Tuesday, March 31, 2020

About Those Members Of Congress Trading On Insider Information...


Eggs seem mighty expensive lately, don't they? Profiteering under cover of a national emergency is a crime, isn't it? I believe prices are only allowed to go up 10% in a situation like the one we find ourselves in today. I don't think anyone is enforcing that. As for Congress... well, it's filled with scoundrels and thieves. And the White House... what can I say that hasn't already be said a million times over? We truly have let our democracy turn into a kakistocracy. WE did that.. And, no, I'm not just talking about ex-congressional crooks Duncan Hunter (R-CA) and Chris Collins (R-NY), both of whom have already been found guilty. I'm talking about the corona-crooks still in Congress-- and it goes beyond just Senator Richard Burr (R-NC), the most blatant of the criminals. The Charlotte Observer called on Burr to resign last week. There are a lot of other editorial boards around the country that should get busy as well.

In the Burr case, the editorial board wrote that "More than a week has passed since news reports revealed how U.S. Sen Richard Burr profited off the coronavirus while failing to warn his constituents at the early, critical stages of the crisis. Things are hardly getting rosier for North Carolina’s senior senator. Burr has been abandoned by fellow Republicans, some of whom have called for his resignation. He’s been sued by a shareholder of Wyndham Hotels & Suites for selling off $150,000 of that company’s stock. The Securities and Exchange Commission has issued a statement that, while not using Burr’s name, warned members of Congress about doing what the senator is accused of doing-- trading off privileged information and briefings. And, on Monday, the Washington Post reported that the Justice Department is investigating those stock trades. He is toxic to his party. He is embarrassing to North Carolina. Clearly, his problems are not going to go away. So why isn’t he?"

On Sunday, CNN reported that the Trumpist Justice Department "has started to probe a series of stock transactions made by lawmakers ahead of the sharp market downturn stemming from the spread of coronavirus, according to two people familiar with the matter. The inquiry, which is still in its early stages and being done in coordination with the Securities and Exchange Commission, has so far included outreach from the FBI to at least one lawmaker, Sen. Richard Burr, seeking information about the trades, according to one of the sources... Under insider trading laws, prosecutors would need to prove the lawmakers traded based on material non-public information they received in violation of a duty to keep it confidential."

Burr in the chair of the Senate Intel Committee, which was briefed on COVID-19 several times before it was seen as a pandemic and Burr ran out and sold about $1.6 million in hotel and airline stock-- and also warned wealthy North Carolina donors, though not the general public. Another one who smells at least as bad as Burr is billionaire Kelly Loeffler, a notorious slime bucket who bought her seat from Georgia's crooked governor last December. She and her scumbag husband, president of the New York Stock Exchange, sold a couple dozen stocks worth around $3 million dollars just before they crashed. Other senators being looked into are Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) and Jim Inhofe (R-OK).

Why do members of Congress keep committing crimes? That's an easy one. They invariably escape serious retribution which makes them willing to take risks. A couple of life sentences and it's unlikely that crooks like Burr and Inhofe would be going for a quick buck like that.

In an unrelated case, Open Secrets' Karl Evers-Hillstrom reported last week that the the Campaign Legal Center is asking ethics officials to investigate campaign spending by Steven Palazzo (R-MS) after the watchdog group found that he channeled six figures of donors’ money to family-owned businesses, not unlike what Duncan Hunter was nailed for. "Palazzo," wrote Evers-Hillstrom, "used campaign funds to pay over $60,000 in rent to his own farm between 2018 and 2019, according to Federal Election Commission filings. His campaign also spent nearly $128,000 with his now ex-wife’s accounting firm since 2011. Federal election law prohibits candidates from using campaign funds for personal use. But candidates can justify funneling donors’ money to themselves or family members if they make the case that the spending is campaign-related."
The Campaign Legal Center argues that Palazzo had an existing accounting firm and his campaign didn’t need the services of Palazzo & Co., which is run by his ex-wife. The two reportedly divorced in 2016, but much of that spending came when they were still married. The group also says Palazzo’s farm wasn’t critical to his campaign, as he reportedly sold it prior to his 2020 primary election, and that the payments would be “unusually high” for a campaign office.

“The lack of any publicly available information about the campaign using the farm as an office, the sale of the property prior to the primary campaign, and its remote location all suggest that the farm was completely for personal use and that it did not have any campaign purpose justifying $60,000 in rent,” lawyers for the Campaign Legal Center wrote in a letter to the Office of Congressional Ethics.

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Other Countries Are Coping-- Or Not Coping-- With The Pandemic As Well


A couple of weeks ago I visited my doctor at the cancer hospital she works in. The policy there has always been to not admit anyone with infectious diseases. The hospital just cares for cancer patients and is also a major research center for cancer cures. A huge number of patients are immune-compromised and any kind of infection could be a death sentence. During our chat, she told me that doctors there had been asked-- I didn't ask by who but I assumed it was a government entity-- to start wrapping their heads around ceasing to treat elderly cancer patients. I think she said 60 or 65. She was horrified at the prospect.

Soon after someone sent me the video from a doctor in Madrid who was even more distraught than my doctor. Weeping, he said that in Madrid coronavirus patients over the age of 65 were being sedated and allowed to die because there aren't enough respirators in Spain. He mentioned that elderly patients were removed from respirators if they were currently being kept alive by them.

In the past three years, Trump "ignored multiple direct warnings-- briefings, reports, simulations, intelligence assessments-- that a pandemic was likely and that the government didn’t have enough masks, ventilators, or antiviral drugs to deal with it. His administration was told exactly what to do: second-guess case detection rates, prepare rapid production of tests, and line up extra funding and personal protective equipment. He did none of it. He stiffed a budget request for preparedness funds, and he disbanded the National Security Council unit in charge of pandemics... Trump’s administration learned of the outbreak in China around New Year’s Day, but he brushed off briefings about it, figuring it hadn’t spread in the United States. (The CDC offered to send its own experts to China, but China refused, and Trump-- overriding advice and U.S. intelligence-- backed off.) On Jan. 21, the CDC reported the first known American infection. But in an interview on CNBC, Trump scoffed, 'It’s one person coming in from China. We have it under control. It’s going to be just fine.' Data released by the World Health Organization showed the coronavirus was killing victims at a far higher rate than swine flu did. (That remains true, even though calculated mortality rates from the coronavirus have declined.) But the Trump administration didn’t declare a public health emergency until Jan. 31. The president had to be pushed to ban travelers from China, and he did nothing domestically. In late January, the administration rebuffed an HHS request for money to buy masks and other emergency supplies. Throughout February, as U.S. intelligence agencies monitored the spread of the virus in Europe and Asia, Trump insisted the United States was safe. When a CDC official raised concerns in public, Trump rebuked her for scaring the stock market."

