Tuesday, March 31, 2020

Andy Borowitz

America's Teachers Urge Trump 

to Use Time at Home to Repeat 

First Grade

US President Donald Trump participates in a meeting.
Photograph by Jim Watson / AFP / Getty

WASHINGTON (The Borowitz Report)—Donald J. Trump should use this time when he is 
staying at home to repeat first grade,
the executive director of the National Alliance of Elementary Educators,
said that the homebound Trump has a "golden opportunity" to use remote learning to repeat the first-grade curriculum.
"At a time when many of our nation's children are being homeschooled, this seems like the perfect time for President
 Trump to learn the basics of reading, writing, and math," she said. 
"By June, he could be reading 'Hop on Pop' and 'Go, Dog, Go!' "

She added that anyone at the White House would be qualified to homeschool Trump, "except Jared."
Foyler acknowledged that the plan for Trump to repeat first grade had faced dissent from some of the nation's teachers, 
who felt strongly that he should first repeat kindergarten.  "From an educational standpoint, the kindergarten curriculum is mainly
devoted to socialization and getting along with others," she said. "I think the ship has sailed on that."
That disagreement aside, Foyler said that the nation's elementary educators were prepared to offer Trump 
a broad array of online learning resources. "He will have everything he needs to repeat first grade while 
Dr. Fauci runs the country," she said.

Freedom's just another word for nothing left to lose.

- Kris Kristofferson

Monday, March 30, 2020

Something to Know - 30 March

Liberty University runs smack into the wall where the right wing institution meets science, and the political fallout alarms Lynchburg, VA.

Liberty University Brings Back Its Students, and Coronavirus Fears, Too

The decision by the school's president, Jerry Falwell Jr., to partly reopen his evangelical university enraged residents of Lynchburg, Va. Then students started getting sick.

Of the 1,900 students who initially returned last week to Liberty's campus, more than 800 had left, said Jerry Falwell Jr., the university president.
Of the 1,900 students who initially returned last week to Liberty's campus, more than 800 had left, said Jerry Falwell Jr., the university president.Credit...Julia Rendleman for The New York Times

By Elizabeth Williamson
Published March 29, 2020
Updated March 30, 2020, 10:39 a.m. ET

Update March 30, 2020: This story has been changed to reflect the first known positive coronavirus test of a Liberty University student.

LYNCHBURG, Va. — As Liberty University's spring break was drawing to a close this month, Jerry Falwell Jr., its president, spoke with the physician who runs Liberty's student health service about the rampaging coronavirus.

"We've lost the ability to corral this thing," Dr. Thomas W. Eppes Jr. said he told Mr. Falwell. But he did not urge him to close the school. "I just am not going to be so presumptuous as to say, 'This is what you should do and this is what you shouldn't do,'" Dr. Eppes said in an interview.

So Mr. Falwell — a staunch ally of President Trump and an influential voice in the evangelical world — reopened the university last week, igniting a firestorm. As of Friday, Dr. Eppes said, nearly a dozen Liberty students were sick with symptoms that suggested Covid-19, the disease caused by the virus. Three were referred to local hospital centers for testing. An additional eight were told to self-isolate.

As of 8 p.m. on March 29, of those three students tested, one was positive, one was negative and one student's results are still pending, according to Dr. Eppes, who added that the student who tested positive for Covid-19 lives off campus.

"Liberty will be notifying the community as deemed appropriate and required by law," Mr. Falwell said in an interview on Sunday when confronted with the numbers. He added that any student now returning to campus would be required to self-quarantine for 14 days.

"I can't be sure what's going on with individuals who are not being tested but who are advised to self-isolate," said Kerry Gateley, the health director of the Central Virginia Health District, which covers Lynchburg. "I would assume that if clinicians were concerned enough about the possibility of Covid-19 disease to urge self-isolation that appropriate screening and testing would be arranged."

After initial publication of this article, the university said it had asked four students who returned from the New York area and two of their roommates to self-quarantine, but none of them were referred for testing and none had symptoms. One student who returned from a county with a high number of cases was running a fever and had a cough. He was tested and elected to go home pending the results rather than self-isolate, the university said.

