Sunday, March 29, 2020

Trump Is Handling The Pandemic As Badly As Any Deranged Narcissist Would


During his coronavirus briefing today, Trump blamed hospitals-- where doctors and nurses are literally dying trying to save patients-- for selling ventilators and masks (which is, of course, exactly what he would do himself). "It’s a New York hospital, very-- it’s packed all the time. 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?" He's a monster. Writing for the Daily Beast this afternoon, Rick Wilson noted that "Trump’s handling of the Coronavirus has veered between tragicomic and insidious in the past weeks. Disturbingly-- and even now, it’s disturbing-- all while still leaving him seemingly unmoved by the brutal realities facing us in the coming months. He’s made a few pro-forma nods to the deaths to date and to come, but expressed no genuine human sympathy for either the dead or the army of heroic doctors, nurses, EMTs in viral war zones in almost every hospital in the nation. Nothing changes him. Nothing moves him unless it gives him adulation, money, or an erection." CNN caught him lying his ass off all through the briefing.

Yesterday, the Washington Post published a piece by their DC-based health reporter, Amy Goldstein, Desperate for medical equipment, states encounter a beleaguered national stockpile, about a previously unreported shouting match in the White House Situation Room between broke out between Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar and an unnamed Office of Management and Budget official. "Azar," she reported, "had asked OMB that morning for $2 billion to buy respirator masks and other supplies for a depleted federal stockpile of emergency medical equipment, according to individuals familiar with the request, who spoke on the condition of anonymity about internal discussions. OMB was angry because they claimed that Azar had improperly trespassed on their turf by lobbying Congress for money for what he saw coming, namely the COVID-19 disaster.

The Trump regime peremptorily cut the $2 billion request to a completely inadequate $500 million when the White House eventually sent Congress a supplemental budget request weeks later.
The dispute over funding highlights tensions over a repository straining under demands from state officials. States desperate for materials from the stockpile are encountering a beleaguered system beset by years of underfunding, changing lines of authority, confusion over the allocation of supplies and a lack of transparency from the administration, according to interviews with state and federal officials and public health experts.

The stockpile holds masks, drugs, ventilators and other items in secret sites around the country. It has become a source of growing frustration for many state and hospital officials who are having trouble buying-- or even locating-- crucial equipment on their own to cope with the illness battering the nation.

...The federal cache has been overwhelmed by urgent requests for masks, respirators, goggles, gloves and gowns in the two months since the first U.S. case of covid-19 was confirmed. Many state officials say they do not understand the standards that determine how much they will receive.

Anecdotally, there are wide differences, and they do not appear to follow discernible political or geographic lines. Democratic-leaning Massachusetts, which has had a serious outbreak in Boston, has received 17 percent of the protective gear it requested, according to state leaders. Maine requested a half-million N95 specialized protective masks and received 25,558-- about 5 percent of what it sought. The shipment delivered to Colorado-- 49,000 N95 masks, 115,000 surgical masks and other supplies-- would be “enough for only one full day of statewide operations,” Rep. Scott R. Tipton (R-CO) told the White House in a letter several days ago.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency inherited control of the stockpile barely a week ago from HHS. Lizzie Litzow, a FEMA spokeswoman, acknowledged the agency maintains a spreadsheet tracking each state’s request and shipments. Litzow declined repeated requests to release the details, saying the numbers are in flux.

Florida has been an exception in its dealings with the stockpile: The state submitted a request on March 11 for 430,00 surgical masks, 180,000 N95 respirators, 82,000 face shields and 238,000 gloves, among other supplies-- and received a shipment with everything three days later, according to figures from the state’s Division of Emergency Management. It received an identical shipment on March 23, according to the division, and is awaiting a third.

“The governor has spoken to the president daily, and the entire congressional delegation has been working as one for the betterment of the state of Florida,” said Jared Moskowitz, the emergency management division’s director. “We are leaving no stone unturned.”