"We're told to put on a brave face," said another doctor in Madrid whose audio tape the doctor in the video played, "fill up with courage and go to work knowing that you are going to have to let many people die." He wants to penalize the politicians who-- like Trump-- were too cowardly to act fast and decisively while the pandemic grew; he wants their salaries to be docked and used to buy respirators. The video is heartbreaking.

The fascist-leaning Trumpist president of Brazil, Jair Bolsonaro, sounded like the other side of that coin. People are demanding his resignation because he has been telling Brazilians to stay at work, ignore safety guidelines, "take it like a man" and reminding his countrymen that "we all must die one day." On Sunday, Twitter deleted two of his tweets in which he questioned quarantine measures aimed at containing the coronavirus, on the grounds that they violated the social network's rules.

Typhoid Mary shakes hands with Captain Corona

The far-right leader had posted several videos in which he flouted his government's social distancing guidelines by mixing with supporters on the streets of Brasilia and urging them to keep the economy going.

Two of the posts were removed and replaced with a notice explaining why they had been taken down.

Twitter explained in a statement that it had recently expanded its global rules on managing content that contradicted public health information from official sources and could put people at greater risk of transmitting COVID-19.

In one of the deleted videos, Bolsonaro tells a street vendor, "What I have been hearing from people is that they want to work."

"What I have said from the beginning is that 'we are going to be careful, the over-65s stay at home,'" he said.

"We just can't stand still, there is fear because if you don't die of the disease, you starve," the vendor is seen telling Bolsonaro, who responds: "You're not going to die!"

In another video, the president calls for a "return to normality," questioning quarantine measures imposed by governors and some mayors across the giant South American country as an effective containment measure against the virus.

"If it continues like this, with the amount of unemployment what we will have later is a very serious problem that will take years to be resolved," he said of the isolation measures.

"Brazil cannot stop or we'll turn into Venezuela," Bolsonaro later told reporters outside his official residence.

On Saturday, Health Minister Luiz Henrique Mandetta highlighted the importance of containment as a means of fighting the coronavirus, which has already infected 3,904 people in Brazil, leaving 114 dead, according to the latest official figures.

"Some people want me to shut up, follow the protocols," said Bolsonaro. "How many times does the doctor not follow the protocol?"

"Let's face the virus with reality. It is life, we must all die one day."

In the four videos posted on his Twitter account, Bolsonaro is seen surrounded by small crowds as he walked about the capital.

Bolsonaro has described the coronavirus as "a flu" and advocated the reopening of schools and shops, with self-isolation necessary solely for the over-60s.
It's easy to say, "Brazil elected this psychopath; they deserve what he does to them." Fair enough-- for the 57,797,847 people who voted for him-- but what about the 47,040,906, who voted against him? They don't deserve to die-- not any more than the people -- a majority-- in the U.S. who voted against Trump do.

Tom Phillips, reporting from Rio for The Guardian yesterday, wrote that Brazilians are demanding Bolsonaro resign for "downplaying the virus and willfully undermining efforts to slow its advance with shutdowns and quarantines."
“Brazil and the world are facing an emergency unprecedented in modern history … [and] in our country the emergency is exacerbated by an irresponsible president. Jair Bolsonaro is the greatest obstacle to urgent decisions being taken to reduce the spread of the infection [and] save lives,” said the document, first published in the Folha de São Paulo newspaper.

They added: “Bolsonaro is in no position to keep governing Brazil... He commits crimes… lies and fosters chaos, taking advantage of the despair of our most vulnerable citizens.

“We need unity and understanding to face up to the pandemic, not a president who goes against public health authorities and puts his authoritarian political interests above the lives of everyone else.

“Bolsonaro is more than a political problem-- he has become a public health problem… He should resign,” they concluded.

“He needs to be urgently contained and must answer for the crimes he is committing against our people.”

The declaration, Brazil Cannot Be Destroyed By Bolsonaro, was signed by leading voices from across the Brazilian left including Ciro Gomes, Flávio Dino, Manuela d’Ávila, Fernando Haddad and Guilherme Boulos.

Ciro Gomes said Bolsonaro’s conduct represented “the difference between hundred of thousands of deaths or tens of thousands of deaths in Brazil.”

“I believe he must answer for crimes against humanity at the International Court of Justice in the Hague-- and I will work towards this,” Gomes told The Guardian.

Asked what his message to Bolsonaro was, Gomes said: “Resign, you reckless man.”

Boulos said the irresponsible, erratic and backwards behaviour of Bolsonaro-- who one Brazilian commentator this week nicknamed “Captain Corona”-- meant he had to go.

“More than a political crisis, Bolsonaro now represents a public health problem,” Boulos told The Guardian. “We see no way for Bolsonaro to continue governing the country-- this will cost Brazil a tremendous number of human lives.”

Boulos claimed Bolsonaro’s undermining of quarantine and social distancing measures was partly the result of his being beholden to business owners who opposed a shutdown because it meant they would lose money.

“He represents the most perverse economic interests that couldn’t care less about people’s lives. They’re worried about maintaining their profitability,” Boulos said.

Bolsonaro has rejected criticism of his response, which he claims is designed to protect workers and the economy. “We’re going to tackle the virus but tackle it like fucking men-- not like kids,” Brazil’s president declared on Sunday.
And brief blurbs from around the word:

Phuket is a tropical island developed for tourism off the southwest coast on Thailand. It gets something like 39 million tourists a year. But not this year. Yesterday, the government closed down all points of entry.

Moscow is on lockdown but some people weren't paying any attention to the guidelines yesterday (day 1) and others deny the seriousness of the pandemic and, like Trump and Bolsonaro, dismiss it as a flu.

At least Putin didn't lick Protsenko's hand

Can you imagine someone deciding to go on a cruise now? People do. And, of course, they get coronavirus and some die. There are two Holland America ships that have been stranded in the Pacific and which Panama finally decided to allow to traverse the Panama Canal-- without stopping-- in order to get into the Caribbean. There are dead people and sick people and the ships hope to be allowed to dock in Fort Lauderdale. One ship, the Zaandam has 1,243 guests and 586 crew and 138 suspected cases (and 4 bodies).