Of the 1,900 students who initially returned last week to campus, Mr. Falwell said more than 800 had left. But he said he had "no idea" how many students had returned to off-campus housing.

"If I were them, I'd be more nervous," he added, because they live in more crowded conditions.

For critical weeks in January and February, the nation's far right dismissed the seriousness of the pandemic. Mr. Falwell derided it as an "overreaction" driven by liberal desires to damage Mr. Trump.

Though the current crisis would appear epidemiological in nature, Dr. Eppes said he saw it as a reflection of "the political divide."

"If Liberty sneezes, there are people who don't like the fact that Liberty sneezed," he said in an interview. "Mr. Falwell called me to listen to a view that wasn't exactly his. Great leaders do that type of thing."

The city of Lynchburg is furious.

"We had a firestorm of our own citizens who said, 'What's going on?'" said Treney Tweedy, the mayor.
Mayor Treney Tweedy of Lynchburg said Jerry Falwell Jr. had personally assured her the university would not fully reopen.
Mayor Treney Tweedy of Lynchburg said Jerry Falwell Jr. had personally assured her the university would not fully reopen.Credit...Julia Rendleman for The New York Times
Some Liberty officials accuse alarmed outsiders of playing politics. Ms. Tweedy has called Mr. Falwell "reckless." And within the school, there are signs of panic.

"I'm not allowed to talk to you because I'm an employee here," one student on campus wrote in an email. But, he pleaded, "we need help to go home."

Under the Falwell family's leadership, Liberty University has grown in five decades from a modest Baptist college to an evangelical powerhouse with cash investments and endowments of nearly $2 billion, nearly 46,000 undergraduates and a campus that sprawls across Lynchburg and neighboring counties in Virginia. Total enrollment, including online students, exceeds 100,000.

The institution is a welcome and generous presence in this Blue Ridge Mountain region, where the percentage of Lynchburg residents living in poverty is twice the state average. Liberty and its Thomas Road Baptist Church donate goods and services, its medical students conduct free health screenings, and its students participate in city beautification, maintenance and charity projects.

The university was founded by Mr. Falwell's famous father as a bastion of social conservatism, one that was unabashedly combative as it trained what it called "Champions for Christ." If anything, the younger Mr. Falwell has made it more so since his father's death.
Few businesses remained open in downtown Lynchburg. Bowen Jewelry Company was open by appointment only.

Few businesses remained open in downtown Lynchburg. Bowen Jewelry Company was open by appointment only.

The mayor and city manager here, Bonnie Svrcek, felt relieved two weeks ago, when Mr. Falwell assured them that he fully intended to comply with Virginia's public health directives and close the school to virtually all students, most of whom were scattering for spring break. Then he changed his mind.

"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 Todd Starnes, a far-right conspiracy theorist.

"We're conservative, we're Christian, and therefore we're being attacked," he said.

Michael Gillette, a former mayor of Lynchburg and a bioethicist now working with its hospitals on rationing scarce ventilators, disagrees.

"To argue that criticism of Liberty is based on political bias is unfounded and unreasonable," he said. "Liberty just did not take this threat as seriously as others have."

Gov. Ralph Northam of Virginia, Lynchburg city officials and a growing number of Liberty students, parents and employees have urged Mr. Falwell to reverse course, but such pleas have only prompted a stream of often conflicting statements.

"Our messages did change throughout the week as the governor's orders changed," Mr. Falwell said. "We had to adapt."

Mr. Falwell initially said only international students or those with nowhere else to go would remain. Then he welcomed back a much larger group of about 1,900 students to campus housing last week, in addition to faculty members and staff. Others returned to off-campus rentals in Lynchburg.

Mr. Falwell is a staunch ally of President Trump and an influential voice in the evangelical community.
Mr. Falwell is a staunch ally of President Trump and an influential voice in the evangelical community.Credit...Jonathan Drake/Reuters
Students who remained at home had to return last week to clean out their rooms, a requirement that was later relaxed. Faculty members were at first ordered back to campus, even though they would be teaching online. Then some were allowed to work from home.

