Minor Thoughts from me to you

Up is down: Trump lies that Biden would 'destroy' Obamacare's protections for pre-existing condition

Donald Trump is straight up lying at his campaign rallies about what a President Joe Biden would do. What’s amazing isn’t that this man lies. We’ve known he was a liar for most of his career. What’s amazing is the sheer shamelessness of repeatedly telling a lie that’s so easily disproven. And the confidence he has this his supporters will swallow it whole.

Up is down: Trump lies that Biden would 'destroy' Obamacare's protections for pre-existing condition

Daniel Dale, CNNs fact checker extraordinaire.

President Donald Trump told one of the most absurd lies of his relentlessly dishonest reelection campaign on Thursday.

At a campaign rally in Freeland, Michigan, Trump claimed his opponent, Joe Biden, "will destroy your protections for pre-existing conditions." Trump went on to say that he would himself preserve these protections.

Facts First: This is not only false but a complete reversal of reality. The protections for people with pre-existing conditions were created by the very Obama administration in which Biden served as vice president — as part of Obamacare, the 2010 law Biden has vowed to preserve and strengthen if elected President. Trump, conversely, has tried repeatedly to get bills passed that would have weakened these protections. He is now trying_ to get the entirety of Obamacare struck down by the courts.

This entry was tagged. Donald Trump Fact Check Healthcare Policy Joe Biden President2020

Trump has lost patience with CDC head after series of mixed messages

While we’re in the middle of the worst pandemic in 100 years, Donald Trump is busy demoralizing our top disease experts, because they’ve dared to contradict his view of the world. We’ll all be worse off if he succeeds in driving away Drs. Redfield and Birx. We need better leadership. It’d really help if we had a President that was willing to see the world as it is, rather than raging at everyone who doesn’t see it his way.

Trump has lost patience with CDC head after series of mixed messages - CNNPolitics

By Jeremy Diamond, Nick Valencia and Sara Murray, for CNN.

President Donald Trump has lost patience with the head of the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Dr. Robert Redfield, as well as with the other public health experts on his coronavirus team because their sober messaging on the future of the pandemic clashes with his rosy assessments.

Trump believes that breakthroughs are not coming swiftly enough, according to people familiar with the President's thinking. Trump's frustrations have caused some to question whether Redfield is on the chopping block, but a Trump adviser said they did not expect the President to make major staffing changes before the election.

The ever-looming threat, Trump's public undermining of the CDC chief and Redfield's tendency to fold to the White House are taking a toll on CDC staff, from top to bottom, employees say. Some have questioned whether their work is making a difference and others have even considered resigning -- and whether the sagging spirits may be hampering pandemic response.

Eight current and former public health officials described for CNN a crushing environment at the agencies charged with the coronavirus response brought on by a President intent on contradicting critical public health messaging and downplaying the threat of the virus, politically motivated pressure from the White House and baseless allegations from political appointees that government scientists are part of a disloyal "deep state."

"The morale is as low as I've ever seen it and we have no confidence in our leadership," a CDC official said. "People are miserable and it's a shame because this pandemic is still flying away and we still need a robust public health response."

Inside the White House, Drs. Deborah Birx and Anthony Fauci have struggled to compete with the growing influence of Trump's new favorite coronavirus adviser, Dr. Scott Atlas, a neuroradiologist with no public health or infectious disease expertise whose views are wildly out of step with leading public health experts. Birx has told people around her she is "distressed" with the direction of the task force and is uncertain how much longer she can continue to serve as the coronavirus task force coordinator.

This entry was tagged. COVID-19 Donald Trump President2020

Barr gives false recounting of Texas voter fraud case in effort to cast doubt on mail-in voting

Donald Trump’s hand-picked Attorney General is lying about a ballot fraud case in Texas. He falsely claimed that someone tried to submit 1,700 fake ballots. It was actually a case one person trying to get his hands on other people’s ballots. And Texas law enforcement was all over it, proving that we do have safeguards to detect and prevent fraud.

Barr gives false recounting of Texas voter fraud case in effort to cast doubt on mail-in voting

Alexander Mallin, for ABC News.

Twenty-eight-year-old Miguel Hernandez was eventually found guilty in the investigation for forging a voter's signature on a mail-in ballot he returned. Chatham described Hernandez as the "fall guy" in the scam, being paid by a still-unknown consultant to contact individuals who had received mail-in ballots and return them so they could potentially be tampered with.

"He violated the law but not for voting, it was for procuring mail-in ballots under false pretenses," Chatham said. "The other thing that Barr got very wrong about the case is that we knew about this thing before it even happened, and prevented any potentially fraudulent ballots from being cast."

"It was a tremendous success story for the office," Chatham added.

Barr's false description of the case comes as officials in the intelligence community are warning Russia is seeking to "amplify" concerns over the integrity of U.S. elections by promoting allegations that mail-in voting will result in rampant fraud.

Analysts with the Department of Homeland Security’s intelligence arm issued a bulletin to federal and state law enforcement partners Thursday after finding with “high confidence” that “Russian malign influence actors” have targeted the absentee voting process “by spreading disinformation” since at least March.

This entry was tagged. Donald Trump Elections Fact Check Voting

Analysis of mail-in ballots finds just 0.0025% rate of possible voter fraud

Despite evidence to the contrary, Mr. Trump continues to claim, on an almost daily basis, the mail-in ballots are are an invitation to fraud. He continually assets that 2020 will be the most fraudulent election ever, and that the only way America can trust the election results is to get rid of all of the mail-in ballots. He’s either lying about that or he’s ignorant. This 2-month old Washington Post analysis shows that mail-in ballot fraud is practically non-existent. Thanks to COVID-19, millions of ballots will be cast by mail this year—including my own. And we can be completely confident that the results reported will be accurate.

Analysis of mail-in ballots finds just 0.0025% rate of possible voter fraud

Elise Viebeck, for the Washington Post.