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Warning: Trump Could Commit Political Suicide, But Unless He Does, Biden Is Unelectable


Two crooked establishment groups-- Biden's own SuperPAC, Unite the Country, and David Brock's notoriously corrupt American Bridge-- have teamed up to push Biden into the Oval Office. Of course; he's exactly their kind of guy. Deval Patrick and Jennifer Granholm will co-chair the partnership. I wonder if anyone has spoken with Granholm-- Patrick could give a shit-- about Tara Reade's very credible sexual assault charges against Biden-- which, in true Trumpian fashion, he refuses to respond to. The establishment media refuses to touch the story, which will pretty much guarantee Biden loses if he's the nominee and Trump uses the story to eviscerate him with.
Rightwing news outlets have gleefully seized upon the accusations against Biden; the story has also been discussed by leftwing commentators. However, the mainstream media has largely ignored the allegations. Instead there have been headlines like The top 10 women Joe Biden might pick as VP (CNN) and Joe Biden’s inner circle: No longer a boy’s club (AP).

It is hugely frustrating to see conservatives, who couldn’t give a damn about the multiple sexual assault allegations against Donald Trump, weaponize the accusations against Biden. However, it’s also frustrating to see so many liberals turning a blind eye. The accusations against the former vice-president are serious; why aren’t they being taken seriously?

...Reade’s story may be impossible to verify, but this is the case with the vast majority of sexual assault allegations. It is nearly always a case of “he said, she said” – and it is nearly always the “he’ that is automatically believed. The #MeToo mantra “Believe Women” doesn’t mean that women never lie; it means that our systems of power are biased towards believing men never lie. It means that it takes decades of allegations and scores of women coming forward for powerful men like Harvey Weinstein, Jeffrey Epstein and Bill Cosby to be brought to justice. All the mantra means is that you shouldn’t automatically disbelieve women.

You know who has talked publicly about the importance of taking women seriously? Biden. During the Brett Kavanaugh hearings, Biden stood up for Dr Christine Blasey Ford, noting: “For a woman to come forward in the glaring lights of focus, nationally, you’ve got to start off with the presumption that at least the essence of what she’s talking about is real.”

Does this presumption not apply when the guy being accused is a Democrat running for president? It would seem that way. In January, according to reporting from the Intercept, Reade asked for help from the Time’s Up Legal Defense Fund, which has supported accusers of high-profile people like Weinstein. Reade was reportedly told by the National Women’s Law Center, the organization within which the Time’s Up fund is housed, that it couldn’t assist with accusations against a presidential candidate because it would jeopardize their non-profit status. The Intercept further notes that “the public relations firm that works on behalf of the Time’s Up Legal Defense Fund is SKDKnickerbocker, whose managing director, Anita Dunn, is the top adviser to Biden’s presidential campaign.”

There are some people who will insist that drawing attention to the new allegations against Biden is playing into the Republicans’ hands. That it will destroy Biden’s campaign and guarantee us four more years of Trump. Not only is that argument hypocritical, it is also hugely unlikely that Reade’s accusations will do any damage whatsoever to Biden’s ambitions. Allegations of sexual assault certainly haven’t posed any hindrance to Trump. The allegations against Kavanaugh didn’t stop him from becoming a supreme court justice. The allegations against Louis CK didn’t kill his career in comedy. And the multiple women who have accused Biden of touching them inappropriately in the past haven’t exactly derailed his career.
Ryan Cooper doesn't need a sex scandal-- and a little digging will find dozens of them in Biden's background-- to dub Biden the worst imaginable challenger to Trump right now. Yes, Trump has botched-- horribly so-- every aspect of the response to the pandemic, but his approval ratings have gone up and he could very well beat Biden in November. "This," wrote Cooper, "is what happens when the Democratic Party, de facto led at this point by its presumptive presidential nominee Joe Biden, refuses to make the case that Trump is in fact responsible for the severity of the disaster. Biden is proving to be about the worst imaginable nominee to take on Trump."
The party rallied around Biden in lockstep right before Super Tuesday, and voters fell in line. Biden won multiple states he has not visited in months and in which he had no campaign offices. And now that he's the probable nominee, Biden is not savaging Trump's response. On the contrary, his campaign says they are hesitant to even criticize him at all. "As much as I dislike Trump and think what a bad job he's doing, there's a danger now that attacking him can backfire on you if you get too far out there. I don't think the public wants to hear criticism of Trump right now," one adviser told Politico.

Indeed, Biden has barely been doing anything. As the outbreak became a full-blown crisis, Biden disappeared for almost an entire week. His campaign said it was trying to figure out how to do video livestreams, something any 12-year-old could set up in about 15 minutes. (Hey guys: Any smartphone with Twitter, YouTube, or Twitch installed can become a broadcasting device with the press of a single button.) When Biden did finally appear, he gave some scripted addresses that still had technical foul-ups, and did softball interviews where he still occasionally trailed off mid-sentence.

People crave leadership during times of crisis, as evidence by the sudden surge of positive sentiment towards New York Governor Andrew Cuomo, who seriously mishandled the initial crisis response, and is still trying to cut Medicaid, but has been giving reassuring daily press conferences where he seems like he is on top of the situation. Washington state Governor Jay Inslee did a much, much better job (just compare the numbers in New York to those in Washington state), but has gotten comparatively little attention precisely because there are a lot fewer cases and deaths (and there are many fewer reporters in Seattle than New York City).

Trump, meanwhile, is similarly out there on TV every day boasting about how what he's doing is so smart and good. What he's saying is insanely irresponsible and has already gotten people killed, but absent an effective response from the Democratic leadership, it can appear to casual news consumers as though he has the situation in hand. Democratic backbenchers and various journalists are screaming themselves hoarse, but it plainly isn't working.

Biden's strategy appears to be to coast to the presidency in basically the same way he coasted to the nomination: Keep public appearances and therefore embarrassing verbal flubs to a minimum, and rely on Trump's disastrous governance to do all the work for him. But this is a horribly risky strategy. Biden is already a candidate whose awful record will make it harder to attack Trump on trade, protecting Social Security and Medicare, corruption, mental fitness, and his treatment of women-- indeed, just recently a former Biden staffer came forward with an allegation that he had sexually assaulted her 26 years ago. Hunkering down and refusing to criticize Trump's world-historical bungling risks him successfully arguing that it was an unforeseeable disaster and he did the best anyone could have done.

