Tuesday, January 19, 2021

Tom Hanks and Rita Wilson Test Positive for Coronavirus

Tom Hanks and wife are the first celebrities reporting being tested positive for coronavirus. Perhaps that will help to illuminate the severity of the crisis, that it’s striking everywhere and is no respecter of persons. Washington Post: Actor Tom Hanks announced on social media Wednesday night that he and his wife, the actress Rita Wilson, have tested positive for coronavirus. The 63-year-old Oscar winner is currently in Australia for the pre-production stage of an Elvis Presley biopic. Hanks noted in a statement shared on his Facebook, Twitter and Instagram accounts that he and Wilson, also 63, started to feel “a bit tired, like we had colds, and some body aches.” “Rita had some chills that came and went,” he continued. “Slight fevers too. To play things right, as is needed in the world right now, we were tested for the Coronavirus, and were found to be positive.” A representative for Hanks confirmed the news as shared on social media. This story broke only a few hours after the one about the NBA annoouncing it was suspending it’s season due to a Utah Jazz player testing positive. Meanwhile, Dr. Sanjay Gupta, speaking on a panel on CNN pulled up the data on the CDC website showing that the Center for Disease Control did no coronavirus tests in the past 24 hours, and the Public Health Department did eight. Our government is at a standstill and the coronavirus is working with lightning speed. There may be some truth to what Trump’s former aide said, “We’re about ten days from hospitals being creamed.”

Fear Not, Jared Kushner Has Taken Over the Coronavirus Task Force

Probably a great many people reading this blog are too young to remember TV shows like “Ben Casey” or “Dr. Kildare,” where a brilliant young doctor would have to come in and save the patient, because he knew more than the old farts who had been practicing for half a century. They just didn’t grok it on the level that he did. This was medicine practiced by the hip, slick and cool, to great effect. Now we have young Dr. Jared Kushner, who has taken our case, without the burden of a medical degree or experience in the field of immunology or infectious diseases. He has agreed to go in and read up on the coronavirus — hey, he read 25 books before attempting to bring peace to the Middle East, okay? This guy knows which side of a library card is up. And after that, he’ll advise the Germophobe/Psychiatric Patient in Chief on what to do. Politico: At the White House, some of Trump’s closest aides have debated whether an emergency declaration is needed to ensure those resources are available. But they have yet to make a recommendation to Trump, according to two the people familiar with the situation. Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar is pushing for the designation. But Vice President Mike Pence, who Trump tapped to lead the administration’s coronavirus response, is wary it could trigger an economic tailspin, they added. There’s no deadline for a decision, but one of the people familiar with the talks said Trump’s aides will not give the president a final verdict until Jared Kushner, the president’s senior adviser and son-in-law, talks to relevant parties and presents his findings to the president. This is good. Jared will reach a comprehensive peace agreement with the virus. https://t.co/18t8ovpRgS — George Conway (@gtconway3d) March 12, 2020 Oh, ye of little faith? Canst thou not see how blessed we are. I mean, let’s look at Jared’s list of accomplishments, shall we? Screwing up his financial disclosure forms more than three dozen times; Requiring a $2.5 million donation by his ex-con father to get into the college of his choice; Registering to vote as a woman; Passing a prank call from a comedian pretending to be Senator Bob Menendez on to the president; Ruining a New York City newspaper he bought with his father’s money; Unwittingly becoming the pawn of not one but two princes; Pitching a Middle East peace plan described as “the Monty Python sketch of Israeli-Palestinian peace initiatives.” Now, are you going to tell me, that after reading this curriculum vitae of Dr. Kushner, you have a problem with him being the one to call the shots on your health and that of your loved ones? Oh, and take a look at this. BREAKING: The US is failing to produce even small number of testing kits for COVID-19 extraction despite Trump & Pence statements. Labs and states are worried. Expect next to no availability to continue for weeks. It is vital to self-quarantine. — Andy Slavitt (@ASlavitt) March 11, 2020 Well, you should certainly sleep like a baby tonight, knowing that Dr. Kushner is on the case. And here are a few final thoughts: The administration is “not comfortable with the optics of national emergency” because of how it might impact Wall Street, tourism and air travel, a former Department of Homeland Security official said. Trump […]