But a Washington Post analysis of data collected by three vote-by-mail states with help from the nonprofit Electronic Registration Information Center (ERIC) found that officials identified just 372 possible cases of double voting or voting on behalf of deceased people out of about 14.6 million votes cast by mail in the 2016 and 2018 general elections, or 0.0025 percent.

The figure reflects cases referred to law enforcement agencies in five elections held in Colorado, Oregon and Washington, where all voters proactively receive ballots in the mail for every election.

The minuscule rate of potentially fraudulent ballots in those states adds support to assertions by election officials nationwide that with the right safeguards, mail voting is a secure method for conducting elections this year amid the threat of the novel coronavirus — undercutting the president’s claims.

Until now, the polarized debate about ballot fraud has largely featured individual anecdotes from around the country of attempts to vote illegally. The voting figures from the three states examined by The Post provide a robust data set to measure the prevalence of possible fraud.

Current and former election officials in the three states said allegations that mail voting fosters widespread cheating are not only defied by the data, but also do not acknowledge the sophisticated and tightly controlled ways that voting operates in their jurisdictions, which have layers of security designed specifically to root out fraud and build confidence in the system.

“When I have the opportunity to give a tour of our facility to a skeptic of vote-by-mail or a skeptic of the process — someone concerned about fraud or security — they turn into believers,” said Julie Wise, elections director in King County, Wash., which includes Seattle and has operated a fully vote-by-mail system since 2009.

This entry was tagged. Donald Trump Elections Fact Check Voting

Trump administration rescinded Courage Award for woman who criticized Trump

Donald Trump is incredibly petty. The State Department wanted to give a Finnish journalist an award for her courageous reports on Russian propaganda, including her criticisms of “President” Putin. Then they rescinded the award after discovering that she had also criticized Mr. Trump. So much for admiring courageous criticism of powerful people. And, of course, his government lied about what they had done and why.

Trump administration rescinded Courage Award for woman who criticized Trump

John Hudson, for the Washington Post.

The Trump administration rescinded an award recognizing the work of a journalist from Finland last year after discovering she had criticized President Trump in social media posts, then gave a false explanation for withdrawing the honor, according to a report by the State Department’s internal watchdog.

The report tracks how the discovery of the journalist’s remarks worried senior U.S. officials and prompted a decision to withdraw the honor to avoid a possible public relations debacle.

… According to the report, the journalist, Jessikka Aro, was selected for the State Department’s International Women of Courage Awards for her reporting on Russian propaganda activities dating back to 2014. Aro endured death threats and cyberattacks for her work, which helped expose Russian troll factories.

After she was informed of her selection and offered flight options, State Department interns discovered her Facebook and Twitter posts, including one from September 2018 in which she noted that “Trump constantly labels journalists as ‘enemy’ and ‘fake news,’ ” said the report. In another tweet, she noted that Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin would meet in Helsinki, where “Finnish people can protest them both. Sweet.”

… But the inspector general ultimately found that the decision to give her the award was not a mistake and was included in a memo approved by [Secretary of State] Pompeo.

The report also noted that the decision to withdraw the award stemmed from the discovery of the social media posts, despite public claims otherwise. “Every person OIG interviewed in connection with this matter acknowledged” that had her social media posts not been flagged, “Ms. Aro would have received the IWOC Award,” the report said.

This entry was tagged. Donald Trump Foreign Policy Pride Rush Limbaugh

How Trump is undermining his own vaccine race

Donald Trump keeps promising that a COVID-19 vaccine will be available before the election. When the medical community promises to take the time to ensure that the vaccine is safe, he claims that he is being attacked and sabotaged. The more Mr. Trump promises to rush the vaccine, the more he scares everyone else. Now, nearly half of Americans say that they won’t take the vaccine, because they don’t believe that it will be safe.

We need better leadership.

How Trump is undermining his own vaccine race - POLITICO

by Adam Cancryn

FDA Commissioner Stephen Hahn spent weeks preparing a proposal to set more stringent standards for emergency authorization of a coronavirus vaccine, hoping to boost public trust in the government’s biggest public health decision in decades.

“Science will guide our decisions,” he pledged to a Senate panel on Wednesday. “FDA will not permit any pressure from anyone to change that.”

Hours later, President Donald Trump sought to do just that. Incensed over the prospect the new guidelines could slow the process, Trump blew up the FDA’s carefully laid plans – vowing to have final say over his administration’s procedures for authorizing a long-sought Covid-19 vaccine. The White House has since demanded that Hahn submit a fuller justification of his bid to set stricter standards, two administration officials said, a directive that could halt the proposal indefinitely.

Almost since the start of the coronavirus crisis, Trump has promised a vaccine is just around the corner, repeatedly contradicting his own experts on the timeline and the standards necessary for approval. The goal, he’s made clear, is a viable vaccine just before Election Day – the centerpiece of his own claims that the administration deserves an “A-plus” for its response to Covid-19.

But that single-minded pursuit has left a string of damaging episodes in its wake and hopelessly intertwined the delicate drug development process with Trump’s political aims, according to interviews with a dozen public health experts both inside and outside the administration.

“We shouldn’t even be having this discussion,” a former senior HHS official said of the struggle for control over the vaccine process. “There are experienced career scientists at FDA who make these judgments every day for public health. This shouldn’t even be a White House issue.”

The broader public’s faith in any eventual coronavirus vaccine, meanwhile, is in tatters. Just over half of Americans now say they would take a vaccine if it were available today, polling shows, a 21-point drop from earlier this year. That’s alarming from a public health point of view, since having fewer people take the vaccine dilutes its effectiveness.

Now, even as Trump’s top health advisers scramble to erect new safeguards, those involved in the process say they fear the damage is already done: Trump’s constant drumbeat for a vaccine by Nov. 3 has drowned out months of careful scientific work, reducing perhaps the most ambitious vaccine hunt in history to yet another presidential litmus test.