Contrary to these half-baked notions that the public doesn't want to hear criticism of Trump, we saw during impeachment that once Democrats actually started going through with it, approval jumped-- largely because the liberal rank-and-file took that as a cue it was indeed a good idea. It's just another instance of the Democratic establishment's habit of hiding their desire to avoid conflict and do nothing behind an imagined obstacle of public opinion, when in fact they can change those opinions dramatically by offering a strong and clear alternative.

Moreover, if and when Biden does become president, he will be in charge of a country in ruins. Fixing the place up will require extremely energetic leadership. But both Biden, his campaign, and the Democratic establishment seem to believe that if they just pretend hard enough, everything will go back to normal on its own. It is willful blindness on par with the worst Trump loyalists.
Call me whatever you want but I'm sticking with this guy. It's hard to imagine why anyone who considers himself or herself even remotely progressive isn't.

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Washington Congressional Candidate Chris Armitage vs COVID-19


Goal ThermometerChris Armitage is a progressive running for Congress in the Spokane area of eastern Washington, a seat occupied by Trump toadie and enabler Cathy McMorris Rodgers. Chris, who served abroad in the U.S. Air Force, says he's running because "it’s time the working people of Eastern Washington have a voice that doesn’t sell them out to the highest bidder." Blue America endorsed him back in January and this week we were thrilled to see him present his constituents with a bold, comprehensive response plan for the battling the pandemic. Please take a look at it below and consider helping him replace a hard core, do-nothing conservative with a working class progressive by clicking on the thermometer on the right and contributing what you can in these tough times for us all.

COVID-19 presents an unprecedented threat to our nation. Dealing with it requires a bold response on par with the actions taken during World War II. As we observed from the rapid spread of Coronavirus COVID-19 in other nations, the result of continued inaction will be the death of millions domestically. This is a summary of how we can mobilize all resources at our disposal a nation to create a united front and save lives as a national community. We must unite against these threats if we are to save more than just our economy.



Temporarily nationalize the medical supply chain using the Defense Production Act.
Create or augment medical fluid, gear, and equipment production lines with active duty military. Research long-term supply chain disruptions and bring some of this production capacity back to the US permanently.
Use military transportation assets and personnel to condense time between production stages and reduce the time between production and market.
Mandate production of required medical protective gear and equipment (masks, gowns, gloves, ventilators, etc.) from companies with the capability and provide grants to do so.
Mandate production of medical fluids (hand-sanitizer, hydrogen peroxide, etc.) from companies with the capability and provide grants to do so.
Provide grants to companies building 3D printers capable of mass producing medical gear and equipment.
Make current 3D printer designs for medical gear and equipment open-source and mandate production from companies with the capability.
Begin a competition similar to Google Lunar X Prize (GLXP) to design a 3D printed cost-effective ventilator on an accelerated timeline (30-60 days).
Provide grants to companies to build and deploy mobile hospitals
Will generate tens of thousands of jobs.

Heavily subsidize or even temporarily nationalize the renewable energy industry in the US, creating tens of thousands of jobs in the process.
Saudi Arabia and Russia were able to further crash the US and world economy by infighting over oil supply. Thousands of Americans in oil and shale companies are losing their jobs.
Federally contract the erection of solar energy infrastructure across the country with immediate start dates.
Provide substantial grants to companies to build and expand production o renewable energy storage (a.k.a. batteries).
Use military engineers and planners to identify ideal areas for solar farm placement and use the resources of the federal government to begin purchase of required land.
Workers in the oil and shale industry will get dual-priority placement in new renewable energy jobs, the shared priority will be paired with current subject matter experts in the relevant fields.
Provide grants to companies that can create online courses to certify people in operation and maintenance of solar systems.

Stipulate that a bailout of the Airlines is contingent on activation of the Civil Reserve Air Fleet (CRAF) to help transport all the supplies and equipment we will create.
Suspension of CEO/Executive Pay Increases during crisis, Suspension of Stock Buybacks for duration of crisis
Mandate Paid Sick Leave, Freeze Layoffs
Turn diminished demand for passenger travel to increased cargo traffic.
Ensures support crews can keep their jobs.
Ensure we don’t diminish readiness by overburdening our vital military airlift assets and crews.

Create a new Joint Task Force or the 1st Homefront Support Wing (HSW), primarily comprised of Civil Engineers, Supply Chain Managers, Vehicle Fleet/Transportation Specialists, Aircraft Mechanics.
This would be an extended deployment for all personnel assigned. Families would remain at home station. If the requirement extends beyond 1 year, begin rotations.
Place a well qualified Air Force Logistics Officer in Charge. (i.e. Brigadier General Hurry or Brigadier General David J. Sanford).
Put logistics officers (Army and Air Force) in charge of procurement and disbursement of goods.
Model off of Supply Chain Operations Squadrons (SCOS) and Vehicle Supply Chain Operations Squadrons.
Establish a rapid response cell that sends military logistics experts to hard-hit areas or companies in need to diagnose logistics problems and implement solutions.
Place an Army Logistics Officer in charge of a geographically dispersed vehicle fleet comprised primarily of long-haul tractor trailers and pickup-trucks. Ensure sufficient drivers are attached to the fleet.
Place civil engineering officers in charge of rapid engineering responses within the United States, modeled off the 1st Expeditionary Civil Engineer Group (ECEG) in CENTCOM. Place a former 1 ECEG Commander in charge.
Begin constructing field hospitals outside hard hit areas or where needs are projected.
Create designs for hospitals that can be rapidly executed by civilian construction companies.
Rapidly repurpose government buildings into hospitals. Many states are also mobilizing plans to convert unused dormitories (from closed universities) and hotels into temporary housing for quarantine or medical care. Kuwait is using several resorts as quarantine facilities, for example.
For people who've been exposed but are not yet symptomatic.
Include a rapidly deployable Services Squadron to respond to dire need throughout the country.
Provide with specialized, mobile kitchens, tents, and beddown equipment.