Televangelist Jim Bakker Claims His Product ‘Totally Kills’ Coronavirus, Hit w/Restraining Order

You can’t keep a good snake oil salesman down. Jim Bakker, now 80, has been out of prison for some time and selling apocalypse food to get you through the End Times and apparently the coronavirus pandemic is too good of an opportunity to turn away without perpetrating a scam as well. Bakker went on television pitching that he has a cure for the virus, and attorneys general of two states shut him down with a cease and desist letter and a restraining order. Washington Post: The Jim Bakker Show is suggesting that the silver solution it sells can kill the coronavirus within 12 hours. pic.twitter.com/kbUGnUp69m — Right Wing Watch (@RightWingWatch) February 12, 2020 “This influenza that is now circling the globe, you’re saying that ‘Silver Solution’ would be effective,” Bakker said to the woman, [naturalpathic “doctor”] Sherrill Sellman. She said it hasn’t been tested on the novel coronavirus, “but it has been tested on other strains of the coronavirus and has been able to eliminate it within 12 hours. Totally eliminate it, kills it. Deactivates it.” Sellman said the government has “proven” that the Silver Solution “has the ability to kill every pathogen it has ever been tested on, including SARS and HIV.” Alas and alack, while Bakker’s disciples may look to him for a miracle cure, the feds are not. In fact, the federal government on Monday sent a warning letter to Bakker and other colloidal silver peddlers, ordering them to stop selling it. That followed a March 5 cease-and-desist letter from New York Attorney General Letitia James accusing him of false advertising. The National Institutes of Health has warned its side effects can actually be dangerous for your health — including turning a person’s skin a bluish-gray color. If you don’t want to look like one of the little space aliens with the big eyes, don’t send your money to Jim Bakker, because he can’t help you with coronavirus. Plus, he’s got enough problems of his own since Missouri Attorney General Eric Schmitt asked a judge for a temporary restraining order against the Branson televangelist and convicted fraudster and is likely to pursue a permanent injunction. And be careful what kind of cocktails you order. In Iran, 44 people have died of alcohol poisoning, hundreds have been hospitalized and seven bootleggers have been arrested after serving up toxic drinks mixed with methanol that consumers were led to believe would keep them safe from coronavirus, USA Today reported. We live in very strange times.  

REVEALED: White House Ordered Top-Level Coronavirus Meetings Classified, Resulting In Hampered Response

This isn’t surprising in the least. Mike Pence was designated goalie, to keep any and all information about the covid-19 crisis from getting out to the press and the public without his approval. Apparently the easiest way to achieve that was to make coronavirus deliberations top secret. Swell. Reuters:: The White House has ordered federal health officials to treat top-level coronavirus meetings as classified, an unusual step that has restricted information and hampered the U.S. government’s response to the contagion, according to four Trump administration officials. The officials said that dozens of classified discussions about such topics as the scope of infections, quarantines and travel restrictions have been held since mid-January in a high-security meeting room at the Department of Health & Human Services (HHS), a key player in the fight against the coronavirus. And woe betide the government expert who just didn’t happen to have the right level of security clearance. That man or woman was turned away — not even being included in on video conferences. “We had some very critical people who did not have security clearances who could not go,” one official said. “These should not be classified meetings. It was unnecessary.” The sources said the National Security Council (NSC), which advises the president on security issues, ordered the classification.”This came directly from the White House,” one official said. Meanwhile, the contagion is spreading, whether Donald Trump wants you to know about it or not. As of Wednesday the death toll is at approximately 30 and the number of people infected is about 1,000. The insistence on secrecy at HHS, which was not previously known before today, has had the net effect of putting “a lid on certain information” and that was what it was designed to do. The American public is supposed to know what the Trump regime wants it to know — that and nothing more. Of course, they’re singing an entirely different tune. An NSC spokesman did not respond to questions about the meetings at HHS. But he defended the administration’s transparency across federal agencies and noted that meetings of the administration’s task force on the coronavirus all are unclassified. It was not immediately clear which meetings he was referring to. “From day one of the response to the coronavirus, NSC has insisted on the principle of radical transparency,” said the spokesman, John Ullyot. He added that the administration “has cut red tape and set the global standard in protecting the American people under President Trump’s leadership.” This is pure unmitigated cow pucky. This administration set the measure for ineptitude in this area, not the global standard in protection. Other countries can claim that distinction.  South Korea innovated mass testing by using a drive-thru method. That was true thinking outside the box and it did not come from Washington, D.C. No, in the United States, we’re a land of Mushroom People. We sit in the dark and they feed us bullshit, at their discretion. And here’s an interesting note: Attendees at the meetings included HHS Secretary Alex Azar and his chief of staff Brian Harrison, the officials said. Azar and Harrison resisted the classification of the meetings, the sources said. That speaks for itself. It’s obvious what’s going on. Trump and his cronies want to keep information on the pandemic within their own tight little circle. […]