Mr. Falwell also waffled on whether the school would issue refunds to students who did not return for the semester, before announcing on Friday that most would receive a $1,000 credit for next year's bills.

Mr. Falwell and his administration have worked to tamp down dissent. After a Liberty undergraduate, Calum Best, wrote on his personal Facebook page that students should receive refunds, he said Liberty's spokesman, Scott Lamb, called his cellphone to berate him. Asked about the call, Mr. Lamb said he was simply objecting to an error in the post, and Mr. Best was "spinning."

After Marybeth Davis Baggett, a professor, wrote an open letter asking the university's board of trustees to close the campus, Mr. Falwell mocked her on Twitter as "the 'Baggett' lady."

Jeff Brittain, a Liberty parent, wrote on Twitter: "I'm as right wing as they get, bud. But as a parent of three of your students, I think this is crazy, irresponsible and seems like a money grab." Mr. Falwell replied, calling him a "dummy."

All of this has left even his critics scratching their heads.

"It's honestly hard to figure out what his motives are," Mr. Best, the student who wrote the Facebook post, said in an interview. "If he had purely political motives, he's being way more conservative than even Trump is being right now. Trump is at least allowing doctors to say their piece. Jerry is not. It kind of shocks me at this point."
Calum Best, a student at Liberty University, wrote on Facebook that students should receive refunds.
Calum Best, a student at Liberty University, wrote on Facebook that students should receive refunds.Credit...Julia Rendleman for The New York Times
On campus, the administration says it is adhering to Virginia's public health mandates, but students are flouting them. While security guards appear to be enforcing state advisories requiring a six-foot distance from others and gatherings of no more than 10 people, students are still assembling in closer proximity to eat, play sports, study and use dormitory restrooms. Decals slapped on furniture that say "Closed for Social Distancing" have wound up on laptops and car bumpers. Study tables are farther apart, but shared computer terminals remain. While some students are trying to adhere to social distancing guidelines, they live in group houses, pile onto city buses and crowd the few businesses that remain open in Lynchburg.

It was not supposed to be that way. As the number of reported cases of the coronavirus in Virginia began rising, Ms. Tweedy said Mr. Falwell personally assured her that the school would not fully reopen. "We have some students who cannot go anywhere or they have nowhere to go," she recalled his telling her. "The number on that day was 300 or so students, and even if it was a few more, we said, 'OK, well, thank you.'"

But as spring break drew to a close in mid-March, all Liberty students were encouraged to return.

"We never discussed numbers, and I never told them the dorms would be closed," Mr. Falwell said on Sunday. "We're going to have to agree to disagree on what was said."

Mr. Falwell runs Liberty his own way, and his word is law. Professors are not tenured and can be fired at will. The administration controls the student newspaper.

Administrators at Liberty say they are adhering to Virginia's public health mandates, but students are flouting them.
Administrators at Liberty say they are adhering to Virginia's public health mandates, but students are flouting them. Credit...Julia Rendleman for The New York Times
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, "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.'"

Students were encouraged to return to Liberty after spring break.
Students were encouraged to return to Liberty after spring break.Credit...Julia Rendleman for The New York Times

Freedom's just another word for nothing left to lose.

- Kris Kristofferson

Saturday, March 28, 2020

Andy Borowitz

Fauci Gently Tells Trump Why

 He Can't Hold Parade to 

Celebrate Great Job He Is Doing

Anthony Fauci talking to President Donald Trump
Photograph by Yuri Gripas / Sipa / ZUMA
WASHINGTON (The Borowitz Report)—Dr. Anthony Fauci spent several hours on Saturday gently
 explaining to Donald J. Trump why it would be "a bad idea" to hold a giant parade to celebrate the
 great job the President is doing to combat covid-19, Dr. Fauci has confirmed.
Trump first raised the idea of a massive parade early Saturday morning, arguing that it would 
address the "biggest problem" created by the pandemic thus far: the lack of appreciation for his own
 efforts regarding it.
"A parade would put Jay Inslee and that woman in Michigan in their place," Trump bitterly insisted.