Part of the reason we are in such a precarious position as a nation, with vulnerabilities left unattended, is because the U.S. has degraded our standing and relationships with the international community for years. Whether through endless wars, trade deals that enable human rights abuses, or backing out of agreements previous presidents have entered into; these are not behaviors that would gain our nation support during challenging times. If we hope to receive a helping hand when we are in need, we must be ready to extend the same kindness to others. Selfishness begets selfishness, and a nation that has no true allies is a nation that is lost and alone like any individual person who has spurned friends, family, and community members.


Organizing a multilateral response
Call for virtual UN Security Council Meeting
Call for virtual UN General Assembly Meeting
Call a joint virtual meeting with Canada and EU
Immediate humanitarian relief
Immediately remove sanctions on Iran, Venezuela and North Korea on a temporary basis (i.e. 60 days), except for weapons. Include automatic renewal of relief at intervals dependent on the status of the COVID-19 situation.
Bolstering fair trade to support American worker
Declare global free trade if countries reciprocate.
Immediately remove tariffs on Chinese goods if they agree to reciprocate.

Express support for the Ghani government.
Facilitate negotiations with the Taliban for an immediate, indefinite ceasefire between Taliban and Government Forces.
Begin airdropping food and medical supplies to tribes, Afghan government forces, and particularly hard-hit regions.
Immediately begin coordination between American, Chinese, and International Scientists on COVID-19 origins, containment, treatment, vaccines, etc.
Take initiative to end all tariffs if China reciprocates.
Coordinate with China on measures the international community can take.
Express support for the Alawi government.
Begin airdropping food and medical supplies to villages, government forces, and particularly hard-hit regions.
Temporarily remove all sanctions on non-military equipment.
Facilitate humanitarian aid to Iranian people.
Begin trading in food and sustenance items with Iran without restriction.
North Korea
Temporarily remove all sanctions on non-military equipment, contingent on humanitarian aid and organizations being allowed into the country.
Coordinate with China and South Korea to begin humanitarian aid shipments to North Korea.
Immediately remove all sanctions and enter into talks with the Maduro government to allow flow of humanitarian aid.

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How Much Better Off Would America Be If Trump Becomes Infected A Goes To Meet Satan?


Die For Me by Nancy Ohanian

In 1969 I bought a VW van in Wiesbaden, Germany and drove to India. When I drove back to Europe a couple of years later, I was sick and penniless and stranded. I made my way to Amsterdam and lived in my van and ate rice and vegetables everyday for a dollar at a macrobiotic restaurant in the city's meditation center, the Kosmos. Eventually the chef there liked me and told me she could cure what was wrong with me-- without the operation doctors said I needed. She gave name a job washing dishes, taught me how to work in a restaurant and how to cook. And cured me. I had some good years there and wound up as the manager but my favorite days were always the days I cooked; there were several of who took turns.

In January, when I caught on to Chris Martsenon's warnings about what the pandemic was bringing to America, I went out and started stocking up on the kinds of beans, grains and root vegetables I used to cook with in Holland-- common ones like carrots, onions, cabbage, potatoes and less common ones like daikon, turnips, rutabaga, celery roots... I hadn't been cooking regularly for decades. But it's like riding a bike; you don't forget, especially microbiotic cooking, which is also very reasonable and based on simple principles and techniques. So every day-- except Sundays when I fast, a hold-over from my Kosmos days-- I make healthy, delicious food for Roland and I.

I've also been able to buy perishables easily-- fresh fruits and vegetables. Today I noticed for the first time there were no roma tomatoes , no string beans and no leeks at the organic store. Maybe they'll have them tomorrow. Or, maybe not, I thought, after speaking with a friend in New York, where the shelves are far emptier than in California and after reading the latest piece from David Cay Johnston at the DCReport.org, Another Trump Screw-Up: Food May 'Rot In The Fields'. Johnston's point? Trump's obsessive "anti-Mexican racism is barring legal workers from picking fruits and vegetables; food production, distribution system could collapse."
Early signs show that the systems that get fresh fruit and vegetables to American homes is strained and may experience major failures. The Trump administration is only making matters worse, allowing his racism against Mexicans to inflict damage on American farms that depend on legal labor from south of the border.

...“Nearly all of our fruits and vegetables are not automated and you need a strong labor force to handpick those crops,” John Walt Boatright of the Florida Farm Bureau Federation told the Palm Beach Post.  “We are hearing a lot of concerns from the blueberry industry and other labor-intensive crops, and working to find a solution.”

U.S. farmers depend on more than 200,000 Mexicans who get visas each year to pick apples, pears and other crops.

Yet Mother Jones magazine reports that the American consulate in Monterrey, Mexico’s third-largest city, and other consulates have closed. That means most Mexican farmworkers have no way to get annual work visas. Unless the visas are issued much of this year’s American fruit and vegetable crops will not be harvested, barring some other unexpected development.

Each year as president, Donald Trump has gotten such visas for Mar-a-Lago while assiduously avoiding the many qualified workers in Palm Beach County, many of whom are African American. Federal law allows such visas for chambermaids, cooks and waitstaff only when no Americans are available.

...Representative Austin Scott (R-GA) says that delays in issuing visas to farm laborers are a serious threat to vegetable and fruit growers who, unlike grain farmers, don’t have federal crop insurance. “If delays continue” in issuing visas to Mexican farmworkers “we’re going to see crops rotting in the field,” Scott said.

The number of these Mexican farm labor visas has grown more than six-fold since 2000, a revealing indicator of how much America depends on Mexican labor to supply fresh fruits and vegetables in grocery stores.

Of course, Trump is hostile to all Mexicans and his administration has shown no signs it wants to resume the issuance of visas for Mexican farm laborers who take most of their money home with them. Trump thinks like a 16th Century mercantilist, believing any dollar that leaves us makes America worse off. It’s discredited and downright crazy economic thinking that hurts America more than Mexico, not that Trump understands this.

A lack of imported farm labor means not just the loss of those foodstuffs, but of income for farmers and those in the related packing, processing and shopping businesses, worsening the cascade of economic damage.

Labor intensive crops such as strawberries and crops that require placing beehives for pollination will be most affected by a shortage of labor.

Tree fruits require intensive labor not just to harvest, but also to cut away diseased limbs and plant replacement trees. Not minding the trees each year means reduced production in future years... Trump’s de facto policy: Crops be dammed, just keep Mexicans out.
You can always count on Trump to make everything and anything worse. As Jennifer Rubin noted in yesterday's Washington Post, "No one could make up a character as narcissistic and lacking in human empathy as President Trump... More than 2,400 Americans had died by Sunday. Governors around the country are screaming for more assistance from the federal government. Trump? He obsesses over ratings. It is hard to comprehend how indifferent he is to human suffering."