Trump Is A No-Show At His Own Briefing and McConnell ‘Detests’ His Economic Plan,...

Donald Trump teased on Monday, “I will be here tomorrow afternoon to let you know about some of the economic steps we’re taking, which will be major” — and then nothing happened. Trump had a meeting with Republican senators at the Capitol, which was the right optics for the occasion, but now there’s no payoff, no plan, just empty promises. In other words, vintage Trump. Bloomberg News: “You’ll be hearing about it soon,” Trump said at the Capitol. He told senators that he’d like a payroll tax holiday until after the November election, according to three people familiar with his closed-door remarks. The coronavirus briefing was the last event on the White House’s public schedule for Tuesday. During the briefing, Trump’s top economic adviser, Larry Kudlow, said that Trump would like a payroll tax holiday to extend to the end of the year. But he declined to answer questions about how much the plan would cost or how it would work. […] But Trump’s no-show at the White House briefing may raise new concerns. U.S. stock futures opened lower Tuesday evening as investors grew concerned economic stimulus from the Trump administration was not imminent. […] “He’s calling for payroll tax relief,” Pence said of the president’s plan. “We’re going to be working with Democratic and Republican leadership to move an economic package.” In your dreams, Mike. Mitch McConnell is not pleased with this. And when McConnell is not pleased, things move at glacial speeds, if that. Trump went out there and shot off his mouth about the “dramatic” economic relief he was seeking and he did not check it out first with the powers that be, because in his delusional world, he is the powers that be. Wrong. Washington Post: Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) has privately told several allies in recent days he personally opposes the payroll tax cut idea Trump has endorsed, according to two veteran Republicans briefed on the discussions who were not authorized to speak publicly. McConnell has made clear he “detests” pursuing this particular policy, which would probably add to federal debt and deficits, and he has said many conservative GOP senators share his view. Still, he will hear out the White House on Tuesday, they said. There was crickets from the White House on Tuesday, so as far as we know, McConnell is still not on board for this policy, and neither are Democrats, who are working on a relief package for normal people affected by the coronavirus, and not billionaires. If this payroll tax cut, opposed by McConnell, is the best plan that Trump has to roll out, his worst nightmare of an election-year recession may come true. Somebody at Fox News better cobble together policy fast, because it seems right now that Trump is not only clueless, he may be in hiding. And it is interesting to see Trump and McConnell at odds. This may be the moment we’ve all been waiting for, when McConnell decides that Trump’s more of a burden than a benefit.  

Trump’s Former Homeland Security Adviser says ‘We’re 10 Days Away From Hospitals Getting Creamed’