“It would help if Donald Trump stopped talking,” said Paul Offit, director of the Vaccine Education Center at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia and a member of the outside panel FDA has pledged to consult before authorizing a vaccine. “Every time he opens his mouth, most reasonable people feel they’re being sold something.”

This entry was tagged. COVID-19 Donald Trump Healthcare Policy President2020

Trump's use of false content is often defended as humor. But his supporters aren't always in on the joke

Mr. Trump’s campaign continually posts doctored videos to lie about Mr. Biden. When caught, they sound like idiotic teenagers: “Can’t you take a joke, man?” And when Facebook or Twitter flag the videos as misleading, they use it as an opportunity to claim that everyone is biased against them. Lie, deflect, sow mistrust—it’s the Trump way.

Trump's use of false content is often defended as humor. But his supporters aren't always in on the joke

Donie O’Sullivan, for CNN.

The video — which appears to show Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden sleeping as a TV news anchor repeats, "Wake up!" — was shared on Twitter by White House social media director Dan Scavino.

But the video was fake.

It was achieved by splicing together real footage of a 2011 interview between journalist Leyla Santiago, now of CNN, and entertainer and activist Harry Belafonte with footage of Biden looking down, his eyes appearing at least partially closed, to make it appear as if he were snoozing. An audio track of loud snoring was placed on the video to complete the effect.

When the video was fact-checked by news outlets, including CNN, and eventually labeled as "manipulated media" by Twitter, prominent Trump supporters complained that it was an obvious joke and a meme.

…The joke was lost on Chris, the Trump supporter in Bemidji, who apparently believed the video was real footage. He acknowledged, "I missed that one," when he was shown how the video had been manipulated.

…The dissemination of misleading videos about Biden by the Trump campaign in an effort to make the Democratic presidential nominee seem confused or senile has happened repeatedly.

On Tuesday, the campaign posted an eight-second video on Facebook that it titled "Joe Biden completely botches the Pledge of Allegiance." But Biden was not trying to recite the entire Pledge of Allegiance as the full version of the video shows. Facebook did not take any action against the video.

…Last week, Trump retweeted a video that was manipulated to make it appear as if Biden was dancing to the NWA song "F**k tha Police." He wasn't.

When false claims and doctored videos are fact-checked by Facebook or labeled as manipulated by Twitter, it is possible that they have already been viewed and shared for days.

And many of the Trump supporters who spoke to CNN in Bemidji said they simply do not trust the fact-checks that are deployed by Facebook.

This entry was tagged. Donald Trump Joe Biden President2020

Trump Promises Drug Discount Cards as an Expensive Pre-election Gift

Yesterday, Mr. Trump promised to send seniors $6.6 billion dollars using an existing program in an illegal way, paid for with funds that don’t exist. This is part of a healthcare plan that involves stealing credit from President Obama did and signing pointless, symbolic executive orders. The executive orders allow him to lie and claim that he’s actually done something, as long as you agree not to look behind the curtain. Another day, more proof that we elected a con man as President.

Trump Promises Drug Discount Cards as an Expensive Pre-election Gift

Sheryl Gay Stolberg and Margot Sanger-Katz, for the New York Times.

President Trump vowed on Thursday to send $200 discount cards for prescription drugs to 33 million older Americans, a $6.6 billion election-eve promise with dubious legal authority that he announced as part of a speech billed as presenting a long-awaited health care plan.

Mr. Trump made the announcement before an audience of health professionals in Charlotte, N.C., where he laid out what the White House called the America First health care plan. Though senior administration officials had previewed the speech, they had not mentioned the drug discount cards.

Mr. Trump’s broader plan is short on specifics, and its two core provisions are largely symbolic. The first is an executive order aimed at protecting people with pre-existing conditions — a provision already in the Affordable Care Act, which Mr. Trump is trying to overturn. The second — a push to end surprise medical billing — would require congressional action.

That left the drug discount cards as the major advance in Mr. Trump’s speech. It was not clear where the money for the cards would come from or whether the White House could legally issue them. But they amounted to a gift to a key constituency, offered weeks before Election Day.

A senior administration official said the discount cards would be authorized under a waiver program that allowed Medicare to test certain new policy ideas. The money would come from savings gleaned from the president’s directive this month that required Medicare to pay no more for prescription drugs than in other developed nations, the official said.

But that program has not yet been devised or enacted.

“Is the plan to borrow from potential future savings from a program that does not yet exist?” asked Rachel Sachs, an associate professor of law at Washington University in St. Louis, who studies prescription drug policy.

The announcement came as a surprise because the White House had tried last month to strike a deal with the pharmaceutical industry on a broad effort to lower drug prices. But that deal collapsed after Mark Meadows, the White House chief of staff, insisted that the industry pay for such cards. The companies balked, fearing that they would be footing the bill for the “Trump cards” aimed at older American voters.

“As we’ve previously said, one-time savings cards will neither provide lasting help, nor advance the fundamental reforms necessary to help seniors better afford their medicines,” Priscilla VanderVeer, the vice president of public affairs for PhRMA, the industry’s largest trade group, said in an email after Mr. Trump’s speech.

But in an appearance on CNN, Mr. Meadows suggested — without offering an explanation — that pharmaceutical manufacturers would still pay for the cards, which he said older Americans would begin receiving in October.

“It’s the first time that money came from Big Pharma, back from their pockets, in the pockets of American seniors,” Mr. Meadows said. “If they have any question about if he is for real, wait until that card is received in the mail.”

Federal spending must typically be authorized by Congress — a principle that House Republicans sought to uphold when they sued the Obama White House in 2014, arguing that the administration’s health spending as part of the Affordable Care Act had not been properly approved. Mr. Trump canceled that program after taking office, saying it was unlawful.

The White House and the Trump campaign promoted the promise on Twitter immediately after the speech.