President Trump repeatedly has warned states not to complain about how much they are receiving, including Friday during a White House briefing, where he advised Vice President Pence not to call governors who are critical of the administration’s response. “I want them to be appreciative,” he said.

At briefings, Trump and Pence routinely say material is being purchased for the stockpile, supplies are being shipped out and manufacturers under federal contract are ramping up supplies. On Thursday, Pence said the stockpile had shipped 9 million N95 masks and 20 million surgical masks, as well as “millions” of gloves, gowns and face shields.

But Trump and Pence also urge states to buy supplies on their own. During the March 19 briefing, Trump said governors “are supposed to be doing a lot of this work... You know, we’re not a shipping clerk.”

State officials say the advice is unrealistic.

“Allowing the free market to determine availability and pricing is not the way we should be dealing with this national crisis at this time,” said Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam (D). “This is why we need a nationally led response.”

Leaders in the District, Maryland and Virginia say their requests for aid from the stockpile have come up short. They have been competing with their counterparts to try to buy gear on the open market.

“The federal government has the keys to the front door,” said Nirav Shah, Maine’s state health officer and director of its own Center for Disease Control and Prevention. He said the state has been scouring the country and overseas for companies that can supply protective masks. The stockpile, he said, is a critical “leg of the stool.”

Hospital industry executives agree.

“There is no [protective gear] to be bought on the private market through vendors,” said Kevin Donovan, president of Lakes Regional HealthCare, which has two hospitals in central New Hampshire. “We order but don’t have any money to pay for it,” because companies manufacturing masks and other emergency gear are demanding cash payments on delivery. Donovan said his hospitals, like others, are low on cash because they have canceled the elective procedures that are their moneymakers.

“Unless we start getting material from the national stockpile,” Donovan said, “I don’t know where we are going to get it.”

...HHS officials have sparred for more than a year with White House budget officials over money to buy more stockpile supplies.

In February 2019, the White House was planning for a presidential executive order on preparing for a potential flu pandemic. HHS requested a more than $11 billion investment over 10 years for ASPR, including $2.7 billion for “treatment and control,” according to a document read by a Washington Post reporter that said some of those funds would go toward “better protective devices, manufactured faster.”

But the executive order issued by Trump in September 2019 did not include that money.

In late January, Azar began telling OMB about the need for a supplemental budget request for stockpile supplies-- and was rebuffed at a time when the White House did not yet acknowledge any supplemental money would be needed, according to several individuals familiar with the situation who spoke anonymously to discuss internal conversations.

...In mid-March, Trump declared the coronavirus outbreak a national emergency. As a result, control of the stockpile shifted again-- from HHS to FEMA.

Since then, FEMA’s administrator, Peter Gaynor, has been asked frequently how many supplies have been shipped to states and how allocation decisions are being made.

To a question about masks from ABC News on March 22, Gaynor replied, “Well, I mean, there’s hundreds of, thousands of, millions of things that we’re shipping from the stockpile. I mean, I can’t give you the details about what every single state, of what every single city’s doing.”

State officials and federal lawmakers are demanding to know.

“We don’t know how the federal government is making those decisions,” said Casey Katims, the federal liaison for Washington state, the site of the nation’s first confirmed case on Jan. 21 and of an early deadly cluster at a nursing home.

Since the state made the first of several requests-- 233,000 respirators and 200,000 surgical masks-- the supplies have been arriving piecemeal and without any explanation of the numbers.

The state is now awaiting more, including a plea for 1,000 ventilators, and has been told 500 are en route, Katims said.

The Minnesota congressional delegation wrote on March 22 to Azar, also perplexed: “How is HHS determining which states receive certain medical supplies? When will Minnesota receive the full order of medical supplies that state officials have requested?"

