Thursday, March 12, 2020

The Incompetence Is At Last Undeniable

My next column in The Everett Herald:
Dr. Robert Redfield, Trump’s head of the CDC, is a virologist, which is good. One investigated for questionable research, which isn’t. Called AIDS God’s judgment on gays; opposed, on religious grounds, providing needle exchanges and condoms to at-risk people. Has no management experience. Also not good. He’s the guy smiling lovingly as Trump brags about his aptitude for science, lauding him on cue, laughing appreciatively when Trump called our governor “a snake.” Might Redfield’s Trump-fluffing have something to do with CDC’s tardy, disjointed response to Covid-19?

Soon after Donald “Chinese-hoax-windmill-cancer-virus-will-disappear-like-magic” Trump revealed he hadn’t known people died from influenza, he claimed “a natural instinct for science.” Nearly seven-hundred-thousand Americans died in the flu pandemic of 1918, and our “president” didn’t know. Previously, he’d asked why the flu vaccine wouldn’t work on Covid-19, and expected a vaccine in two months. For him, that’s natural, all right, but instinct it’s not. It illuminates, however, how he bankrupted six businesses before becoming "president." 
In 2016, Republicans overlooked Trump’s prior failures. Now, like those businesses, we’re imperiled by a person convinced he knows more about everything than anyone. Who ignores expert advice. Who’s more devoted to protecting his image than fellow Americans, fabricating lies to maintain it. Who, visiting the CDC, presumably to appear in charge, instead let loose an astounding string of falsehoods, self-congratulation, and gibberish. His unfit leadership was writ large as the gilded name on his hotels. Then he absconded to Mar-a-Lago, compounding the hundred-thirty-one-million in taxpayer dollars for his golfing -- not including hundreds of thousands in inflated prices his properties charge the Secret Service.

Issues like climate change, budget deficits, capitalism-destroying disregard for middle- and lower-class Americans while enriching the already-wealthy, are too removed, too arcane to concern hardcore Trumpists. Nobody who’s much beyond voting age is likely to die anytime soon from those things. And if some will die from such destructive policies, his supporters figure it’ll be people they never cared much about in the first place. Like minorities and the post-born.

But this virus thing? People ARE dying. Now. Close to home. Not just poor people. Parents. Grandparents. The impacts are universal. Countries are shutting down, and, God help us, Costco ran out of toilet paper. 
By now, isn’t the danger of a “president” like Trump obvious? If not to the “Trump was sent by God” people, then to hypothetical supporters who retain a toehold on reality? Isn’t it disquieting that Trump tweets infantile, fact-free vitriol and baseless braggadocio in the middle of a crisis, heads off to golf, tells infected people it’s okay to go to work? Expert advisers afraid to be candid, complicit henchfolk saying the virus is “contained,” even as cases – and deaths -- mount? Are no Trump voters wishing for a leader in whose words and competence they could believe? Who had experience in rational problem-solving rather than getting bailed out or leaving employees and contractors in the lurch?

Have none considered the benefits of having a “president” who didn’t squelch government scientists, wasn’t holding presumably political coronavirus meetings that excluded experts, hadn’t disbanded our pandemic response team; whose advisors were chosen for expertise rather than sycophancy? One who didn’t fire people for acknowledging truths he denies, who’d act on facts, rather than dismiss them or lie about them or sue news organizations over revealing them? Assuming he could tell the difference? 
Knowledgeable people are admitting they’re having to sneak truth into the conversation in ways that won’t anger Trump. How did being honest with a “president” become something risky? Who’s not endangered when professionals are deferring to Trump’s pathological self-regard and fantastical thinking? Are there no supporters on whom it’s dawning that we’re living in a Lewis Carroll novel?