“I have no idea where this would be coming from,” said Stephen I. Vladeck, a law professor at the University of Texas who studies executive powers. “It’s not like there’s a $6.6 billion pot of money that was just waiting for Trump to come along.”

Eliot Fishman, a former senior Medicaid official in the Obama administration, said the proposal would be an unexpected use of the Medicare waiver program, which was established to test policies that increase “the efficiency and economy” of Medicare and must be budget neutral.

“It’s not a real demonstration; it’s just sending out drug discount cards to seniors,” said Mr. Fishman, who is the senior director of health policy at the consumer advocacy group Families USA. “It’s extraordinarily brazen.”

Mr. Trump has been promising since he ran for president in 2016 that he would put together a plan to lower costs, expand coverage and protect people with pre-existing conditions — the primary goals of the Affordable Care Act. But Republicans cannot seem to agree on a replacement.

In laying out his broader plan, the president promised to lower costs and offer “true health security for you and your loved ones.” Instead, that plan was mostly a laundry list of steps he had already taken to lower health care premiums and reduce the price of prescription drugs.

Election 2020 ›

Live Updates

Updated

Sept. 25, 2020, 9:25 a.m. ET35 minutes ago

35 minutes ago

Some of those steps — such as allowing people to purchase short-term insurance plans that do not meet the criteria in the Affordable Care Act — would actually weaken protections for people with pre-existing conditions.

Image

In July, Mr. Trump signed multiple executive orders aimed at lowering prescription drug prices for consumers.

In July, Mr. Trump signed multiple executive orders aimed at lowering prescription drug prices for consumers.Credit...Samuel Corum for The New York Times

After the speech, Mr. Trump signed an executive order declaring that it was “the policy of the United States” that people with pre-existing conditions should be able to obtain insurance coverage. Brooke Rollins, the acting director of the White House Domestic Policy Council, described it as “the first executive order in American history” to declare such a policy but neglected to mention that a law doing that was already in place.

“We’re putting it down; our opponents, the Democrats, like to constantly talk about it, and yet pre-existing conditions are much safer with us than with them, and now we have it affirmed,” the president said. “This is affirmed, signed and done.”

But Alex M. Azar II, the secretary of health and human services, acknowledged that putting power behind those promises would require legislation.

Mr. Trump also announced that he was giving insurers, hospitals and Congress until Jan. 1 — 19 days before the end of his term — to pass legislation to prevent the practice of surprise medical billing, in which patients are charged for care they have inadvertently received from out-of-network providers. If that did not happen, Mr. Azar said, the president would direct him to take action.

The problem of surprise medical billing has attracted bipartisan interest in Congress, and the White House has long endorsed a legislative solution. But leaders in Congress have disagreed about the best approach for determining which doctors and hospitals should be paid by insurance companies in situations that currently generate surprise bills.

Legislation on the matter has not come for a vote before the full House or Senate. Mr. Trump has not taken sides in the policy disputes that have hampered the effort, saying instead that he wants Congress to pass a law by early next year.

Senator Lamar Alexander, Republican of Tennessee and an author of a bill that has passed through the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, noted that the problem could not be solved through executive action.

“Ending surprise medical bills is a problem that requires a permanent solution passed by Congress this year,” he said in a statement. Mr. Alexander is retiring from Congress at the end of this term.

“The American people can’t afford to wait any longer,” he added.

Mr. Trump has pursued a variety of new health care policies during his first term, including measures to improve the transparency of prices, efforts to improve care for Americans with kidney disease and an expansion of telemedicine as part of the government’s emergency pandemic response. But the president has thus far declined to propose a broad health care plan that ties these individual policies together or explains what would replace the Affordable Care Act if it is repealed.

On Thursday, Mr. Trump spoke in front of a sign repeating the words “America First Healthcare Plan,” an indication that these previous policies and the two vague executive orders represented the bulk of his health care vision as he ran for re-election.

Democrats have mobilized around the court challenge to the Affordable Care Act, eager to argue that the Trump administration wants to eliminate protections for people with pre-existing conditions, an extremely popular policy. The death of J

This entry was tagged. Donald Trump Healthcare Policy

Why Zoom School Is So Awful for Parents and Kids

COVID-19 has completely disrupted life. We can't get back to normal until we actually do the long-term planning now to make life better 2 months from now. As a nation, we keep refusing to do that planning. And life continues to be awful. We need better leadership.

Why Zoom School Is So Awful for Parents and Kids

Dan Sinker, for Esquire:

The lesson we refuse to learn with COVID-19 is that decisions we make today have no bearing on right now, but have a huge effect in a few months. That’s why locking down in March reduced the number of deaths in May. Why opening bars in May brought deaths right back up in July. Why parties on Memorial Day left us with COVID numbers nearly twice as high on Labor Day, and why reopening in-person school in September will likely do exactly what you’d expect come November. The delay between action and reaction means we keep half assing our way through a pandemic that kicks our asses in return.

Making school work in September required vision, action, funding, and resolve on the part of people far above your teacher or school board member in the spring when everything shut down. None of it came. The entire point of the shutdowns was to buy time, to make plans, to lay a foundation for a return that would work. All that time got flushed away by a president more obsessed with hyping miracle cures than doing the hard, thankless work of grinding out a workable plan with scientists and educators and then funding it at a level that could make it actually feasible. That’s what happened in pretty much every other country on the planet. None of them are foolproof, but they've done better than just the state of Florida alone, which had more than 10,000 kids under 18 test positive since their aggressive push for schools to reopen last month.

This entry was tagged. COVID-19 Donald Trump

Louis DeJoy's USPS changes brought operational chaos, delays

This is a great example of someone at the top making changes to policies that they don’t like, without taking the time to find out what’s behind those policies or why they exist. In this case, the new Postmaster General wanted to ensure that all USPS trucks leave exactly on time. This, and other changes, is why everyone’s mail has been getting delayed this summer.