The White House apparently is out of control, as rumored, as a result of the coronavirus. Trump met with insurance company CEOs and the press wanted to ask questions about coronavirus, naturally. Stephanie Grisham would not allow it and screamed like a fishwife at reporters to get out of the room. Listen to this, you’ve never heard anything like it — not at the White House, you haven’t. In a barroom, maybe. Now what is uncanny about this, is that Trump did make a statement on Capitol Hill a short while later. He assured reporters that if everybody just “stayed calm” the coronavirus would “go away. It’s really working out.” This directly contravenes the assessment of Trump’s former Homeland Security adviser, Tom Bossert, who says, “We are ten days away from the hospitals being creamed.” NBC News: In an op-ed in The Washington Post published Monday, Bossert said that unless the U.S. closes schools, halts public gatherings and takes other steps to reduce community transmission, the country is headed for the sort of crisis Italy is now facing, with hospitals overwhelmed by elderly people in need of critical care. “Simply put, as evidence of human-to-human transmission becomes clear in a community, officials must pull the trigger on aggressive interventions,” Bossert wrote. “Time matters. Two weeks of delay can mean the difference between success and failure. Public health experts learned this in 1918 when the Spanish flu killed 50 million to 100 million people around the globe. If we fail to take action, we will watch our health-care system be overwhelmed.” In addition to that, the stock market rose in the morning hours, apparently hopeful of some actual leadership from this administration and then it fell back down again. Wall Street rallied Tuesday morning before sinking back into the red, as sentiment waned that President Donald Trump would introduce a robust economic package in time to shore up the growing financial impact from the coronavirus. The Dow Jones Industrial Average sank to a loss of almost 100 points just hours after a surge of 945 points. That, in turn, came just one day after a historic rout that saw the blue-chip index drop by 2,013 points, the most ever. While Trump said Monday he would be meeting with congressional Republicans on Tuesday to discuss a stimulus package, White House officials and analysts threw cold water on that idea, noting that there was no evidence such a plan had been floated. Trump has hit the wall with the coronavirus crisis. There is no way he can lie his way out of this one. Soundbites and platitudes won’t work. He needs actual answers and he hasn’t got any. And if he thinks Mike Pence can perform legislative miracles, especially in the area of health, then he’s as stupid as the evangelical wingnuts that voted for the two of them. Honestly, it’s impossible to know whether it’s time to laugh or cry. I guess we’ll wait ten days and see how accurate Bossert’s prediction is, and see whether the stock exchange is even opening it’s doors.

Maybe Pence Will Be Out Soon, White House Staffers Blaming Him For Botching Coronavirus

Buck passing and finger pointing are part of any incompetently run organization and the White House certainly qualifies as that. Donald Trump appointed Mike Pence head of the coronavirus task force last week and went on vacation, figuring that Pence would mind the store. Instead, things got worse and White House staffers morphed into Chicken Littles, crying, “the stock market is falling!” Oh, what to do! Trump took to the airwaves, finally, late Monday, with some hastily cobbled together ideas. Politico: While President Donald Trump previewed a slate of fiscal stimulus options from the White House Monday night, other aides privately continued to debate the seriousness of the coronavirus. Officials, like Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, had been urging staff not to overreact, while other aides advocated dramatic measures, such as shutting down borders, stopping cruise ship travel and expanding travel restrictions. Then there was the blame game. One senior administration official blamed the national security staff for bungling the early coronavirus response. Other aides blamed the vice president’s office, which has taken the lead on the response. “The Office of the Vice President seems way in over their heads,” one White House official said, referring to the coordination and messaging. “They don’t know what they’re doing.” Separately, some aides took issue with Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director Robert Redfield, who’d dutifully stood by Trump during his Friday visit to the Atlanta agency and commended the president for his “decisive leadership.” Trump, for his part, continued to denigrate the media and Democrats on Twitter for overhyping the coronavirus threat. It stands to reason that the Trump administration is blaming everybody and everything but themselves, while the fact remains that the key problem here is that since the very beginning of this crisis it has been handled as a PR problem and not a public health emergency. All subsequent problems stem from that. That, and the fact that when Trump took office he gutted pandemic preparedness programs, firing key personnel, and when he needed them, they weren’t there. So now he has to try and reverse engineer something that will take care of this emergency. Rotsa ruck. Not too many people believe that this administration is going to rise to the occasion, after the incompetence that’s been displayed so far. Trump’s first public comment on the coronavirus was to say that, “there are only about fifteen cases and soon there will be zero.” The number of reported cases is now at 500 and the death toll is 26. Democrats would do well to emphasize this in a campaign ad. Trump loves to shoot from the hip and make things up and the covid-19 crisis emphasizes that tendency like nothing else. And unfortunately, it’s a matter of life and death.  

