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Tuesday, March 31, 2020

Pandemic Politics: Timing State-Level Social Distancing Responses to COVID-19 -- by political science professors and a health metrics researcher from the University of Washington says "Our findings are unambiguous: political variables are the strongest predictor of the early adoption of social distancing policies. All else equal, states with Republican governors and Republican electorates delayed each social distancing measure by an average of 2.70 days ... a far larger effect than any other factor. read more

The Justice Department inspector general revealed Tuesday that he found errors in every FBI application to a secret surveillance court his office examined as part of an ongoing review " suggesting the problems exposed in the bureau's probe of President Trump's 2016 campaign extend far beyond that case alone. read more

Monday, March 30, 2020

A regimen of moderate social distancing, like what many areas of the country are doing now, has the potential to save well over a million lives. And those saved lives are worth $8 trillion to the U.S. economy. read more

Sunday, March 29, 2020

Thirteen years ago, a group of U.S. public health officials came up with a plan to address what they regarded as one of the medical system's crucial vulnerabilities: a shortage of ventilators. The plan was to build a large fleet of inexpensive portable devices to deploy in a flu pandemic or another crisis. A multibillion-dollar maker of medical devices bought the small California company that had been hired to design the new machines. The project ultimately produced zero ventilators. read more

President Trump has been focused on shifting blame for whatever becomes of the coronavirus outbreak. And on Sunday, he set about blaming hospitals and states for the well-established shortages of equipment to deal with the situation. read more


The memorandum issued by Inspector General Michael Horowitz stems from an audit launched last year after his office found 17 serious problems with the FBI's surveillance applications targeting former Trump campaign adviser Carter Page.

The interim results of that audit suggest that the problems that plagued the Page investigation may exist in other counterterrorism and counterintelligence cases. The memorandum may buttress some of the criticism that Trump and his supporters have leveled at the FBI, but the findings also suggest that, rather than political motives, the issues at the agency may be broader institutional weaknesses.

The notion that the FBI is and was some leftish cult of anti-Trump bias is laughable. LEO as a broad entity has always been ultraconservative and every criminal alive will tell you that in their opinion LEO always assumes guilt over innocence.

The FBI systemically will tilt the scales in the favor of allowing LEO more opportunities to gather evidence as it regards potential threats to national security. 9/11 only cemented the notion that any single evidentiary thread left unpulled may lead to catastrophic damage to our society. The Trump campaign and its minions cavorting with Russians and their cut outs presented a unique problem to the FBI that they had never encountered before. No prior major US presidential campaign ever interacted repeatedly with a hostile foreign government even after being warned to report such contacts to the FBI.

What the FBI did was absolutely wrong, but obviously not politically motivated. Their actions were motivated by trying to identify potential seditious behavior that might have been criminal, actions that were being done by specific political operatives.

Joe Biden has been on live tv almost every day doing interviews and commenting on Trump's fecklessness. He'll be on MSNBC in one hour for those interested.

He's doing precisely what he should be doing, NOT trying to look like a back seat driver in a time of crisis. He continually criticizes Trump over specifics while offering Americans encouragement and empathy for the suffering that's going on.

Now is not the time for the usual retail politicking regardless. Americans are focused on literally life and death. Trump is his own worst advertisement as he daily reminds rational people of his own personalization and politicalization of everything that enters his orbit, even when it involves lives outside his own.

There is a reason all primaries have been postponed and that's because our health crisis is more important than the presidential political campaigns even though Trump is in terminal re-election mode. Based on the trajectory of this pandemic, this year's election is likely to be unlike any other in the modern era. So old metrics likely aren't important.

And to be as blunt as possible, does anyone see a single state that went for Clinton in 2016 trending toward Trump? I see Michigan (and its resounding blue wave in 2018) as lost to Trump for his continued sleights toward their popular governor, and both WI and PA polling shows Biden in good stead there. Throw in Florida if their COVID body count explodes due to both Trump's and DeSantis' slow response to the crisis, and Trump has no road to re-election. And we haven't even mentioned GA or AZ, where McSally needs a rocket to cover the distance between her and Mark Kelly.

Biden is bidding his time very well imo. The numbers seem to back that up.

The lieutenant governor of Texas set off a firestorm by suggesting that older Americans should be willing to sacrifice their lives to save the economy, which has been devastated as businesses shutter to stem the virus's spread and people stay home.

But in many respects, the either-or choice is a false one. A new working paper from Michael Greenstone and Vishan Nigam of the University of Chicago's Becker Friedman Institute for Economics underscores that the two goals are complementary.

"When you have a comparison going between money and something else, money almost always wins in our political debate," Greenstone said in an interview. Converting lives to dollars puts those lives on equal footing and helps "focus the mind," he added. To do this, they turned to a tool regularly used by policymakers in evaluating the costs and benefits of a given piece of legislation: the value of a statistical life (VSL).

Greenstone and Nigam used previously published work to set an average VSL of $11.5 million for American adults, which is in line with the number used by the federal government to assess clean-air regulations.

They then apply the $11.5 million VSL to the total number of lives saved [by social distancing practices], which they estimate at 1.76 million, accounting for the age distribution of the lives saved. They arrive at a staggering number: $7.9 trillion, or about $60,000 per American household. And it all happens in the next six months, according to their estimate.

"$8 trillion is over one-third of US GDP and larger than the entire annual federal budget," they wrote. "Whether in regular times or during a pandemic, it is difficult to think of any intervention with such large potential benefits to American citizens."