Increasingly, the country seems to operate on two tracks. On one, groveling courtiers flatter Trump, try to soften his impulsive pronouncements and scramble to catch up after months of delay. As they cater to the president, exploring patently absurd ideas, they have less attention to devote to real issues that only the federal government can address. On the other track, governors have no time for bowing and scraping; they are dealing hands-on with hundreds of logistical challenges, made worse by the absence of coordinated purchasing and by lack of a comprehensive testing program. Thank goodness governors are actually doing their jobs, which increasingly entail navigating around Trump.
Then there's the way grocery chains-- lookin' at you, Whole Foods-- treat their workers. In fact Whole Foods workers are going out on strike today nationwide to protest unsafe work conditions. They plan to "call in sick to demand paid leave for all workers who stay home or self-quarantine during the crisis, free coronavirus testing for all employees, and hazard pay of double the current hourly wage for employees who show up to work during the pandemic. 'COVID-19 is a very real threat to the safety of our workforce and customers,' Whole Worker, the national worker group that is organizing the 'sick out' wrote in a statement. 'We cannot wait for politicians, institutions, or our own management to step in to protect us.' The sick-out follows reports that Whole Foods workers at numerous stores across the country, including locations in New York City, Chicago, Louisiana, and California have tested positive for Covid-19. In each of these locations, the stores have remained open, leading some employees to charge that Whole Foods has failed to prioritize their safety during a period of record sales for the company."

While Trump was accusing NYC hospitals of illegally selling masks and respirators "out the back door"-- an excruciating and typical Trump lie-- the city's health care providers have been getting infected and dying. Many people question if Trump is human. "The coronavirus pandemic," wrote Michael Schwirtz, "which has infected more than 30,000 people in New York City, is beginning to take a toll on those who are most needed to combat it: the doctors, nurses and other workers at hospitals and clinics. In emergency rooms and intensive care units, typically dispassionate medical professionals are feeling panicked as increasing numbers of colleagues get sick... Medical workers are still showing up day after day to face overflowing emergency rooms, earning them praise as heroes. Thousands of volunteers have signed up to join their colleagues. But doctors and nurses said they can look overseas for a dark glimpse of the risk they are facing, especially when protective gear has been in short supply. In China, more than 3,000 doctors were infected, nearly half of them in Wuhan, where the pandemic began, according to Chinese government statistics."

And it isn't only Americans' physical health he's threatening. Americans' fiscal well-being is in great jeopardy because of his mental debilities, incompetence and self-absorption. Wall Street on Parade noted yesterday that in 2015 Carl Icahn called BlackRock "an extremely dangerous company." And the Fed picked them to manage their corporate bond bailout programs.
Icahn was specifically talking about BlackRock’s packaging of junk bonds into Exchange Traded Funds (ETFs) and calling them “High Yield,” which the average American doesn’t understand is a junk-rated bond. The ETFs trade during market hours on the New York Stock Exchange, giving them the aura of liquidity when one needs it. Icahn said: “I used to laugh with some of these guys…I used to say, you know, the mafia has a better code of ethics than you guys. You know you’re selling this crap.” Icahn warned that “if and when there’s a real problem in the economy, there’s going to be a rush for the exits like in a movie theatre, and people want to sell those bonds, and think they can sell them, there is no market for them.”

BlackRock not only sells junk-rated bond ETFs under the brand name iShares, but it has some of the largest investment grade corporate bond ETFs, including one that trades under the stock symbol LQD, which was experiencing serious losses and seeing major outflows of money until the Federal Reserve announced recently that it was creating three facilities to buy investment grade corporate debt from the primary and secondary markets, as well as investment grade corporate bond ETFs, along with agency commercial mortgage-backed securities.

And just who is going to be running these facilities for the Federal Reserve? None other than BlackRock-- posing an enormous conflict of interest which was readily observable in the market as BlackRock’s investment grade ETFs rallied dramatically on the news.

...Picking a highly conflicted Wall Street firm to manage a taxpayer-subsidized bailout of the highly reckless and irresponsible securitization practices of Wall Street is nothing new for the Federal Reserve and its unlimited money spigot, the New York Fed. The Fed did the same thing during the financial crisis of 2008. (See The New York Fed Has Contracted JPMorgan to Hold Over $1.7 Trillion of its QE Bonds Despite Two Felony Counts and Serial Charges of Crimes.)

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Midnight Meme Of The Day!


by Noah

The worst of presidents for the worst of times. If he'd lived during the plague years of medieval times, he would have happily been a breeder of flea infested rats, setting them free in the dark of night and speaking his gibberish and self-aggrandizing insanity from a soapbox in the public square by day. He would have drawn a cheering crowd then, too, while his family picked their pockets and looted their homes.

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Monday, March 30, 2020

Trump Continues To Make The Pandemic Worse


Trump and his allies went bonkers yesterday when Pelosi went on CNN and characterized Trump's Don't Test/Don' Tell policy in response to the spread of the coronavirus "deadly." She told Jake Tapper as well as Americans who haven't been paying attention, exactly what they need to hear about his malevolence, incompetence and narcissism: "His denial at the beginning was deadly, his delaying of getting equipment... to where it is needed is deadly, and now the best thing would be to do is to prevent more loss of life, rather than open things up so that, because we just don’t know... As the President fiddles, people are dying.

Over 44 top economists were polled on Friday about Trump's COVID-19 responses. It went about as well as you would imagine, 80% agreeing that "Abandoning severe lockdowns at a time when the likelihood of a resurgence in infections remains high will lead to greater total economic damage than sustaining the lockdowns to eliminate the resurgence risk." And 93% agreeing that "Optimally, the government would invest more than it is currently doing in expanding treatment capacity through steps such as building temporary hospitals, accelerating testing, making more masks and ventilators, and providing financial incentives for the production of a successful vaccine." Not one economist said they disagreed with either question.