As Trump began drawing up plans for a parade, a panicked Dr. Fauci interceded and tried to
 explain that such a celebration would be "much nicer" if held after the pandemic is over.

"Would I still be able to have tanks?" a crestfallen Trump asked.
"Yes, you could have tanks," Fauci replied.
"What about balloons?" Trump asked.
"You can have all the balloons you want," the virologist said. "I promise you."
Speaking to reporters, Dr. Fauci said he believed that, after laboriousl
explaining the situation to Trump, "I think I got through to him," adding,
 "I've gotta lie down now."


Freedom's just another word for nothing left to lose.

- Kris Kristofferson

Cartoon Time

It's been a long time since one of these appeared here:


Freedom's just another word for nothing left to lose.

- Kris Kristofferson

Friday, March 27, 2020

Something to Know - 27 March

From the Atlantic.  No introduction needed:

The President Is Trapped


For his entire adult life, and for his entire presidency, Donald Trump has created his own alternate reality, complete with his own alternate set of facts. He has shown himself to be erratic, impulsive, narcissistic, vindictive, cruel, mendacious, and devoid of empathy. None of that is new.

But we're now entering the most dangerous phase of the Trump presidency. The pain and hardship that the United States is only beginning to experience stem from a crisis that the president is utterly unsuited to deal with, either intellectually or temperamentally. When things were going relatively well, the nation could more easily absorb the costs of Trump's psychological and moral distortions and disfigurements. But those days are behind us. The coronavirus pandemic has created the conditions that can catalyze a destructive set of responses from an individual with Trump's characterological defects and disordered personality.

We are now in the early phase of a medical and economic tempest unmatched in most of our lifetimes. There's too much information we don't have. We don't know the full severity of the pandemic, or whether a state like New York is a harbinger or an outlier. But we have enough information to know this virus is rapidly transmissible and lethal.

The qualities we most need in a president during this crisis are calmness, wisdom, and reassurance; a command of the facts and the ability to communicate them well; and the capacity to think about the medium and long term while carefully weighing competing options and conflicting needs. We need a leader who can persuade the public to act in ways that are difficult but necessary, who can focus like a laser beam on a problem for a sustained period of time, and who will listen to—and, when necessary, defer to—experts who know far more than he does. We need a president who can draw the nation together rather than drive it apart, who excels at the intricate work of governing, and who works well with elected officials at every level. We need a chief executive whose judgment is not just sound, but exceptional.
There are some 325 million people in America, and it's hard to think of more than a handful who are more lacking in these qualities than Donald Trump.
But we need to consider something else, which is that the coronavirus pandemic may lead to a rapid and even more worrisome psychological and emotional deterioration in the commander in chief. This is not a certainty, but it's a possibility we need to be prepared for.

Here's how this might play out; to some extent, it already has.
Let's start with what we know. Someone with Trump's psychological makeup, when faced with facts and events that are unpleasant, that he perceives as a threat to his self-image and public standing, simply denies them. We saw that repeatedly during the early part of the pandemic, when the president was giving false reassurance and spreading false information one day after another.
After a few days in which he was willing to acknowledge the scope and scale of this crisis—he declared himself a "wartime president"—he has now regressed to type, once again becoming a fountain of misinformation. At a press conference yesterday, he declared that he "would love to have the country opened up, and just raring to go, by Easter," which is less than three weeks away, a goal that top epidemiologists and health professionals believe would be catastrophic.
"I think it's possible. Why not?" he said with a shrug during a town hall hosted by Fox News later in the day. (Why Easter? He explained, "I just thought it was a beautiful time, a beautiful timeline.") He said this as New York City's case count is doubling every three days and the U.S. case count is now setting the pace for the world.

As one person who consults with the Trump White House on the coronavirus response put it to me, "He has chosen to imagine the worst is behind us when the worst is clearly ahead of us."