On Wednesday, trying to appear serious, attacking the EU for who-knows-why, Trump, in his usual monotone, announced travel restrictions which do nothing about the biggest issue -- community spread. He completely ignored testing and the growing prospects of hospitals becoming overwhelmed. Immediately, the White House said he misspoke. But he’s still shaking hands. This isn’t leadership. It’s nuts. And it’s the opposite of reassuring. 
Trump and rightwing media claim it’s Democrats trying to take him down. It isn’t. It’s Trump taking himself down. After decades of getting away with cheating and fakery, never held to account, he hasn’t the tools of a competent leader. He never has. Now, the bill is coming due, and, once again, Trump has gone bankrupt. This time, though, he’s bankrupting us all.
[Image source]


  1. Another neon light example of Trump's staggering incompetence: inserting slumlord real estate developer son-in-law Jared into the mix in an ill-defined role described as "investigating the virus". Why not?! He solved all the problems of the Middle East in record time!

    It's Trump's inability to manage an organization on full display. Unable to deal with multiple people and groups, under the most stressful circumstance that he's faced yet, what does he do? The Mob Boss turns to the Family. "Somebody I can trust." "My spy." "Tell me who's working against me." "Watch Pence for me."

  2. I wonder what a competent person would do in this situation?
    I wonder what Joe and Bernie (and Tulsi?) will say when questioned?
    [at least they'll be 6 feet apart]
    What would you do, Sid?

  3. First, I'll tell you what I wouldn't do, and it includes pretty much everything Trump HAS done. I wouldn't lie about it. I wouldn't pretend it's no big deal. I wouldn't blame it on the opposition party while simultaneously asking that it not be politicized.

    I wouldn't have appointed a hack like Redfield to the CDC. I sure as hell wouldn't have announced, with no warning to the EU members, a travel ban from Europe, and I wouldn't have made a speech about it that required almost total reversal, saying I'd "misspoken."

    I'd not have let Ben Carson anywhere near the "response" "team." I'd not be having secret meetings about the response to which experts were unable to join.

    There's more, of course, but you get the idea.

    What WOULD I do? As a layperson/columnist/concerned citizen? What I am doing. Writing about it. Calling attention. And giving money to people running for federal office that have a decent chance of getting rid of the worst Congressional Rs; more money than I can afford, as Trump's lack of leadership has tanked the markets.

    If you mean, if I were president, well, listen to Joe Biden's speech today. Pretty much covers it.

  4. I'm not surprised that Joe offered a speech today. Pleased, in fact.
    It's the difference between leadership and consternation.
    Our governor is doing things. A lot of things.
    What say you about those things?

  5. You refer to the "snake," I presume. His leadership compares to Trump's as the Taj Mahal to a double-wide.

    School closures are a big deal, with a lot of downstream effects; it's hard to argue it's unwarranted, though. And he's clearly taking advice from public health officials, as opposed to shutting them out.

  6. An oft repeated phrase of the right has been "a conservative is a liberal who's been mugged by reality." I wonder how we should refer to COTers who are about to be mugged by reality, along with all the rest of us? Unfortunately, this bug doesn't give a fig about politics.

  7. > "Taj Mahal to a double-wide"
    I thought you were generous with double-wide, but then I know you were referring to "his fatness". I was playing with "tiny home" and "tiny hands", but couldn't come up with anything funny.
    It seems the inevitable of this corona-thing is that everyone will get it, and some will die, but that the effort(s) to keep the pace of it all to be tolerable by the number of ventilators available for those who need them.
    The CDC website is a phenomenal source of info on the subject, and I think all should look there for the truth, and avoid most of what is otherwise circulating.
    Who would have thought things would get so crazy that we have to be concerned whether we'll have toilet paper or not? Time to get a Japanese bidet toilet seat?

  8. As it happens, ks, I hadn't thought of "his fatness." Just a quick-time comparison to something timelessly admirable and something far less sol.

    The run (as it were) on toilet paper is mystifying. But rationality is in short supply nowadays.