Louis DeJoy's USPS changes brought operational chaos, delays — Los Angeles Times

Bockman said the pressure to leave five minutes early means that about four times a week he has been driving down freeways with an empty trailer.

Requiring trucks to leave exactly on time, or early, can exacerbate other problems at sorting facilities, including machines breaking down, a shortage of workers or a higher volume of mail than usual, union leaders say.

The trucking schedule change “seemed like the smallest thing, but it was the biggest thing to hurt the Postal Service,” said Eddie Cowan, president of the L.A.-area chapter of the National Postal Mail Handlers Union.

This entry was tagged. Government Efficiency

Funding promised by Trump for Kenosha can't be used to rebuild

Another story showing that Donald Trump is a con-man. He loves to promise largesse. It buffs his image and feeds his ego. But it often turns out to be a mirage. Either he doesn’t follow through or we later discover that his promise was just taking credit for something that he had nothing to do with. This story has a bit of both.

Funding promised by Trump for Kenosha can't be used to rebuild

None of the more than $40 million in federal help promised by President Donald Trump when he visited Kenosha earlier this month can actually be used to rebuild the community, according to Gov. Tony Evers and U.S. Sen. Tammy Baldwin.

And all but $1 million was already coming to the state, regardless of the damage done during protests that followed the shooting of a Black man, Jacob Blake, by a white Kenosha police officer, the officials wrote Trump.

But Baldwin and Evers wrote Thursday in a letter to the president that the $4 million for small businesses was already earmarked by the federal relief bill known as the CARES Act for coronavirus pandemic-related losses, and can’t be used for other purposes.

“It cannot be used for damages tied to the unrest,” Baldwin and Evers wrote.

Of the remaining federal funding allocated for Wisconsin, according to Baldwin’s office:

  • $30.6 million is for the state’s crime victims fund in fiscal 2020, grants announced in April.
  • $10.5 million comes from U.S. Department of Justice grants announced earlier this year to pay for costs associated with implementing body cameras, drug treatment, prosecutions, reducing violent crime, Operation Legend, and other programs.
  • $1 million in new public safety funding has been allocated for the City of Kenosha, in a joint application with Kenosha County, for expenses incurred during the period of civil unrest. This funding is new but private businesses cannot use it to rebuild.

This entry was tagged. Donald Trump Spending Wisconsin

How a Sean Feucht worship service convinced me I am no longer an evangelical

D.L. Mayfield wrote about her recent experiences as both an evangelical Christian and a Black Lives Matter supporter. How she feels is how I feel. I felt like I knew what I believed and that the subcommunity that I grew up in believed the same things. Then George Floyd was murdered and civil rights supporters started organizing Black Lives Matter protests. And I found out that many of “my people” cared more for White nationalism than they did for Biblical faithfulness and love.

How a Sean Feucht worship service convinced me I am no longer an evangelical

One can’t simply wish or pretend away what they are, I thought. Even though I felt confused, heartbroken and betrayed by the marriage of nationalism and Christianity I saw on full display in my community, that didn’t make me a sudden outsider. I simply was an evangelical; I had been born one — a home-schooled pastor’s kid who went to a Bible college to be a missionary — and I would remain one (until I got kicked out, I joked with my friends).

As a freelance writer who wrote primarily for evangelical audiences, I thought maybe I had a unique opportunity to evangelize my own people. They were, after all, the ones who raised me to love God and read the Bible, to become a disciple of Jesus. Surely they might be open to seeing how their views on immigration, police brutality, war, unchecked capitalism, the prison industrial complex and more might be at odds with the message of Jesus?

I should have believed my community when they told me over and over again exactly who they are.

Her experience attending a Christian counter-protest disguised as a concert just emphasized the gulf between her Biblical beliefs and their nationalist, White-supremacist beliefs.

Just standing on the edge of the worshipping crowd was enough to draw the ire and attention of many folks. For almost two hours I was constantly confronted, yelled at, livestreamed, prayed over and told I was not a real Christian (for the record, I was simply holding a sign that had a Bible verse on it).

I was not prepared for how much worse this would be than tear gas. I was not prepared for the pit in my stomach as I saw the thousands of Christians gathered, without masks, triumphantly singing songs to God, hands in the air and all eyes turned toward the worship leader on stage.

The person leading the event, Sean Feucht, has a mass of curly blond hair and is known for being opportunistic when it comes to marrying politics with worship leading. Feucht, a vocal Trump supporter and former congressional candidate, has been raising money to travel to spots in the United States where horrific deaths at the hands of police have taken place or where long-term protests in support of Black Lives Matter are going on. He sings happy songs about God being on his side, the speakers turned up to full volume in order to literally drown out the protesters’ cries for justice.

I knew almost every word to the songs the group was singing — but I could not bring myself to sing along.

Surrounded on all sides by people with arms raised high, eyes closed, joy and certainty shining on the faces of the true believers, it hit me: We read the same Bible, and we all call ourselves Christians. But we are not singing to the same God. I could no longer pretend otherwise.

This entry was tagged. Christianity Racism Black Lives Matter

Tucson police officer William Gallego accused of assaulting suspect

This is how things are supposed to work, every day. Anytime a police officer crosses the line into lawless behavior, they should forfeit the protection of the badge and be arrested, the same as every other American.

Tucson police officer William Gallego accused of assaulting suspect

As part of a standard review when force is used by an officer, Gallego's supervisor reviewed his bodycam footage from the arrest the next day. They also initiated a criminal investigation.

"Based on video evidence, investigators believe Gallego made intentional contact with the suspect’s head two different times while he was handcuffed on the ground," said Magnus's statement.

On Sunday, detectives arrested and booked Gallego into a Pima County jail on suspicion of aggravated assault.