Trump’s Still A No Show As Stock Market Plunges, Alex Azar Walks Out Refusing...

I wonder if there was a contest at the White House today and Alex Azar drew the short straw. It’s past noon in Washington and Orange Nero has not shown his face, but somebody had to get out there and say something, so Azar went to the podium and gave a pep talk about how great the economy is under Trump — despite the reality that the stock market continues to plunge. “The market has obviously been very active today,” was Azar’s opening line. And then he went into a talking point, complete with superlatives. Maybe Azar moonlights as Trump’s rally speechwriter, ya spose? “President Trump has delivered a historically strong economy,” Azar said. “The fundamentals in this economy are unbelievable.” Well, we can’t argue with him there. Yes, what’s going on in this economy, fundamentally, right now, is unbelievable. Point conceded. “Whether it’s employment or wage growth or productivity or international trade deals, the fundamentals remain what they are.” Yes, they do. The fundamentals of lies about job creation — Ivanka creating fifteen million is the best so far — and insane trade deals have not changed. We concede this point as well. Then Azar gave us one sentence on the coronavirus. This is the head of Health and Human Services, and we’re in a pandemic, and here is all he had to tell us. “President Trump is leading a whole of government response with the vice president helping him on the public health issues that we’re facing with the novel coronavirus. That is his number one concern.” That’s it. Not one word about how many testing kits have gone out, how many new cases have been reported, how the health crisis is being managed — nada. We are told there’s a “whole of government response,” an introductory sentence with no exposition. And then Azar went back to the economy. “In terms of the economy, he and his economic team have the tools to keep this economy going strong.” And he was done. He left with reporters calling after him, “How many cases of coronavirus have been reported.” What, you think Azar knows or cares? What is obvious here is that all the little Trump soldiers have been instructed to not talk about the coronavirus and if they talk about anything at all to reporters, talk about the economy, because that’s Trump signature issue that he’s running on — except that’s a little difficult to do with the stock market in the toilet! The global economy is unraveling, let alone the American, and the geopolitical scene is heating up — and no one in Trump’s administration has a clue — least of all Alex Freaking Azar! Yet on what looks to be shaping up as Black Monday, or Dim and Grim Monday in any event, that’s who they send out there! Here’s the clip. Seeing is believing. And bear in mind that today is the day that Trump puts his reelection campaign into high gear. Hope Hicks goes back to the White House today to help Jared Kushner and all is supposed to be high festivity as Trump world prepares for a great November victory — except the world is collapsing around them and they’re too stupid to even acknowledge it. One wonders if they acknowledge it to themselves?