Who knew saving lives would be so beneficial to the US economy? Obviously not the posters here who erroneously believed that pausing the economy is far worse than continuing on and letting the virus run more rampant through vulnerable sectors of our society.

Social distancing is both pro-life and pro-growth. Who knew?

During the daily White House coronavirus briefing in the Rose Garden, Trump suggested that hospitals had squandered or done worse with masks and were "hoarding" ventilators, and that states were requesting equipment despite not needing them.

Trump's boldest claim was about masks. He noted the current demand wasn't commensurate with what hospitals usually use and suggested masks were "going out the back door."

"It's a New York hospital, very " it's packed all the time," he said. "How do you go from 10 to 20 [thousand masks per week] to 300,000? Ten [thousand] to 20,000 masks, to 300,000 " even though this is different? Something is going on, and you ought to look into it as reporters. Are they going out the back door?"

The ignorance of this idiot is legendary. With all the professional experts around him, he still would rather traffic and believe right wing conspiracy lunacy that he hears on Fox News than try to intellectually understand the unique set of circumstances brought forth by this health crisis.

The explosion in needed masks is due to the fact these healthcare workers should be changing masks with each new patient they encounter to insure that potential germs are not transmitted as they encounter patients who may not have the infection. Now multiply that by the number of different people who may deal with each patient and it's easy to understand why so many masks are needed.

As with understanding the calculable projections of an exponentially expanding virus, this President and many Republicans in general suck at mathematics.

Trump touts TV ratings of his news conferences amid pandemic

President Trump took to Twitter Sunday afternoon to tout the ratings of his news conferences, claiming without evidence that mainstream media are going "CRAZY" because of his popularity on television.

"Because the Ratings' of my News Conferences etc. are so high, Bachelor finale, Monday Night Football type numbers' according to the @nytimes, the Lamestream Media is going CRAZY," Trump tweeted. "Trump is reaching too many people, we must stop him.' said one lunatic. See you at 5:00 P.M.!"

OMFG.... Is this man capable of realizing that everything isn't about HIM, that it's about Americans seeking information and reassurance about their own safety during a global pandemic?

"We definitely saw the problem," said Dr. Thomas R. Frieden, who ran the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention from 2009 to 2017. "We innovated to try and get a solution. We made really good progress, but it doesn't appear to have resulted in the volume that we needed."

The project " code-named Aura " came in the wake of a parade of near-miss pandemics: SARS, MERS, bird flu and swine flu.

The ventilators were to cost less than $3,000 each. The lower the price, the more machines the government would be able to buy. Companies submitted bids for the Project Aura job. The research agency opted not to go with a large, established device maker. Instead it chose Newport Medical Instruments, a small outfit in Costa Mesa, Calif.

Newport, which was owned by a Japanese medical device company, only made ventilators. Being a small, nimble company, Newport executives said, would help it efficiently fulfill the government's needs. In May 2012, Covidien, a large medical device manufacturer, agreed to buy Newport for just over $100 million.

Newport executives and government officials working on the ventilator contract said they immediately noticed a change when Covidien took over. Developing inexpensive portable ventilators no longer seemed like a top priority.

Government officials and executives at rival ventilator companies said they suspected that Covidien had acquired Newport to prevent it from building a cheaper product that would undermine Covidien's profits from its existing ventilator business.

Some Newport executives who worked on the project were reassigned to other roles. Others decided to leave the company. In 2014, with no ventilators having been delivered to the government, Covidien executives told officials at the biomedical research agency that they wanted to get out of the contract, according to three former federal officials. The executives complained that it was not sufficiently profitable for the company.

The government agreed to cancel the contract.

Want to understand why a for-profit healthcare delivery system isn't in the public's best interests, especially in times of nationwide health crises? This story can stand as a prima facie example until a better one comes along.

Capitalism exists to put profits above all else including lives. When all this is over, Americans will find themselves having very hard conversations about how our society best proceed moving forward. And maybe the needs of the living will finally take precedence over the profits of the capitalists.

We know that the mission at hand is not about the individual, but the greater good of our country. Our self-proclaimed "wartime" president displays a daily misunderstanding of the mission, facts and the way in which his administration should execute this mission to save as many American lives as possible during this unprecedented war on the pandemic.

The presidency is the most solemn office that can be held in our nation and we must be able to trust the president's word, policies and process. When President Trump goes on television in front of every American citizen and contradicts his own team of scientists and doctors, he is neither following the principles I laid out above, nor is he displaying "courage, candor, integrity or competence" during this battle to save lives.

As a "wartime president," Trump could gain my respect and most importantly save American lives by following the example of our military leadership. I believe it's every citizen's responsibility during this dangerous health crisis to demand that our president be tactically proficient and set an example of courage and frankness and honesty as Americans fight for their families' health and safety.

It is my hope that, moving forward, our commander-in-chief will clearly communicate the tasks required to accomplish the mission to win our battle against the coronavirus while at the same time limiting loss of American lives as much as humanly possible.

The fact that posters here continue to ignore or deflect away from Trump's personal failings to this nation only underscores the cancerous nature of his cult of personality along with his incessant scapegoating of the media, competent US governors, and anyone daring to say that this emperor indeed has no clothes.

The fact that Trump's personal deficiencies would one day become a threat to this nation's security was almost as easy to predict as knowing the sun will rise from the east tomorrow morning. Blissfully ignoring the incompetence and narcissism of this insecure, ignorant manchild once was a seemingly harmless parlor game for the oblivious. Now it will be the epitaph for many who should have been protected.

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