  9. Costco did an advertorial that they sell 100 million rolls of toilet paper per year, and than a dissertation on how they make the best of the best for that purpose.
    I spent much of my life in what is now referred to as "supply-chain", and the TP situation is a curious one, indeed.
    But then, there are, essentially, no more "TP" mills in America, only China, for which we and other countries ship our lumber residuals there for processing, so, the "run" may have more to do with ship passage time from China, which is only a little briefer than quarantine-time for corona.
    Remember Scott Paper, Everett? We wouldn't have a problem if the excessively rich hadn't sent our livelihoods to China for their own fatness. There used to be three paper mills in and around Port Angeles, too, though they weren't so much into TP if I remember correctly.
    (I'm still working on my poem for "My Corona", done to the tune of a similar sounding song. No acrostic :-)

  10. Can't help myself. The Crown Prince should get a spanking. Here's Vanity Fair's take(down) today:

    'Great News: Jared Kushner Doesn’t Think the Coronavirus Is a “Health Reality”'

    Favorite quote:

    "According to the Wall Street Journal, despite the fact that Kushner was in charge of Trump’s Wednesday prime-time address to the nation, he hasn’t “attended a single task force meeting,” where he might’ve, y’know, gleaned some insight on the issue."

  11. > Eight-hundred-thousand Americans died in the flu pandemic of 1918, and our “president” didn’t know.

    He also didn't grasp the significance of his face being superimposed on the image of Nero playing his fiddle (namely, that it should not have been construed as flattery), nor of the Arizona memorial at Pearl Harbor. That substantiates, to a rather alarming degree, the old saying that those who are ignorant of history are doomed to repeat it.

  12. Too late, ks:

  13. At this point, the only explanation, Doctor, is that they're actually TRYING to look stupid and incompetent.

  14. > An oft repeated phrase of the right has been "a conservative is a liberal who's been mugged by reality."

    I have heard that thought expressed as "dueling phrases":

    "A liberal is a conservative who's ever been unemployed", and

    "A conservative is a liberal who's ever been mugged".

  15. There's a problem with that theory (?).
    If an incompetent tries to look stupid, do they then have a better chance at achieving something intelligent?

  16. Now, due to your THEB readership, you have an opportunity.
    Consider something called high-dimensional data.
    Consider Costco knows how much TP people buy, by name, historically.
    Consider when they do get a shipment, hoarders will hoard, maybe fights.
    When they get the shipment(s), I submit they have easy capability to provide an allocation scheme, such that members can get "fair" amounts.
    True also of Safeway and Kroger, but no correlation possible (antitrust).
    Bill Gates and Larry Ellison know what I'm talking about.
    To maintain peace, and prevent certain bad things foreboding, a Governor could involve himself in this for the benefit of those he leads.
    You know I have no literary skills whatsoever, but have I provided enough "inkling" of concept for you who does? And, why would anyone "listen" to me?
    But you, there is ample opportunity.
    If this proceeds as it may proceed, in "uncharted territory", we get front row seats to the misery.
    Or, we all work together, all and in all. (sigh, just a thought)

  17. I'd say allocation of testing and ventilators is a more pressing issue than TP, ks. But then we're talking the dreaded socialism, right?

  18. Indeed. I can easily be accused of being socialist, and have been, in my circle of 'friends', none of them understanding what they accuse me of.
    In all my years at THEB comments, I'll submit I'm candidate for least understood in the bunch, and a few of them so angry about that.
    I believe what you wrote in your "About Me", and submit I'm more liberal than you. And, certainly more liberal than Larry Simoneaux. But then, you and he have accomplished things in your amazing lives. Mine, nothing more than a life of quiet desperation, seeing things that people suffer over for no reason, and unable to help though not for lack of trying.