The next day, the chairman of the House Committee on Homeland Security, Rep. Bennie Thompson (D-MS), sent a letter to HHS and the Department of Homeland Security, which oversees FEMA. The letter demanded to know the stockpile’s inventory of protective gear and ventilators, how much has been distributed, how the allocations are being made and how much is on order from manufacturers.

Explanations of the decision-making process have been inconsistent.

Gaynor told the homeland security committee during a conference call, according to Thompson’s letter, that states would be receiving protective gear based on each state’s population and that state needs would be factored in. The letter did not provide further detail.

While the stockpile still was under HHS as the virus began spreading in the United States, the department for the first time used a formula, according to individuals familiar with the system. Under that formula, 25 percent of a state’s requests were fulfilled based on its population and 25 percent on its number of covid-19 cases. The remaining supplies were held back so the stockpile would not be depleted.

These individuals said that, even before FEMA took over, the formula had changed again to put more emphasis on need.

Asked to explain the current process, a statement from FEMA on Wednesday said, “The allocation process of PPE (personal protective equipment) to states is now focused on meeting future demand models where patient levels are expected to strain state and local medical conditions in coming weeks.” Asked which models FEMA is relying on, Litzow said Thursday, “future modeling is mostly based off of data from HHS and CDC that is continually updated as more information about this emerging disease becomes available.”

For the coronavirus outbreak, California has asked for 20 million N95 respirators-- more than the stockpile’s entire inventory, estimated at about 12 million.

California has received 358,381 N95 masks and about 1 million surgical masks and face shields, according to the governor’s office. The state is now scouting the global market. Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) has noted that California is in a better position because its size gives it purchasing leverage.

California officials said they welcomed FEMA’s involvement because they already had a strong working relationship with the agency after months of fighting the state’s catastrophic wildfires.

Minnesota’s manager of public health emergency preparedness, Deborah Radi, said FEMA has been clearer about stockpile deliveries than HHS. She said her state’s first shipment from the stockpile had arrived one night at 1 a.m., when the state’s warehouse to receive it was closed. When FEMA handled a more recent delivery of protective gear, she said, it alerted the state about a delay and then again when the truck was one hour away.

States continue to press their cases with federal officials. They point out the severity of the outbreak in their state, or the vulnerability of their population. As of mid-March, West Virginia had not reported a confirmed case, but it has one of the nation’s oldest populations. It received an initial shipment of slightly more than 1 percent of its request for 160,000 masks-- 2,220 N95s.

Trump’s warnings for states not to complain have not subdued Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker (D), who has been particularly outspoken during the crisis. Illinois has received 10 percent of the N95s and surgical masks it has requested from the stockpile.

“I will continue to pound the table to get the federal government to acquire the supplies our states so critically need and allocate them accordingly,” Pritzker tweeted on Tuesday. “Lives depend upon it.”

Robert Mackey, reporting for The Intercept Friday, noted that in exchange for aid, Trump is demanding praise from governors he can use in campaign ads, a low even for him. "As he increasingly tries to shovel blame for the shortage of medical supplies onto the governors of states with densely populated areas that are suffering the most from the coronavirus pandemic, President Donald Trump was asked on Friday what more he wants them to do. It was, he said, 'very simple: I want them to be appreciative.' Trump singled out two Democratic governors in particular for criticism: Jay Inslee of Washington and Gretchen Whitmer of Michigan. After mocking Inslee for failing to catch on as a presidential candidate, Trump faulted the governor battling one of the nation’s most deadly outbreaks for 'constantly chirping-- I guess complaining would be a nice way of saying it.'... The president also attacked Whitmer, for the second day running-- apparently still miffed that she told MSNBC ten days ago that 'the federal government did not take this seriously early enough, and now it is on us to do everything we can.' Michigan’s governor, Trump said, has no idea of what’s going on. He then launched into the sort of broad imitation of a female rival’s voice that was a staple of his act during the 2016 campaign. 'All she does is say, Oh, it’s the federal government’s fault,' the president said."
Trump spoke as the number of confirmed cases of Covid-19 in Michigan spiked on Friday, to more than 3,600, triple what it was on Monday. The day before, Dr. Deborah Birx, a retired Army Colonel advising the White House, had identified Michigan’s Wayne County, which includes Detroit, as a potential hot spot for new infections.