This entry was tagged. Arizona Police Reform

We Can’t Just Stick to Football

Matthew Stafford, quarterback of the Detroit Lions, wrote the piece about racism and Black Lives Matter that I wish that I’d written. He’s saying, “It’s time for us to stop talking, start listening, and start empathizing.”

We Can’t Just Stick to Football

As most everyone knows, I haven’t exactly embraced social media over the years. It’s just not me. But I feel like it’s right to take the time to say what’s on my heart as we begin this new season together as a team. And what’s on my heart is that we all need to come together as a country and admit what we know is real. Deep down inside, no matter what political party we support, or what we do for a living, we know what’s real.

Police brutality, white privilege, racism — it’s all real.

It’s time we stop pretending, or defending, or just closing our eyes to what’s right in front of us. We have to listen, and we have to keep having these hard conversations.

And it’s not like this is just our history. This is right now.

These are not political problems. These are human problems. It should not be seen as a political statement to discuss this stuff honestly.

Later, he shares what he heard from a Black teammate.

But the one story that stuck with me so much was when Trey Flowers talked about how he copes with the anxiety of dealing with the police. Trey was explaining that if he were to ever get pulled over in his car — something that I have experienced many times without even thinking twice about it — he would roll down his window, put both hands on the wheel, and ask the officer if he would like him to step out of the car so he can handcuff him.

Just so that he is not seen as a threat.

Just so the officer can’t say, “Oh, he was reaching here, he was reaching there.…”

Just so he makes it back home.

If you’re a white person, all I’m asking you to do is to really think _about that. Imagine _that being your first instinct when you see police lights in your rearview mirror.

No one in America should have to feel this way.

Listen, I’m not some perfect person. I’m not trying to lecture anybody. I’ve made a million mistakes. I grew up in Highland Park, Texas, which is probably one of the most privileged places in the country. It’s a place that I still love very much, but it’s a bubble. That’s just a fact. I was not exposed to a lot of diversity or different ideas growing up. I was not educated on these issues, and I probably said a bunch of stupid things when I was young that I regret. But a big part of life is about looking inside yourself and trying to evolve as a person.

And when you hear your teammates telling these stories — and getting so emotional that they’re breaking down crying — you can’t just sit there and be silent.

And Matthew Stafford’s conclusion.

And if you grew up the way I did, and you still happen to live in one of those bubbles where you don’t have to worry about these things, maybe you’re tired of hearing about all this. Maybe you want to pretend it doesn’t exist, because you don’t see it with your own eyes. Maybe you just want us to “shut up and play football.”

That’s your right. I probably can’t change your mind.

All I can ask you to do, as we continue through this NFL season, is to close your eyes and really put yourself in other people’s shoes. Try for a minute to put all the social media and the politics and the arguing aside, and look within yourself.

Ask yourself hard questions.

But more than anything, listen.

It’s time.

This entry was tagged. NFL Racism Black Lives Matter

Trump’s businesses charged Secret Service more than $1.1 million

It sure is nice when you can use the Presidency to enrich yourself. The Washington Post’s David Fahrenthold shares their latest data on how the Trump Organization is using the Secret Service to pad their own bottom line.

Trump’s businesses charged Secret Service more than $1.1 million, including for rooms in club shuttered for pandemic

President Trump’s luxury properties have charged the U.S. government more than $1.1 million in private transactions since Trump took office — including for room rentals at his Bedminster, N.J., club this spring while it was closed for the coronavirus pandemic, new documents show.

The documents, including receipts and invoices from Trump’s businesses, were released by the Secret Service after The Washington Post filed a public-records lawsuit. They added $188,000 in previously unknown charges to The Post’s running total of payments to Trump’s properties related to the presence of Secret Service agents.

In Bedminster this spring, the records show, Trump’s club charged the Secret Service more than $21,800 to rent a cottage and other rooms while the club was closed and otherwise off-limits to guests. The documents don’t give a reason for these rentals. Trump didn’t visit the club while it was closed, but his eldest daughter, Ivanka Trump, and her family reportedly visited at least once.

In case you’re new to this entire story. And, note, it doesn’t need to be this way. The Trump Organization could easily provide rooms to the Secret Service at no-cost or a truly nominal cost. But they don’t. And that’s a deliberate decision to siphon money from the taxpayers to Donald Trump’s own pockets.

When Trump and his family members visit Trump properties, aides and Secret Service agents follow. When those federal employees rent rooms, Trump’s businesses get the revenue. Taxpayers foot the bill.

The bills are usually paid in private, with no public disclosure. The government has not disclosed how much it has paid the Trump Organization in total. Instead, The Post has tried to create an accounting of these payments, one receipt at a time, using public-records requests and lawsuits.

“The waste inherent in this is appalling,” Lisa Gilbert, executive vice president at the watchdog group Public Citizen, said of the Trump Organization’s charges. Gilbert said the costs were especially galling during a pandemic that has brought economic ruin and stretched federal budgets. “They’re nickel-and-diming the American people. At a moment when every penny counts.”

The White House and the Secret Service both declined to comment for this story. The Trump Organization did not respond to emailed questions.

Before he took office, Trump said he would be “completely isolating” himself from his business interests. He didn’t. Instead, Trump has visited his properties 274 times, according to a Post tally, in addition to promoting those properties on Twitter, encouraging his vice president visit them and briefly choosing one of them to host a summit of world leaders.

This entry was tagged. Corruption Donald Trump Greed

Trump’s $647 Million Ventilator Deal

This must be some of that endless winning and good dealmaking that Donald Trump promised us. Agreeing to buy ventilators for 4x the list price—a ventilator design that the U.S. government funded a decade ago as a low-cost option.

The Trump Administration Is Backing Out of a $647 Million Ventilator Deal After ProPublica Investigated The Price

The federal government is backing out of a controversial $646.7 million deal to buy ventilators from Royal Philips N.V., acting before the company had delivered a third of the order.