After listening to the president's nearly-two-hour briefing on Monday—in which, among other things, Trump declared, "If it were up to the doctors, they may say … 'Let's shut down the entire world.' … This could create a much bigger problem than the problem that you start off with"—a former White House adviser who has worked on past pandemics told me, "This fool will bring the death of thousands needlessly. We have mobilized as a country to shut things down for a time, despite the difficulty. We can work our way back to a semblance of normality if we hold out and let the health system make it through the worst of it." He added, "But now our own president is undoing all that work and preaching recklessness. Rather than lead us in taking on a difficult challenge, he is dragging us toward failure and suffering. Beyond belief."

Yes and no. The thing to understand about Donald Trump is that putting others before self is not something he can do, even temporarily. His attempts to convey facts that don't serve his perceived self-interest or to express empathy are forced, scripted, and always short-lived, since such reactions are alien to him.
This president does not have the capacity to listen to, synthesize, and internalize information that does not immediately serve his greatest needs: praise, fealty, adoration. "He finds it intolerable when those things are missing," a clinical psychologist told me. "Praise, applause, and accolades seem to calm him and boost his confidence. There's no room for that now, and so he's growing irritable and needing to create some way to get some positive attention."

She added that the pandemic and its economic fallout "overwhelm Trump's capacity to understand, are outside of his ability to internalize and process, and [are] beyond his frustration tolerance. He is neither curious nor interested; facts are tossed aside when inconvenient or [when they] contradict his parallel reality, and people are disposable unless they serve him in some way."

It's useful here to recall that Trump's success as a politician has been built on his ability to impose his will and narrative on others, to use his experience on a reality-television show and his skill as a con man to shape public impressions in his favor, even—or perhaps, especially—if those impressions are at odds with reality. He convinced a good chunk of the country that he is a wildly successful businessman and knows more about campaign finance, the Islamic State, the courts, the visa system, trade, taxes, the debt, renewable energy, infrastructure, borders, and drones than anyone else.

But in this instance, Trump isn't facing a political problem he can easily spin his way out of. He's facing a lethal virus. It doesn't give a damn what Donald Trump thinks of it or tweets about it. Spin and lies about COVID-19, including that it will soon magically disappear, as Trump claimed it would, don't work. In fact, they have the opposite effect. Misinformation will cause the virus to increase its deadly spread.

So as the crisis deepens—as the body count increases, hospitals are overwhelmed, and the economy contracts, perhaps dramatically—it's reasonable to assume that the president will reach for the tools he has used throughout his life: duplicity and denial. He will not allow facts that are at odds with his narrative to pierce his magnetic field of deception.
But what happens to Trump psychologically and emotionally when things don't turn around in the time period he wants? What happens if the tricks that have allowed him to walk away from scandal after scandal don't work quite so well, if the doors of escape are bolted shut, and if it dawns on even some of his supporters—people who will watch family members, friends, and neighbors contract the disease, some number of whom will die—that no matter what Trump says, he can't alter this epidemiological reality?

All of this would likely enrage him, and feed his paranoia.
As the health-care and economic crises worsen, Trump's hallmarks will be even more fully on display. The president will create new scapegoats. He'll blame governors for whatever bad news befalls their states. He'll berate reporters who ask questions that portray him in a less-than-favorable light. He'll demand even more cultlike coverage from outlets such as Fox News. Because he doesn't tolerate relationships that are characterized by disagreement or absence of obeisance, before long we'll see key people removed or silenced when they try to counter a Trump-centered narrative. He'll try to find shiny objects to divert our attention from his failures.

All of these things are from a playbook the president has used a thousand times. Perhaps they'll succeed again. But there's something distinct about this moment, compared with every other moment in the Trump presidency, that could prove to be utterly disorienting and unsettling for the president. Hush-money payments won't make COVID-19 go away. He cannot distract people from the global pandemic. He can't wait it out until the next news cycle, because the next news cycle will also be about the pandemic. He can't easily create another narrative, because he is often sharing the stage with scientists who will not lie on his behalf.
The president will try to blame someone else—but in this case the "someone else" is a virus, not a Mexican immigrant or a reporter with a disability, not a Muslim or a Clinton, not a dead war hero or a family of a fallen soldier, not a special counsel or an NFL player who kneels for the national anthem. He will try to use this crisis to pit one party against the other—but the virus will kill both Republicans and Democrats. He will try to create an alternate story to distract people from an inconvenient truth—but in this case, the public is too afraid, the story is too big, and the carnage will be too great to be distracted from it.
America will make it to the other side of this crisis, as it has after every other crisis. But the struggle will be a good deal harder, and the human cost a good deal higher, because we elected as president a man who is so damaged and so broken in so many ways.