Trump's own top infectious disease expert, Dr. Anthony Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, also on State of the Union with Tapper, said the U.S. will certainly have "millions of cases" of COVID-19 and more than 100,000 deaths. It disagrees with Trump on the rollback of sheltering in place and social distancing. Watch:

On Friday, the NY Times published an OpEd by infectious-disease expert Michael Osterholm and documentarian Mark Olshaker, It’s Too Late to Avoid Disaster, but There Are Still Things We Can Do. "Our leaders," they wrote, "need to speak some hard truths and then develop a strategy to prevent the worst." And without mentioning him by name, they went right after Trump for his incredible political cowardice. "Of all the resources lacking in the Covid-19 pandemic, the one most desperately needed in the United States is a unified national strategy, as well as the confident, coherent and consistent leadership to see it carried out. The country cannot go from one mixed-message news briefing to the next, and from tweet to tweet, to define policy priorities. It needs a science-based plan that looks to the future rather than merely reacting to latest turn in the crisis... Our leaders need to begin by stating a number of hard truths about our situation. The first is that no matter what we do at this stage, numerous hospitals in the United States will be overrun. Many people, including health care workers, will get sick and some will die. And the economy will tank. It’s too late to change any of this now."

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Dunn And Biden-- A Love Story


TIME Magazine, July 1942: "The richest gossip of his time died last week. On his deathbed, fat, vain little Maury Henry Biddle Paul, "Cholly Knickerbocker" of the New York Journal-American, could well reflect that he had made himself more famous than most of the puppets he wrote about in his quarter century as a society reporter."

Fast forward to today when SKDKnickerbocker, (did they name themselves after Cholly? Are they that self-aware?) PR firm to the stars of the policial firmament, can claim the same mantle-- more powerful than their "clients"-- showing no mercy to their opponents while protecting and enabling their benefactors-- aka, those they have made politically powerful so they can do the bidding of their even more powerful donors. Today's Knickerbocker is much more dangerous because shilling for politicians instead of mere celebrities can make a loser like Biden into the presidential candidate of the Democratic Party-- a candidate who will lose to Donald Trump! The latest ABC/Washington Post poll shows Biden and Trump in a statistical tie.

Case in point-- Anita Dunn, the "D" in SKD. Not only is she "senior advisor" to Joe Biden, but her firm is also the PR arm of the Time's Up movement, so when Tara Reade approached Time's Up for help in exposing Biden's sexual assault on her, the firm held out their 501(c)3 tax status as a reason to refuse to help her, saying that because Biden was a candidate they couldn't get involved. Really? Then all powerful candidates can assault women at will! No tax lawyer supports that claim!

When The Intercept first reported on Time's Up and Reade the details of the assault were not detailed but a subsequent tape and interview withe NewsOne made it clear that this went far beyond "touching" or "hair sniffing"-- it was sexual assault.

Last week, after the details of the assault became public, Krystal Ball interviewed Ryan Grim:

But yesterday she interviewed Tara Reade and followed up with a scathing commentary:

Krystal charges that CNN and MSNBC will "gladly provide a venue for allegations against the outsiders upon whom their status and access do not depend. They've got to be dragged kicking and screaming to do their job when it comes to their own ideological and class brethren." says Krystal Ball. "Why now?" the pundits ask. She's been trying to get her story out for months. Before she reached out to Time's Up, she tried reaching out to Elizabeth Warren and Kamala Harris but they too are members of the same club as Anita Dunn and Joe Biden.

Krystal again: "If a claim like this had been made against Bernie Sanders, or even Donald Trump, or another media villain like Edward Snowden, do you think the accuser would have any trouble getting press? Do you think it would fall to independent and alternative news to break the story if a woman who worked with Bernie in the 1990s made a credible claim of sexual assault? Do you think CNN and MSNBC would bury their heads in the sand? Every reporter in this town would be breaking down their door to be the first to tell that story." I might add that we could look at what happened to Julian Assange when he took of his condom during consensual sex...

It is beyond time for the Democratic Party to advocate for public funding of elections and get these "foul creatures" as a party insider described them, out of our politics for good!

"Tara is trending on Twitter and all the blue checks and the gender warriors are nowhere to be found," Ball said. "Their principles seem to have abandoned them now that it threatens their access to the Biden campaign and their ability to grift off their coziness and proximity to power." I would add that SDK Knickerbocker is not proximite to power-- I would say they ARE the power and Biden "grifts" off them. More coming.

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Progressive Challengers Need To Come Up With New Campaign Strategies-- STAT


Ask a progressive challenger to lay out a roadmap to beating a conservative incumbent and inevitably you will hear about a muscular voter registration drive. That becomes a lot trickier with a pandemic raging. But not impossible. In Arizona there are quite a few organizations that work to register people who are likely to vote for Democrats. Unfortunately there is far more likelihood that these voters will skip primaries and vote in general elections only. From the first time I spoke with Eva Putzova, she has always told me she is focussing on likely primary voters. Yesterday, I asked Eva, the progressive candidate taking on reactionary Blue Dog-- and "former" Republican-- Tom O'Halleran. She  reminded us that she "ran 3 successful campaigns before I embarked on this journey in Arizona's first congressional district: in 2014, I won a seat on the Flagstaff's City Council; in 2016, I lead a local initiative raising Flagstaff's minimum wage to $15 per hour; and in 2018, I successfully defended that initiative against an attempt by the local chamber of commerce and the Koch brothers' network money to repeal it. None of these campaigns were easy and there's no magical recipe for success. But in all three campaigns, I planned the strategy in advance, started early with voter outreach, stayed focused for a prolonged period of time, and intentionally pursued a consistent message platform that was authentic and rooted in facts. I took these lessons and the discipline from the last six years into my congressional campaign and recruited a very competent team. We launched the campaign in January 2019 and the long campaign cycle allowed us to learn a lot about what works and what does not in a vast district like ours. Even without the pandemic, our campaigning has looked differently because we can't physically reach a critical mass of voters by simply knocking on their doors. Because we are running a grassroots campaign without any corporate PAC money, we have to be very strategic in how we spend our lean budget. I'm not going to pretend that raising funds a few dollars at a time is not difficult but how we run our campaign is important, because it's indicative of how I will legislate: with integrity and for the people."

One candidate told me that he and his team are "still trying to figure out how we'll proceed over the coming months, honestly. We need to attract the youth and working class voters who never show up, and the team is meeting regularly via Zoom, trying to work out some ways to do that electronically, but it's in early stages. A lot of our planning was built around a massive ground game that's now impossible."

