible for a lot of them.

They knew. They knew it was coming. These fuckers deliberately downplayed the threat to the public while warning the ‘important’ people.

We need to see the 2020 Worldwide Threat Assessment report. We need to know what they knew. We need to hold all of these fuckers accountable. We need to toss them out of office. We need to publicly name them and shame them. We need to hang the scope of this pandemic around their necks and make them wear their shame every day for the rest of their miserable lives.

escapes?

I’m old enough to remember when you could trust The New York Times. And, to be fair, you can still trust most of their reportage; they have some exceptional reporters. But the opinion page of NYT has become pretty sketchy — not because I sometimes disagree with their op-eds, but because the editorial leadership apparently decided they need to give a voice to conspiracy theorists and conservative propagandists. And the headline writers for NYT are…well, they’re rubbish.

Here, look at this headline from this morning’s NYT:

Andrew McCabe Escapes Charges While Barr Tightens Control on Flynn Case.

Escapes. Andrew McCabe escapes charges. That makes it sound like the charges were justified, but McCabe somehow managed to dodge or sidestep them. In fact, the accusations against him were total bullshit. They grew out of Comrade Trump’s hatred of FBI Director James Comey, who was seen as insufficiently loyal. Trump had Attorney General Jeff Sessions fire Comey; he saw McCabe as a Comey loyalist and was angry with Sessions for not firing McCabe as well.

McCabe became a target of Trump’s rage-tweeting. He focused his rage on two things. First, McCabe had overseen the FBI investigation into the Clinton Foundation, which found no criminal activity. That pissed off Trump. Second, McCabe’s wife had run an unsuccessful campaign to become a Democratic state legislator in Virginia. She got a campaign contribution from a political action committee run by the Virginia Democratic Party and Terry McAuliffe, who was the governor of Virginia. McAuliffe was a friend and supporter of Hillary Clinton.

In TrumpWorld it’s inconceivable that McCabe could possibly conduct an unbiased investigation of the Clinton Foundation when his wife was a Democrat who was given a contribution by a PAC associated with somebody who was a friend of Hillary Clinton. In TrumpWorld, everybody is assumed to have corrupt motivations. Probably because everybody in TrumpWorld actually HAS corrupt motivations.

The Wall Street Journal ran a story suggesting it was possible McCabe had slowed the FBI investigation into the Clinton Foundation. McCabe authorized the FBI press office to speak to the WSJ reporter to correct the story. McCabe had in fact worked to protect that investigation. Trump and his cadre of loons referred to McCabe having the press office speak to a reporter as a ‘leak’. 

It’s not clear if the WSJ report by itself sparked an FBI Inspector General investigation into McCabe’s role in the Clinton investigation or if there was some political pressure involved. In any event, the Office of Inspector General started an investigation. The OIG found that McCabe, as Deputy Director of the FBI, had the authority to have the press office speak to that reporter. The question became whether he had them speak to the reporter in the interest of the FBI or in his own personal interest. Did McCabe authorize the ‘leak’ in order to make the FBI look good or to make himself look good.

Seriously, that’s it. The OIG found that McCabe had violated FBI policy in that the press release seemed more in McCabe’s interest than in the public interest. They also found McCabe “lacked candor” when interviewed by OIG investigators. And that’s why he was fired in March of 2018 — 26 hours before his scheduled retirement, denying him full retirement benefits. A classic TrumpWorld act of vengeance.

After he was fired, Trump’s Department of Justice continued to investigate McCabe for a year and a half, trying to find something to charge him with. They took their ‘case’ to the grand jury in September of 2019. It’s been said that a grand jury will indict a ham sandwich if the prosecutor has even a shred of a case. The McCabe grand jury refused to indict him. Normally, when a grand jury refuses to indict, a criminal investigation is ended.

Not for McCabe. The DOJ kept the case alive until yesterday when, as the New York Times reported, he ‘escaped’ charges. This is a guy who devoted his life to the FBI. He served on the FBI SWAT team, he was part of the Eurasian Organized Crime Task Force (which was not a walk in the garden), he served in the Counterintelligence Unit, he helped revise the rules for high value detainee interrogations (the FBI refused to engage in waterboarding), he was part of the Boston Marathon bomb investigation, he took part in the investigation and arrest of the guys behind the Benghazi attacks. The FBI can be pretty fucked up, but this guy repeatedly put himself on the line — which is something nobody named Trump has ever done.

And the New York Times says he ‘escaped’ charges.

Andrew McCabe — even his glasses look like they’re FBI issue.

It’s bullshit like this by NYT and other news sources that boost Trump’s insane ‘Deep State’ conspiracy theories. It’s bad enough to have a criminal enterprise operating out of the White House, it’s bad enough to have a POTUS who is a narcissistic vengeance demon enabled and encouraged by sycophants in Congress, it’s bad enough to have a Department of Justice that acts as an arm of TrumpWorld rather than in the public interest. It’s bad enough to have all that without NYT adding an aura of legitimacy to this bullshit.