While Trump maintained that he was not expecting the governors to be appreciative of just his efforts, but those of the federal government he leads-- which, he claimed, “has done a hell of a job”-- his monologue eventually returned to his discontent with their lack of personal gratitude to him. “We have done a job the likes of which nobody’s seen,” Trump said. “I think they should be appreciative, because you know what, when they’re not appreciative to me, they’re not appreciative to the Army Corps, they’re not appreciative to FEMA, it’s not right.”

Trump contrasted those two Democratic governors, who have been blunt about the federal government’s failings, with two others who have appealed to the president’s vanity in an attempt to get his help. Andrew Cuomo, the governor of New York, has been “appreciative,” Trump said. Gavin Newsom, the governor of California, had also spoken well of him, Trump noted. “I appreciate his nice words,” the president said. “I really appreciate it.”

Trump’s choice of those two governors was probably not coincidental. Earlier on Friday, his reelection campaign unveiled a schmaltzy new ad [with Gavin Newsom sucking his cock live on video]-- entitled, of all things, Hope-- that cast his response to the pandemic in heroic terms, and featured video of both governors praising him.

While Trump approved Newsom’s request to declare the coronavirus outbreak in California a major disaster within hours of the governor asking on Sunday, freeing federal funds, the president failed to respond to a similar request from Whitmer on Thursday. Instead, he belittled her in an interview with Sean Hannity on Fox News Thursday night. “We’ve had a big problem with the young, a woman governor from-- you know who I’m talking about-- from Michigan,” Trump told Hannity. “She is a new governor and it’s not been pleasant.”

“She doesn’t get it done, and we send her a lot,” Trump complained. “Now she wants a declaration of emergency and, you know, we’ll have to make a decision on that,” Trump said.

Whitmer responded to Trump appearing to not even know her name with a Twitter plea for the personal protective equipment and other medical equipment the state desperately needs from the national strategic stockpile. “Hi, my name is Gretchen Whitmer, and that governor is me,” she wrote. “I’ve asked repeatedly and respectfully for help. We need it. No more political attacks, just PPEs, ventilators, N95 masks, test kits. You said you stand with Michigan-- prove it.”

The governor told WWJ-AM in Detroit on Friday morning that she had been trying to get on the phone with Trump at about the same time he was lambasting her in a call to Hannity. “I reached out to the White House last night, asked for a phone call with the president,” she said, but never heard back.

Earlier in the week, Whitmer told a local radio station that one hospital in her state had received a shipment from the federal government last week with just 747 masks, 204 gowns, 64 face shields and 40,467 gloves. “With the exception of the gloves, that allotment of PPE didn’t cover one shift,” she said.

On Friday, the governor told CNN that, after Trump had asked governors to procure their own medical supplies, her state had placed a large number of orders-- only to be told later by suppliers that they had been instructed to send the items to the federal government instead.

A short time later, Trump used the White House briefing on the public health emergency to vent more at Whitmer and Inslee. He concluded his rant by saying that he had advised Vice President Mike Pence, the head of his coronavirus task force, to not even bother speaking with them. “I say, ‘Mike, don’t call the governor of Washington, you’re wasting your time with him. Don’t call the woman in Michigan,” the president said.

“If they don’t treat you right, I don’t call,” Trump said of refusing to speak to the governors of two American states during a global pandemic.

Before calling it a day on Friday, Trump approved major disaster declarations for South Carolina and Puerto Rico, but not Michigan.