We want to hear what you think about this article. Submit a letter to the editor or write to letters@theatlantic.com.

PETER WEHNER is a contributing writer at The Atlantic, a senior fellow at the Ethics and Public Policy Center, and Egan visiting professor at Duke University. He writes widely on political, cultural, religious, and national-security issues, and he is the author of The Death of Politics: How to Heal Our Frayed Republic After Trump.

Freedom's just another word for nothing left to lose.

- Kris Kristofferson

Something to Know - 27 March

Of all the sneaky and dirty things the administration could do.  With our preoccupation with the Covid-19 issue, the EPA is going to allow the industries that create the pollution that are responsible for our filthy environment to ease off on regulations imposed by the Obama administration.  (my thanks to La Reina de Mira Costa for this)

E.P.A., Citing Coronavirus, Drastically Relaxes Rules for Polluters


One former senior E.P.A. official called the move
One former senior E.P.A. official called the move "a nationwide waiver of environmental rules."Credit...David J. Phillip/Associated Press
By Lisa Friedman
March 26, 2020

WASHINGTON — The Environmental Protection Agency on Thursday announced a sweeping relaxation of environmental rules in response to the coronavirus pandemic, allowing power plants, factories and other facilities to determine for themselves if they are able to meet legal requirements on reporting air and water pollution.
The move comes amid an influx of requests from businesses for a relaxation of regulations as they face layoffs, personnel restrictions and other problems related to the coronavirus outbreak.
Issued by the E.P.A.'s top compliance official, Susan P. Bodine, the policy sets new guidelines for companies to monitor themselves for an undetermined period of time during the outbreak and says that the agency will not issue fines for violations of certain air, water and hazardous-waste-reporting requirements.
Companies are normally required to report when their factories discharge certain levels of pollution into the air or water.

"In general, the E.P.A. does not expect to seek penalties for violations of routine compliance monitoring, integrity testing, sampling, laboratory analysis, training, and reporting or certification obligations in situations where the E.P.A. agrees that Covid-19 was the cause of the noncompliance and the entity provides supporting documentation to the E.P.A. upon request," the order states.
It said the agency's focus during the outbreak would be "on situations that may create an acute risk or imminent threat to public health or the environment" and said it would exercise "discretion" in enforcing other environmental rules.

The order asks companies to "act responsibly" if they cannot currently comply with rules that require them to monitor or report the release of hazardous air pollution. Businesses, it said, should "minimize the effects and duration of any noncompliance" and keep records to report to the agency how Covid-19 restrictions prevented them from meeting pollution rules.
"E.P.A. is committed to protecting human health and the environment, but recognizes challenges resulting from efforts to protect workers and the public from Covid-19 may directly impact the ability of regulated facilities to meet all federal regulatory requirements," Andrew R. Wheeler, the E.P.A. administrator, said in a statement.
Environmental groups and former Obama administration officials described the policy as an unprecedented relaxation of rules for petrochemical plants and other major polluters.