  19. I didn't understand testing until last night, when a fellow I was in line with told me not to worry, "his cough was Type B, he's tested twice daily to see if he can keep working." And his "wife was sent home to work".
    Since I'm an I&C person, I suspect it's a Fluke laser temperature "gun" from >6 feet. What else would they do?
    Bill Gates has chosen to involve himself in testing. No surprise for one of the world's chief criminals.
    As for ventilators, I'm sure hospitals have their own criteria, it will be an allocation issue (where the 160,000 are located, do we really send all of them to the big cities? perhaps!?) I don't think it's high-dimensional, more of simple math and probability. Plenty of capable people already on top of that at the hospitals, and, certainly at CDC.
    No, I'm referring to what people aren't thinking of. Scarcity angst.
    Instead, if it escalates in 'our' country which has not seen something like this since WWII, and those people are dying because of this; then, the 'answer' currently in the works is National Guard and brute force.
    And, we're currently led by a brute.
    It's a bad formula. As you know.

  20. Hi Mythigator/Yank.

    Not wishing to be pedantic (but going there anyway;-P ), as as best I can determine (using The Great Google of course), this phrase originated with Irving Kristol in the early 80's:
    "[A neoconservative is] a liberal who has been mugged by reality. A neoliberal is a liberal who got mugged by reality but has not pressed charges." Reflections of a Neoconservative: Looking Back, Looking Ahead (1983)

    Of course this phrase can just as readily be used to criticize any set of beliefs that run up against hard reality. One of my favorite "quotes" (of uncertain origin) is:

    It ain’t what you don’t know that gets you into trouble. It’s what you know for sure that just ain’t so.

    Our current president sure knows a lot of stuff that JUST AIN"T SO. We are in real trouble and the only good thing der Furor could do to help at this point is to just stfu and get out of the way. Won't happen; he is incapable of reflection, judgement or restraint.

  21. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  22. @skyriver —

    Your last paragraph drives the nail home. We could add to "what you know for sure that just ain’t so" this: "and what you simply make up because you just don't give a damn".


    Anyone ready for more?
    Well, ready or not...

  24. In terms of its informational value, that Chris Hayes video is pure gold. Especially apt is the closing line: "This is what happens when you elect a BS artist to the most important job in the country."

    Again, shout-out to the classic book How to Lie with Statistics. I highly doubt that Trump has the savvy to deliberately pull off the tricks detailed in the book. That said, the book can be a useful guide to getting a read on statistics that are being cited and then being in a position to immediately render a judgement on the citing party's truthfulness OR appropriately compose questions to draw out more information and then be in a position to render a judgement.

    Circling back to Hayes's closing line, I don't think Trump is intellectually capable of the forms of BS artistry that the book describes. However, the book is an excellent tool for calibrating one's BS detector and thus becoming equipped to take Trump's talk with an appropriate amount of grains of salt.

  25. Good observation (How to Lie with Statistics)

    Buy some chicken. Foster Farms or Tyson etc.

    The package says "No GMO"...(growth hormones)
    People buy that particular brand because there's no growth hormones. Probably thinks they are kind to the Earth and care about its customers.

    Well...Using growth hormones on meat birds is against the law. Meaning, not a single chicken in America has been raised on GMO. Yet, the consumer has this high opinion of that company simply because the company put a sticker on the package that says "no GMO". When in fact, that company is trying to sell chicken and don't actually give a rip about the consumer, unless it's to fool them into buying their product. In that case, no expense is spared ;O)

  26. Well, at least they haven't started labeling chicken as "Gluten Free"...yet 🙄

  27. I recall the movie "How to succeed in business without trying" and the song "I believe in me"
    The hero character played by Robert Morris sings that he is a "seeker of wisdom and truth".
    In fact, he is actually an unworthy benefactor of a series of very unlikely fortunate events that result in his rise to CEO of a large corporation.
    The Impeached-One is a "seeker of self-glorification and absolute power". His movie will be titled "How to succeed in politics with the help of foreign intrusion".

  28. Well, they finally did it. The Everett Herald finally removed me from the blog by saying I must subscribe to the paper if I want to even look at it! I can only figure they got tired of my constant bashing of Harry-o and Centerfire. Two nitwits who view everything through the lens of a gun and a Bible. At least they wont have to endure my beat-downs any longer.

  29. Sorry to hear that James. Money and censorship go hand in hand.

    I honestly wish they'd have done ANY moderating. There's no way those trolls survive if that's the case.


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