This week, the House Committee on Oversight and Reform’s Subcommittee on Economic and Consumer Policy announced it is expanding its probe to look at other coronavirus-related deals negotiated by Peter Navarro, the president’s trade adviser, who served as the point man on the Philips deal.

In addition, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, which oversaw the Philips contract, confirmed that the deal is the subject of an internal investigation and legal review.

The congressional investigation determined that the deal would have resulted in the U.S. overpaying for the ventilators by as much as $500 million, thanks to “inept contract management and incompetent negotiating by the Trump Administration.”

ProPublica first wrote about the U.S. government’s relationship with Philips in March, detailing how a decade ago government planners had paid Philips millions of dollars to develop a low-cost ventilator that could be stockpiled and deployed if ever there were a pandemic. The U.S. ordered 10,000 once the company received clearance from the Food and Drug Administration.

But when COVID-19 cases overwhelmed hospitals in New York in the spring, Philips hadn’t delivered any. Instead, ProPublica found, Philips was selling a commercial version of that ventilator — manufactured at its Pennsylvania factory — overseas at far higher prices.

Rather than force production of low-cost ventilators, a White House team led by Navarro cut a new deal for more ventilators, agreeing to pay more than four times the price.

ProPublica in April revealed that this new deal boosted the price of what appeared to be similar ventilators from $3,280 each under the Obama administration deal to $15,000 under the Trump administration. Neither Philips nor HHS would explain how the two models were different.

In its investigation of the deal, the House subcommittee asked Philips to turn over a trove of records and discovered that the more expensive ventilators were “functionally identical” to the cheaper ones.

Navarro and his team “appeared gullible” and there was no evidence that they even tried to negotiate a lower price, the House investigators found.

The U.S. government paid the highest price for the ventilators among American buyers, the investigators found. The company’s records show that Philips had sold more than 5,000 of that model at far lower prices before May 27.

As coronavirus sweeps the globe, there is not a single Trilogy Evo Universal ventilator — developed with government funds — in the U.S. stockpile. Meanwhile, Royal Philips N.V. has sold higher-priced versions to clients around the world.

This entry was tagged. COVID-19 Donald Trump Government Efficiency

Trump is the anti-vaccine candidate

Trump is the anti-vaccine candidate →

Michael Hiltzik, a business columnist at the Los Angeles Times, documents how Trump recently tried to make himself look better by accusing Joe Biden of doing what Trump himself frequently does. Here, Trump displayed his own narcissism, lying, and ignorance.

Donald Trump’s habit of projecting his own failings onto his adversaries reached a new level of absurdity on Labor Day, when he attacked the Democratic ticket of Joe Biden and Kamala Harris for “reckless anti-vaccine rhetoric” and accused them of a position that “undermines science.”

As for “reckless anti-vaccine rhetoric,” that defines Trump, too. For more than a decade, Trump has promoted the long-debunked and fraudulent claim that vaccines cause autism. He has advocated stretching out the schedule of childhood vaccinations, a practice condemned by creditable pediatric experts.

Trump has made common cause with anti-vaccine cranks such as Robert F. Kennedy Jr., and even lent credence to Andrew Wakefield. He’s the notorious perpetrator of the myth linking autism with the measles, mumps and rubella vaccine, a stance that got Wakefield’s medical license revoked in Britain and that has caused needless disease and suffering in Britain, across Europe and in the U.S.

Now to Trump’s anti-vaccine rhetoric.

As ably documented by quackery watchdog David Gorski, it dates back at least to 2007. At a press conference that year, Trump said, “When I was growing up, autism wasn’t really a factor. And now all of a sudden, it’s an epidemic.... My theory, and I study it because I have young children, my theory is the shots. We’ve giving these massive injections at one time, and I really think it does something to the children.”

“When a little baby that weighs 20 pounds and 30 pounds gets pumped with 10 and 20 shots at one time, with one injection that’s a giant injection, I personally think that has something to do with it. Now there’s a group that agrees with that and there’s a group that doesn’t agree with that.”

Trump repeated his “theory” on “Fox and Friends” in 2012: “It’s also very controversial to even say. But I couldn’t care less. I’ve seen people where they have a perfectly healthy child, and they go for the vaccinations and a month later the child is no longer healthy.”

He repeated it again during a Republican presidential debate in September 2015: “Just the other day, 2 years old, 2 and a half years old, a child, a beautiful child went to have the vaccine, and came back, and a week later got a tremendous fever, got very, very sick, now is autistic.”

The Marvelous Saguaro

One of the joys of living in southern Arizona is getting to see the saguaro cacti. I can see them all around town and there are large “forests” of them in the Sonoran Desert.

I recently saw this Kingfisher & Wombat tweet thread from Sat, February 22, 2020 at 05:34 PM about the saguaro. It's worth your time.

So following my retweet of the saguaros being cut down, it occurs to me that the extraordinary nature of the saguaro may not be common knowledge. Therefore, let us talk about this marvelous vegetative creature.

There’s a fairytale quality to the origin of this cactus. They sound more like how you make a unicorn or a cockatrice than a plant. “Born from an egg laid by a rooster under the Dog Star and incubated by a serpent.” “Sprung from the drops of blood from a martyred saint.”

Well, the saguaro fruit must be eaten by a coyote or a cactus wren and deposited in the shade of an ironwood to nurse. No, really.

Mesquite or palo verde will also work, but the cactus requires a nurse tree. The seeds can be eaten by a coyote, but a dove or a quail will digest them instead of passing them whole.

In the event the proper animal ate them and pooped in the proper nurse tree, it will take a decade for the saguaro to grow more than two inches tall.

Between 50-100 years, the first arm appears. It will likely flower before this, in its thirties. The flowers must be pollinated, probably by bats.

By this point, it will have outlived its nurse (and probably outcompeted it.) Those cactus with dozens of arms? OLD.

The cactus is not considered an adult until it is over a hundred years old. It can live to be two hundred, with luck.