Gina McCarthy, who led the E.P.A. under the Obama administration and now serves as president of the Natural Resources Defense Council, called it "an open license to pollute." She said that while individual companies might need flexibility, "this brazen directive is nothing short of an abject abdication of the E.P.A. mission to protect our well being.''
Cynthia Giles, who headed the E.P.A. enforcement division during the Obama administration, said: "This is essentially a nationwide waiver of environmental rules. It is so far beyond any reasonable response I am just stunned."
Other observers defended the move. Granta Nakayama, a partner at the law firm King & Spalding who served in the E.P.A.'s office of compliance under President George W. Bush, said the memo did not give companies a free pass to pollute, but rather provided guidance in a challenging situation where many industries are facing unique circumstances.
"It's a very straightforward and sensible, in my view, guidance," he said.
Agency officials said the new policy relaxes compliance for monitoring and reporting only so that facilities can concentrate on ensuring that their pollution-control equipment remains safe and operational.
"It is not a nationwide waiver of environmental rules," said Andrea Woods, an E.P.A. spokeswoman. "For situations outside of routine monitoring and reporting, the agency has reserved its authorities and will take the pandemic into account on a case-by-case basis."
The memo said the compliance changes were retroactive to March 13.


Freedom's just another word for nothing left to lose.

- Kris Kristofferson

Thursday, March 26, 2020

Need a Bit of Humor About Now?

Maybe you have had this one before, but it is worth a second shot:

Plane with 5 passengers on board:  Donald Trump, Boris Johnson, Angela Merkel, the Pope, & a 10-year old school boy. The plane is about to crash and there are only 4 parachutes. Trump says: "I need one. I am the smartest man in the USA and am needed to sort out the problems of the world" – takes one & jumps. Boris says "I am needed to sort out Britain" –  takes one & jumps. The Pope says "I need one as the world needs the Catholic Church" – takes one & jumps. Angela says to the 10-year old: "You can have the last one. I've lived my life & yours is just starting". The 10-year old replied "Don't worry; there are 2 left, the smartest man in the USA took my school bag."


Freedom's just another word for nothing left to lose.

- Kris Kristofferson

Andy Borowitz

New Evidence Indicates 

Intelligence Not Contagious

Dr. Anthony Fauci speaks as U.S. President Donald Trump looks on.
WASHINGTON (The Borowitz Report)—New evidence uncovered over the past several weeks indicates that intelligence is not contagious, a study by the Centers for Disease Control reports.
In a controlled experiment documented by the study, a seventy-nine-year-old man with intelligence was placed in close proximity to a seventy-three-year-old man without it for a period of several weeks to see if even a trace of his knowledge and expertise could be transmitted.
After weeks of near-constant exposure, however, the seventy-three-year-old man appeared "a hundred per cent asymptomatic" of intelligence, the researchers found.

"In terms of facts, data, and wisdom, there was zero community spread," the report stated.

The researchers, however, left open the possibility that intelligence might be transmissible to other people, just not to the seventy-three-year-old who was the subject of the experiment.

"There is evidence to suggest that this subject has developed a super-immunity to intelligence, making it impossible for even rudimentary information to permeate his extraordinarily thick cranium," the study indicated.


Freedom's just another word for nothing left to lose.

- Kris Kristofferson

Re: Something to Know - 26 March

If the last link does not work for you, try this one:

On Thu, Mar 26, 2020 at 11:31 AM Juan Matute <juanma2t@gmail.com> wrote:
Hope you can get this link to the NY Times.   This is all you need to know for right now:


Freedom's just another word for nothing left to lose.

- Kris Kristofferson


Freedom's just another word for nothing left to lose.

- Kris Kristofferson

Something to Know - 26 March

Hope you can get this link to the NY Times.   This is all you need to know for right now:


Freedom's just another word for nothing left to lose.

- Kris Kristofferson

Wednesday, March 25, 2020

Something to Know - 25 March

Our daily TV fare has the governor of New York, the Governor of California, and our local big city mayor all trying to explain and inform.   Then we have the current occupant of the White House, who is totally disconnected from what the other guys are saying.   One question:  Trump says he wants to re-open everything and have everybody go back to work by Easter.   As Lawrence O'Donnell said last night, that Trump has disconnected himself from any responsibility and he cannot re-open anything because he did not close anything.   It is the governors and city mayors who took it upon themselves to shut things down.  This will be an interesting Constitutional crisis that could be looming soon.   Oh, and another question, how are people who ride public transportation to work going to "social distance" themselves on buses, trains, and subways and not catch or infects others?