He then took out his iPhone and tried to escape blame for the outbreak in Michigan, which has already killed 92 people, by tweeting insults at the governor. “I love Michigan, one of the reasons we are doing such a GREAT job for them during this horrible Pandemic,” the president wrote. “Yet your Governor, Gretchen ‘Half’ Whitmer is way in over her head, she doesn’t have a clue. Likes blaming everyone for her own ineptitude!”

Trump’s apparent demand that the governors of U.S. states do him a political favor, though-- by praising his response to the crisis on television, in exchange for him unlocking federal aid-- strongly echoed the scheme he was impeached for last year. In that case, Trump withheld aid from Ukraine to coerce its president into agreeing to go on CNN and announce a sham investigation of Joe Biden, his likely rival in the November election.

In fact, the situation with Michigan’s governor is almost identical to a hypothetical the legal scholar Pamela Karlan asked members of the Judiciary Committee to consider during the impeachment hearings in December.

“Imagine living in a part of Louisiana or Texas that’s prone to devastating hurricanes and flooding,” Karlan said. “What would you think if you lived there, and your governor asked for a meeting with the president to discuss getting disaster aid that Congress has provided for-- what would you think, if that President said, ‘I would like you to do us a favor. I’ll meet with you, and I’ll send the disaster relief once you brand my opponent a criminal.”

“Wouldn’t you know in your gut that such a president had abused his office,” Karlan asked, “that he’d betrayed the national interest and that he was trying to corrupt the electoral process?”

Update: Saturday, March 28, 5:55 p.m. EDT

On Saturday afternoon, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer reported on Twitter that she had spoken with Vice President Mike Pence and thanked the White House for declaring a major disaster declaration for Michigan, freeing up federal assistance for the state, two days after it was requested. She also thanked the FEMA for a new shipment of 112,000 N95 masks to her state’s emergency operations center.


This one is an update to a post from last Wednesday about how the scurrilous and deranged Jerry Falwell had opened the doors of Liberty University up again. I don't understand why the state of Virginia allowed him to get away with it but now some the future little fascists have tested positive and have been infecting other Liberty University students. Presumably Lynchburg, Virginia will soon be another COVID-19 hotspot. About half the students who returned have now fled, some, no doubt, bringing the disease with them back to Tennessee, Mississippi, Kansas and to other places full of evangelicals. Keep in mind that Falwell spent months derided the pandemic as an "overreaction" driven by liberal desires to damage Señor Trumpanzee.
“We think it’s irresponsible for so many universities to just say ‘closed, you can’t come back,’ push the problem off on other communities and sit there in their ivory towers,” Mr. Falwell said on Wednesday on a radio show hosted by a far-right conspiracy theorist, Todd Starnes.

“We’re conservative, we’re Christian, and therefore we’re being attacked,” he said.

...Mr. Falwell echoes Mr. Trump’s talking points on the coronavirus, which he often calls the “flu.”

“It’s just strange to me how many are overreacting” to the pandemic, Mr. Falwell said on Fox & Friends on March 10. “It makes you wonder if there is a political reason for that. Impeachment didn’t work and the Mueller report didn’t work and Article 25 didn’t work, and so maybe now this is their next attempt to get Trump.”

...Lynchburg is particularly ill-prepared to become a hot spot. Hospitals in the region have a total of 1,174 beds, only 55 of them intensive care, according to a recent analysis by the Harvard Global Health Institute. Those must serve 217,000 adults, nearly 50,000 of whom are 65 or older. Tests for the coronavirus remain in short supply.

Mr. Falwell has played down the dangers of his decision in interviews with the news media, where he has even suggested that the coronavirus is a North Korean bioweapon. On Fox News, he blithely asserted that the cure rate for Covid-19 “is 99.7 percent for people under 50,” adding that “We have talked to medical professionals, numerous medical professionals, before we made this decision.”

An archived version of Liberty’s website said those medical professionals included the school’s own public health faculty and campus health providers, as well as “Dr. Jeffrey Hyman of Northwell Health, New York’s largest health care provider.”