To get away from the cold facts for a minute...saguaros, if you live around them, are, uh...Not just plants. There’s stuff going on there. People stuff. Saguaros have souls.

I realize I romanticize plants all the time, so you can feel free to dismiss this as my usual bullshit, but saguaros are...yeah. Okay, you ever met a tree that you thought was big and old and maybe like a person? The whole species is like that. Saguaros are special.

Giant redwoods are a little too obviously gods, any fool can see it, but saguaros are something else.

Anyway. It is worth noting that even if you dismiss my half-baked garden faith, saguaros are the pinnacle of a web of ecosystem arrangements. Three other species, minimum, are required to make a saguaro. Wren, ironwood, bat. Or coyote, mesquite, hummingbird. But three minimum.

This is why they’re so ultimately fragile. They rely on the others to even exist. They are a group effort! But they do repay it. Dozens of species live in them, on them, and by them.

Woodpeckers dig holes, elf owls live in the holes, hawks nest on top, everybody eats the fruit.

They are the nexus of the web. They’re special. Natives in the area have very respectful terms for them, though I do not know enough to give you any details. They’re one of the great goods of the world,and cutting them down is a cruel thing.

That’s all.

Well, no, one more thing. I joke sometimes that when I die, the primary witnesses for the defense will be all the turtles I helped across the road. I’m pretty sure if a saguaro spoke up for someone, they’d halt the proceedings and send you on your way at once.

And hey—we get down on humanity sometimes, we really do, and that border wall is an abomination, but the people of Arizona made laws to protect saguaros. Imperfect, flawed, but by god, they recognized and they’re trying. Credit where due.

This entry was tagged. Arizona

Black woman attacked by men wielding lighter fluid, racial slurs

Black woman attacked by men wielding lighter fluid, racial slurs →

Robert Chappell, writing for Madison365.

An 18-year-old Black woman says she was attacked with lighter fluid and flame early Wednesday morning by white men yelling racial slurs. She sustained second- and third-degree burns.

Althea Bernstein works as an EMT while studying to be a paramedic and firefighter. She says she was on her way to her brother’s house at around 1 am Wednesday when she reached a stoplight on Gorham Street near State Street in downtown Madison. She doesn’t remember for sure which intersection it was.

“I was listening to some music at a stoplight and then all of a sudden I heard someone yell the N-word really loud,” she said in an interview Wednesday. “I turned my head to look and somebody’s throwing lighter fluid on me. And then they threw a lighter at me, and my neck caught on fire and I tried to put it out, but I brushed it up onto my face. I got it out and then I just blasted through the red light … I just felt like I needed to get away. So I drove through the red light and just kept driving until I got to my brother’s (home).”

I never thought that I'd see this in Madison. This is absolutely reprehensible.

Accusing President Trump

Accusing President Trump →

In an election, I normally look for a candidate that I can vote for, rather than just voting against candidates. This Presidential election is not normal. In this election, I am absolutely voting against Donald Trump. Morally, he is our worst President since Richard Nixon. He may be the worst President since Andrew Johnson succeeded Abraham Lincoln.

But you don't have to take my word for it. David Roberts, writing for Vox, put together a damning indictment, as part of a larger article.

Trump has made no secret of his feelings toward protests and law enforcement generally. He once told Breitbart, “I can tell you I have the support of the police, the support of the military, the support of the Bikers for Trump — I have the tough people, but they don’t play it tough — until they go to a certain point, and then it would be very bad, very bad.”

He has advocated for the failed and racist “stop and frisk” policy to be expanded to new cities and called Democrats “anti-police.” He removed Obama-imposed limits on military equipment sold to police, encouraged police brutality, told states to “dominate” protesters, threatened protesters with “vicious dogs” and “ominous weapons,” and tweeted, “when the looting starts, the shooting starts,” a prominent segregationist rallying cry from the civil rights era. He wanted to deploy 10,000 active-duty American soldiers to US cities to quell domestic protests and considered firing his secretary of defense, Mark Esper, when Esper resisted.

All this comes in the context of a long history of lurching authoritarianism. The first thing Trump did on entering office is flout the longstanding US tradition of presidents separating from their personal financial interests while in office. His business interests are still mixed up in affairs of state in ways no one fully understands, and his administration is openly deferential toward sectors of the economy that pledge loyalty to him.

He has completely shut down congressional oversight and is currently engaged in a purge of inspectors general, the independent watchdogs within government agencies. One of those IGs, at the State Department, was in the final stages of an investigation into whether some of Trump’s arms deals with the Saudis were legal.

He has pushed for loyalty tests at the FBI, the State Department, and the Department of the Interior, put immigrant kids in cages, used state power to force international allies to launch bogus investigations of his political opponents, and flouted impeachment despite compelling evidence of his guilt. He voiced support for the armed mob of right-wing protesters that stormed the Michigan legislature.

He has waged relentless war on independent journalism, called journalists enemies of the people, threatened to sue journalists, and denounced or threatened any media platform that fact-checks him.

Throughout it all, he lies, lies, lies — 18,000 times during his presidency, as of April. There is no discernible set of principles or governing philosophy at work, only Trump’s day-to-day impulses as he watches Fox News, stews in the residency, and tweets.

Trumpism, if there is such a thing, is a shameless disregard for norms and laws in service of a will to power. It runs on demands for loyalty, disregard of oversight, and devotion to dominating and humiliating opponents.

Yet the GOP has supported him, enabled him, and protected him from accountability, right up to voting him free of impeachment, covering for his disastrous coronavirus response, and echoing his calls for state violence. The party has followed his every impulse.

This November, I will be voting for Democrats across the board. As far as I can remember, this will be the first time that I've ever voted for Democrats. But, as Mr. Reagan said, "I didn't leave the Republican party, the Republican Party left me." As long as the Republican Party is the party of Trump, authoritarianism, bullying, and lying, I cannot vote for a single member of the party.