We're Relying on Trump to Care About Our Lives
Will he, given his obsession with the economy?

Frank Bruni
By Frank Bruni
Opinion Columnist

March 24, 2020
President Trump on his way to the White House briefing room on Monday.

President Trump on his way to the White House briefing room on Monday.

Listening to our marginally articulate president the other night, I suddenly understood: The economy wasn't merely his pride. It was more like his lover. He can't get enough of it. He won't be kept from it.
Ain't no mountain high enough. Ain't no pandemic grim enough.
Briefing after briefing, I see it, sense it: how he itches to feel that rush again. He digresses from the terrifying present and uncertain future to revisit the heady past, when he lavished trinkets on the Dow and it purred on cue, telling him how potent he was.
Having it turn on him is more than he can bear. It has addled him — I mean even further. "Our country wasn't built to be shut down," he said during the White House briefing on Monday evening, as if other countries planned their own obsolescence. He repeated those words — "this is not a country that was built for this; it was not built to be shut down" — and then trotted them out yet again at a town hall on Fox News on Tuesday, apparently convinced that their profundity demanded it.

He also boasted — for the zillionth time — about how the economy just before the pandemic was the best economy ever. Those lips! Those eyes! They'd be reunited, he and his amour. They'd be together again when the credits rolled.

My metaphor may be lighthearted but my concern sure as hell isn't. There are difficult choices ahead, because what's necessary to save lives and what's necessary to salvage livelihoods are in tension. Our leaders have to figure out how much disruption is too much disruption.
That's the calculus that Trump is signaling with his and his allies' new favorite refrain: "We cannot let the cure be worse than the problem."

That's what was on his mind when, during the Monday briefing, he insisted that the health and economic threats of the coronavirus were separable. "We are not going to let it turn into a long-lasting financial problem," he said. "It started out as a purely medical problem, and it's not going to go beyond that."
News flash: It already has. But that aside, the president is acknowledging a genuine and intensifying debate over whether social distancing, if enforced too rigidly and for too long, could leave so many people destitute, isolated and despairing that what America sacrifices rivals what it gains.

"Look, you're going to lose a number of people to the flu," he said during the town hall. "But you're going to lose more people by putting a country into a massive recession or depression."
That unease is hardly confined to the president and to glib conservative supporters of his like Dan Patrick, the 69-year-old lieutenant governor of Texas, who said in an interview on Fox News on Monday night: "I'm not living in fear of Covid-19. What I'm living in fear of is what's happening to this country. And you know, Tucker, no one reached out to me and said, 'As a senior citizen, are you willing to take a chance on your survival, in exchange for keeping the America that all America loves for your children and grandchildren?' And if that's the exchange, I'm all in."
The issue of trade-offs and of how best to balance epidemiological and economic concerns has informed many articles in the Opinion pages of The Times, receiving more measured consideration from my colleague Tom Friedman, from two academic titans and from a public-health expert, David Katz, who recently wrote, "I am deeply concerned that the social, economic and public health consequences of this near total meltdown of normal life — schools and businesses closed, gatherings banned — will be long lasting and calamitous, possibly graver than the direct toll of the virus itself."
That perspective transcends political party. A prominent Democrat, for instance, said to me, "Will we lose more Americans to suicide than to the coronavirus?" That was days before Trump, during the town hall, said that if the country is locked down for long, "you're going to have suicides by the thousands."
This is excruciatingly tough stuff, and yet Trump is pre-empting the thorough and thoughtful deliberation that it demands — and painting himself into a corner — with pledges that the economy will roar back and that America will "be open for business very soon, a lot sooner than three or four months that somebody was suggesting — a lot sooner," as he said on Monday. If you're an enemy of "soon," you're on thin ice with him. I can hear it cracking under Anthony Fauci even as I type.
The president's obsession with the economy is an extension of his obsession with wealth. He has only two lenses through which he sees the world, two yardsticks by which he measures everyone and everything: money and celebrity. He can't pretend otherwise because he doesn't bother to try.


Freedom's just another word for nothing left to lose.

- Kris Kristofferson