When contacted by the New York Times, Northwell Health denied that Dr. Hyman provided any formal guidance to Liberty, adding that he is not an infectious disease specialist. In a statement, the hospital system said that Dr. Hyman was a personal friend of the Falwell family, who told them in private conversation “that reconvening classes would be a ‘bad idea.’”

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At 7:19 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

"CNN caught him lying his ass off all through the briefing."

So what? We already KNOW the "Democrats" won't do anything about him.

The Whigs are waiting for Tom Perez and his loser party to join them. It can't be long now. With the brazen and open confiscation of the economic prospects of the nation to benefit a small number of self-defined "elites", we aren't far from an American set of Enabling Acts being passed through the compliant Congress. Then there will be no need for a legislative branch.

At 7:37 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

nodding sadly in agreement with 7:19.

I'll repeat the obvious to all the blind deaf mutes that vote for democraps no matter what:

This pandemic SHOULD expose for all to see just how despicable it is to place profit motive on the health of people.
In case that flew over your heads, health INSURANCE and profit-lusting phrma exist not to help people with their health; they exist to make money. that is all.

MFA should be passed just as fast as the politically-motivated corporate welfare $2 trillion bill just passed. The initial passage of MFA can include a year or two of allowances for all the health insurance employees who should have been laid off decades ago (for being part of a misanthropic leeching industry). The CxOs and boards already have enough to make it to their next corporate postings.

I really do hope that all you democrap voters take this into consideration should you be tempted to elect anyone to allow Pelosi to smother MFA for the benefit of her corporate donors for another 2 years. If you or anyone you know goes deeply (or deeper) into debt trying to pay off a covid19 event, maybe you already know... maybe not.

Because Pelosi continues to smother MFA even during covid19. And the sound of crickets coming from all the MFA proponents that you all so gleefully elected in '18 should be deafening by now.

If you still feel compelled to elect democraps... I seriously doubt anyone or anything can help you. You deserve this.

At 9:24 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

trump is handling this with the same deftness he handles everything.

a leader who is incapable of leading is not uniquely American, but we do seem to making it into an art form.

Add to that an opposition party that is also terrified to lead and we have an entire government that makes the argument for anarchy.

Fortunately, there have been several governors, of both sects, that HAVE led much better. Interestingly, a lot of them (Dewine, Cuomo...) are otherwise stridently neoliberal and, therefore, a large part of the overall problem. But sometimes leaders come from strange places I suppose.

What this SHOULD be exposing is how utterly fucking deadly the whole American system is. From worship of money and celebrity to an electorate trivially cajoled into stupidity by media to the refusal of the once but nevermore liberal party to even address ALL obvious fixes (MFA, raising taxes on the rich...) to the stimulus package aimed squarely ad keeping corporations whole while writing more post-dated checks that SHALL be cashed by withdrawals from SSI, Medicare and Medicaid...

But all we can seem to talk about is trump. I know that he's up front, by virtue of timing.

But trump hasn't surprised anyone with his maladroitness or lack of compassion.

Great tragedies like this one is not the fault of one man or one party. That man exists for cause. He should never have existed as anyone responsible for anything beyond his own family. Why does he exist?

If America is not capable of remedying the unsuitability of trump, and it is unwilling to address how to remedy the conditions that created trump, how will it remedy the existence of all future worse "trumps"?

America thought making Nixon resign was enough. it wasn't. America thought that getting rid of Reagan/bush was enough. it wasn't, and made things worse. America thought defeating cheney/bush (their heir, mcpalin) was enough. it wasn't, and made things worse.

If you think simply defeating trump is the answer, you will be just as sadly wrong... and it will make things worse.

At 10:42 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

"...all we can seem to talk about is trump..."

That is the only topic the corporate media gives people to talk about, or at least the only one before COVID-19 proved to be a better ratings-grabber than Trump and his ignorant tweeting.


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