Reporting for NBC News, Alex Seitz-Wald wrote yesterday that "Presidential elections are typically prime time for bringing new people into the political process, but the coronavirus pandemic is making voter registration more difficult than ever, prompting concerns that many young Americans and other nonvoters might miss their chance to get onto the rolls before November." His concern is the presidential race. Ours is for congressional contests. There's next to no enthusiasm for Biden and unless he can get non-voters in their 70s and 80s to register, voter registration drives don't matter for him anyway. But they certainly do for West Virginia progressive Paul Jean Swearengin, who is taking on Trump rubber stamp Shelley Moore Capito, for the Senate seat Capito has basically given over to Trump. My team has been amazing during this time to expand voter outreach. "Our county captains," she told me, "are making phone calls, texting and sending postcards. We have expanded our digital marketing strategy, are hosting virtual townhalls, and expanding fundraising to air a commercial. It's challenging but it can be done." Seitz-Wald:
"This is the moment when we historically see people take action to register to vote," said Kristen Clarke, the president and executive director of the Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights Under Law. "The public health crisis has brought all of that activity virtually to a grinding halt."

Voter registration happens year-round, but the months leading up to a presidential election are crucial as interest in politics spikes and funding for registration efforts flows in.

In the runup to the 2016 presidential election, Americans filed more than 77.5 million voter registration applications, according to the Election Assistance Commission, a federal agency that helps states administer elections, and total registration topped 200 million.

That still left tens of millions of eligible Americans who are not registered to vote. And this year, millions of new Americans will become eligible by turning 18 as Generation Z (born between 1997 and 2012), the most diverse in history, is expected to surpass the silent generation (born between 1928 and 1945) as a share of the electorate.

Millions more Americans have moved and need to re-register at a different address, while others have been purged from the rolls for not voting in recent elections, including in key battleground states such as Wisconsin and Georgia.

But now, all the traditional ways of signing up voters are out the window, prompting concerns that a large swath of Americans will miss their chance to participate in this year's elections.

"Registration is going to be an issue for everyone," said Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), who along with Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR) is pushing for emergency voting reforms to respond to the coronavirus crisis.

"Both parties typically register people at events," Klobuchar added on a call with reporters. "And if there's no events, and no way to go door to door, that's going to be a problem."

Voter registration activists typically seek out crowds, but there are none now.

Students are not on campuses. Churches are not holding regular services. Fairs, parades and community events have been canceled. And even setting up a table outside a grocery store or a shopping area on a warm weekend afternoon is questionable.

Departments of motor vehicles are the source of about 45 percent of all voter applications nationwide, thanks to the Motor Voter Act, but they, too, are closed in many parts of the country. And so are other places where registration forms are typically available, such as libraries, high schools and government offices.

Another big source of registrations in states that allow same-day registration is polling places, but many of them will be closed in upcoming primaries and it's not clear how many will be open by November as states try to shift to mail-in balloting.

Groups that would typically be sending hundreds of canvassers into the field to sign up voters right now have shut down in-person operations and switched entirely to digital organizing.
Goal Thermometer Over the last month, we noticed that small dollar contributions had dropped off noticeably for our candidates through Blue America. Yesterday we started an online fundraiser for Texas progressive Mike Siegel and we're seeing slightly more normal patterns of contributions than what we've been seeing since the financial uncertainty that was engendered by the pandemic and the stock market crash. Associated Press reporter Brian Slodysko wrote yesterday that presidential candidates have backed off aggressive asks. "What used to be a routine request for political cash," he wrote, "could now come across as tone-deaf or tacky. The two also run the risk of competing for limited dollars with charities trying to raise money for pandemic relief. With a recession potentially on the horizon, there's a question of whether wealthy donors are in a giving mood and whether grassroots supporters who chip in small amounts will still have the wherewithal to keep at it. That presents a delicate challenge as both candidates try to stockpile the massive amounts of cash needed for the general election campaign. 'It’s hard to have a conversation with someone right now to ask how they’re getting by, and then ask them for financial support in the next sentence,' said Greg Goddard, a Democratic fundraiser who worked for Amy Klobuchar's presidential campaign before the Minnesota senator dropped out of the Democratic race. To Tim Lim, a Democratic consultant who worked for both Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton, 'it's a world where no one has a good answer.' He said that 'on the fundraising side, we are going to take some massive hits as a party.' The task is particularly acute for Biden. The former vice president is trying to pivot from the primary to the general election in a race essentially frozen by the virus."

Biden-- and his status quo platform-- have virtually no grassroots enthusiasm anyway and he's been dependent on ultra-wealthy donors and corporately-funded SuperPACs, even more so than Trump. Slodysko wrote that "The pandemic has put all big-dollar fundraisers on hold, like all in-person political events. That's forced Trump and Biden, for now, to rely on online fundraising. Biden is holding virtual fundraisers via video conferences. But they lack the exclusivity and tactile nature of an in-person event, where donors can network, see and be seen. Biden and Trump continue to send out fundraising emails and texts."
“It isn't easy for me to ask you for money today,” Biden campaign manager Jen O’Malley Dillon said in a fundraising email Thursday, seeking contributions as low as $5. “There are so many deserving charities and small businesses in your community where your money makes a huge difference right now. And of course, your own needs and the needs of your family take precedence.”

But, she continued, "we have to keep fundraising because we have to keep campaigning. And we have to keep campaigning because it's the only way we can defeat Trump in November.”

...Sanders has earned praise for turning to his army of small-dollar donors to raise $3.5 million for virus relief instead of his campaign. The senator, whose campaign is fueled by grassroots online donors, has stopped sending out fundraising emails.

"Right now my focus is on this extraordinary crisis,” Sanders told The Associated Press on Wednesday, after declining to discuss the future of his campaign.

Bloomberg also shelved plans to leverage his billions of dollars of personal wealth to run an outside group aimed at preventing Trump's reelection. Instead, he recently promoted a $40 million philanthropic effort aimed at curtailing the spread of the virus.

While the virus has disrupted many facets of life, Democratic fundraisers are optimistic that a degree of normalcy will return eventually. That will be a benefit to Biden.
And "normalcy" is all Biden has to campaign about-- hoping that few voters realize that his version of "normalcy" is what made Donald Trump feasible for tens of millions of voters in the first place. Meanwhile... over the weekend, Michael Stipe released a demo of his new solo song, "No Time For Love Like Now."

Two weeks ago, Michael released a comforting end of the world message... that may sound familiar.

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