First Forced Halt Ever On NY Stock Exchange, Trump Says It’s A Good Thing

The stock market cratered within minutes after the opening bell, triggering the first-ever forced halt on trading in history. The S&P sank seven percent after the open and the Dow Jones plunged 2,000 points before rising slightly to 1,800. Washington Post: The forced freeze was a sign of unprecedented volatility for Wall Street amid the most turbulent trading in recent memory. Another 15-minute halt will be triggered if the S&P 500’s losses hit the 13 percent threshold. In the event of a 20 percent decline, markets would shut down for the day. “The bull market’s 11-year birthday is today but investors are not in a celebratory mood with trading halted shortly after the open as markets plunged,” Greg McBride, chief financial analyst at Bankrate.com, wrote in commentary Monday. “The uncertain economic impact of coronavirus continues to grip markets, with stocks, commodities and interest rates all dropping sharply. Markets hate uncertainty and there is a ton of it currently in play.” Trump is on vacation in Florida, per usual, but he deigned to tweet at us. His message is not to worry. Good for the consumer, gasoline prices coming down! — Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) March 9, 2020 Yes, indeed, oil prices plunged as well. And Trump is so stupid, or thinks that we are, not to know that a price war between the Saudis and Russia is going to be bad for us. Oil prices tumbled into the $30s, after Saudi Arabia and Russia deadlocked over production. The Saudis had been pushing for a cut in output to prop up prices, but did a reversal when Russia balked and decided, instead, to flood the market with hundreds of thousands of additional barrels per day at a steep discount — a move analysts fear may trigger a price war. “Cheap oil is one thing. Super cheap oil is another,” said John Kilduff of Again Capital. “The stock market is looking at the oil price plunge as a canary in the coal mine of a disinflationary one-two punch, driven partly by cratering demand for transportation fuels and a wanton price war among the major oil producers” that will result in big losses for U.S. and Canadian producers. Trump said he will return from Florida and meet with advisers. Might as well go through the motions, I guess. The Fed already cut interest rates last week, how far can they go with that mechanism? At the time of this writing it’s still morning on the west coast and mid day on the east, so this is far from over. Global markets were, to quote the Washington Post, “apoplectic.” Japan’s market closed down 5 percent, Hong Kong’s down at 4.2, and European markets down more than 7 percent — again, in midday trading. Here’s an idea Trump had a few years ago, maybe we should listen to it. pic.twitter.com/IO9Vanoozp — ????????Emy Cahalin????????⏰???? (@CahalinEmy) March 9, 2020 And here’s the bottom line: Yes, the coronavirus issue is not being handled properly in this country. Trump’s administration gutted pandemic protections early on and ever since coronavirus has appeared on the scene, the response has been stutter stepping incompetence. But what’s happening on the stock market is more than just that. It is a response to the overall instability and insane judgement that Trump has brought to office, his […]

Trump’s Claims Of ‘Natural Ability’ WRT Coronavirus Are A Replay Of His Claims Of...

If you missed Donald Trump’s visit to the CDC, wherein he claimed to have “a natural ability” to comprehend the coronavirus and opined that perhaps he should have gone into medicine rather than running for president, you’ll be interested to hear that it was just a rerun episode. He copped an identical attitude at the time of his first Pentagon briefing, July 20, 2017. On that day he was a genius of military strategy and foreign policy. He knew it all then, like he knows it all know, because his grandiosity will not permit him to take a subordinate intellectual position to anyone, ever, even among people who are acknowledged experts within a given field. And his comments were off point and frequently nonsensical then, just like they are now. In true Trumpian style, nothing changes except to get worse. Politico Magazine: Trump took his place at the head of the table with a frown fixed on his face. Offering few greetings to anyone, he sat with his arms crossed, refusing to look at Mattis. To me it seemed that his mind was already made up. He appeared to see this entire briefing as pointless—but perhaps I was reading too much into all of this. At least I hoped so. […] Mattis’ third slide triggered a stronger response from Trump. A visual depiction of our Pacific posture, this slide zoomed in on the U.S. forces located in Japan and South Korea—forces that had kept the peace in both countries for more than six decades. It detailed the numbers of troops in each country, the cost to American taxpayers, and the costs borne by our allies to support forces in their country. Mattis made the point that America had been willing to accept unfair terms following World War II in order to get both countries back on their feet, but that now would be an opportune time to update our trade agreements should Trump desire to do so. Mattis loved this slide because it outlined the significant contributions both nations were making, with Japan footing part of the bill to shift U.S. Marines from Okinawa to Guam, and South Korea paying to move Army soldiers to a new base. He emphasized to the president the importance of Japan paying to offset the costs for a new base, saying it was the first time in history they’d done so. “Who is paying the rest of the bill for the move to Guam?” the president demanded. He was upset that Japan was only covering a part of the total costs required to relocate the base. There was silence. But only briefly. “Our trade agreements are criminal,” Trump thundered—despite the fact that Mattis was not talking about anything trade-related. “Japan and South Korea are taking advantage of the United States.” This was decidedly not the message Mattis’ slide intended to convey. Out of nowhere, the president added, “And the USS Ford [the navy’s newest aircraft carrier] is completely out of control with cost overruns!” Mattis struggled to regain control of the meeting. In one sense he got what he’d wanted. The president was definitely engaged, but not in the way Mattis had hoped. This is no different from Trump’s meeting at the CDC in Atlanta this past week. Trump knew what was going on. He assured one […]

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