I remember when you could trust the New York Times. I suppose you still can, if you ignore the headlines and much of the opinion page. But is it worth the effort? And why would you bother?

the stank of trump

Did you see this headline? It’s from The Atlantic, which is generally a reliable source of news and information. When I read this astonishing piece of…wait. I forgot to include the headline. Here it is:

John Kelly Finally Lets Loose on Trump

It has the following subtitle: The former chief of staff explained, in the clearest terms yet, his misgivings about Trump’s behavior regarding North Korea, immigration, and Ukraine. Jesus suffering fuck…seriously? He finally lets loose? And he explains his misgivings? This guy…this fucking guy…wait. Hold on while I contain my outrage.

Okay, this guy was a working class guy. His daddy was a postal worker. When he was 16 years old, he hitchhiked from Brighton, MA to Seattle then freighthopped trains back home. He did a year in the Merchant Marine before signing up for the US Marine Corps. He rose through the ranks to become a four-star general running the entire Southern Command. John Kelly has been around the block more than once. He knows when something stinks.

Kelly could smell the stank. He stayed anyway.

But he agreed to be Comrade Trump’s Director of Homeland Security. After six months, Trump made him his second Chief of Staff. He lasted a year and a half before Trump did what he always does and fired him. John Kelly had two whole years to evaluate Trump’s fitness to be president. He had two years in which to speak up about the stank that inhabits the White House. He had three years, really, counting the year after Trump fired him.

Now Kelly finally lets loose? Now, after Trump’s impeachment acquittal? Fuck him. You don’t get to put your integrity and decency in a closet for three years, then pull them out, shake off the dust, and wear them again in public in the hope that they’ll somehow mask the Trump stank that’s attached to you.

John Kelly, Kirstjen Nielsen, Kellyanne Conway, Hope Hicks — they’ve all got the stank on them.

How many times has this happened? How many people have agreed to work with Trump, apparently under the impression they can somehow avoid the stank that has attached to every other person who has ever worked with Trump? They all get betrayed and fired and stank-covered. How many of them make some raggedy-ass attempt to recover some last tattered unstanked shred of dignity and integrity?

The Trump stank is all-encompassing. You can’t escape it. It corrupts and infuses everything and everybody it touches. Every person who has willfully served Trump has the stank on them, and it’ll never go away. John Kelly has the stank on him forever. Republicans in Congress have the stank on them forever. The stank will never entirely leave the White House. The United States of America will forever be tainted with the stank of the Trump administration.

That’s the truth of it, and that’s exactly the way it should be.

a terrible week for the democrats

This morning — just now, in fact — a dear friend said this on Facebook:

[W]here the fuck are the Iowa caucus results? This has been a terrible week for Democrats.

I have thoughts about this. I mean, she’s absolutely right. It’s been a terrible week for Democrats. Yeah, the Iowa caucus is a shitshow. The whole mobile app thing was a colossal fuck-up. But let me remind folks that for years everybody (including me) has made the argument that Iowa doesn’t matter — that it’s not in the least representative of the nation as a whole, that the caucus process is wildly out of date and inherently undemocratic, and that it’s a massive waste of time and money to devote so much attention to a state with only a few electoral votes. I agree with all of that.

And yet, at the same time, folks are saying that the Iowa debacle is going to ruin the election for Democrats. We are doomed. C’mon, people — either Iowa is important or it’s not. (SPOILER: it’s not.) This is just an early own-goal, as we say in futbol. But it’s not the game. Chill the fuck out. Remember that every single week — hell, often every single day — Republicans, with the help of Comrade Trump his ownself, say and do shit that in ordinary times would cause the government to collapse in on itself.

Some folks are worried that Trump will use the Iowa debacle to suggest the entire electoral system is rigged and unfair. But we all know — we all KNOW — he’s going to say that anyway. It’s not as if he’s concerned with evidence. The fact that the caucus results (whenever they’re released) are reliant on rigorous double and triple-checking of paper ballots (well, voter preference cards — same thing, really) won’t matter. If the Iowa caucus was run by saints and actual winged angels counted the votes and marked each with a golden sigil, Trump would still claim it was rigged and his followers would believe him. These are people who defended Trump when he tweeted about the Kansas City Chiefs being based in Kansas. Evidence isn’t necessary.

Comrade-President Donald J. Trump making a nuanced, evidence-based argument.

Here’s a really sad and shameful thing to say: the Iowa debacle will dissipate soon and will carry no more political weight (and this is really sad and shameful) than the fact that there’s still no clean water in Flint, Michigan. That’s the ugly truth about politics in the US right now. The most horrible, awful, appalling things are soon relegated to footnotes and asterisks.

Has it been a terrible week for the Democrats? Yes, without argument. And it’s not over yet. Today the Senate will vote to acquit Comrade Trump of crimes they admit he committed. It’s as terrible a week as we’ve had. Not just for Democrats, but for all of representative democracy.

And in a couple of weeks, it won’t make a lick of difference. We have a long, savage primary season ahead of us, followed by an equally savage election. This week won’t be remembered because the Iowa DNC decided to rely on a poorly-designed app and delivered results late; it’ll be remembered as the week Trump lied through the State of the Union speech, gave the Medal of Freedom to a racist radio show host, and was given a free pass by Republicans despite having committed impeachable crimes.

Democrats need to calm down and focus.