June Bug the Terrorist FosterEx Dog and I moved to Ireland today.
We followed Mr. EW by about three weeks, enough time for us to close out the house and for him to get through Ireland’s mandatory two-week quarantine. We intend to stay in Ireland for the indefinite future.
We moved for personal reasons, the two most important having to do with Mr. EW (who has family in Ireland). Those reasons got us 95% of the way to deciding to move.
But that was shortly before armed insurgents streamed into Lansing MI, incited, in part, by the President, trying to undermine sound public health guidelines. It was before a series of increasingly brazen moves on the part of the Administration to undermine rule of law. It was before the Administration and allied governors took affirmative steps to make the coronavirus worse. It was before the President deliberately stoked racism in an effort to divide the country.
We’re not leaving to get away from America. But having made the decision to move, it offers some distance to realize all the things that have become part of an increasingly dysfunctional America — of which Trump is as much symptom as cause — that we’ll leave behind.
Having made the decision, the last few weeks have felt like a rush to get out before a great wave overcame us and submerged us before we moved, most notably European travel restrictions on anyone from the United States, but also the resurgence of COVID itself. Recently, the EU agreed to open travel, but specifically exclude those states — like the US — that have failed to control the spread of COVID, and Ireland is expected to pass new guidelines in coming days that may make flights from the US less frequent. I felt flying on a flight with 40 passengers was an acceptable risk, but such a flight might be too dangerous in the days ahead.
I will be quarantining for 14 days, spending my time between a bedroom and office while Mr. EW shows June Bug the new neighborhood (he took the above picture). Under EU rules, June Bug no longer has a month-long quarantine, she just has paperwork to prove that she’s not bringing diseases that are prevalent in the US but not Ireland. Just us humans have to quarantine now. June Bug’s paperwork — and not the process of getting June Bug into a crate for the trip — proved to be the biggest recent hurdle.
As the fog of the move clears during the quarantine, I hope to catch up on things I’ve noted in passing (though still have a bunch of family things and move-related work to focus on). I don’t expect things at emptywheel to change significantly, but will let you know of administrative details that may change slightly.
Parts of my family, mostly of Irish descent, have been in the US since the famine, arriving in the US between 180 and 117 years ago. Today, during another natural disaster exacerbated by misgovernment, I moved back.
Jim Jordan, Killer Clown
You’ll want to read Marcy’s post about Wednesday’s House Judiciary Committee hearing on politicization of the Department of Justice.
One thing that continues to bother the hell out of me: Republican Rep. Jim Jordan’s clown-y assholishness. It’s now his brand. He’s the GOP caucus’s id — the Goofus-looking, tantrum-throwing, jacket-avoiding persona happily adopted by the right-wing as a model for their party.
He’s a creepy bad clown whose running gags and interstitial bits aren’t funny or amusing; they’re meant to harass, ridicule, and obstruct Congress’s little-d democratic processes.
While he was repeatedly offered other GOP members’ time during the hearing to question the witnesses called before the committee, he made a point of not wearing his mask and yelling at the same time.
He attended the rally in Tulsa this past weekend and like nearly everyone else in that venue in attendance, didn’t wear a mask and is now potentially an asymptomatic carrier of COVID-19.
With this routine Jordan didn’t respect the well being of his fellow members of Congress. He showed he’s willing to hurt other members of Congress for his personal and partisan political aims.
Just scroll through the hearing video beginning with his opening remarks at 9:26 —
Perhaps Jordan was chosen as HJC ranking member to do all the heavy lifting for the GOP side of the committee exactly because he yells during his tantrums, attracting media’s attention thereby starving Democrats of oxygen for their side.
And perhaps he was chosen because his district OH-4 isn’t likely to give him a lot of crap since a good-sized chunk is rural.
OH-4 is also not as heavily impacted by COVID-19 as other more urban congressional districts in Ohio.
The counties in his district are Allen, Auglaize, Champaign, Crawford, Logan, Sandusky, Seneca, Shelby and Union counties and parts of Erie, Huron, Lorain, Marion, and Mercer counties. Check them against the most recent COVID-19 data for the state of Ohio:
Note, too, that Jordan’s district OH-4 is more than 90% white, unlike nearby OH-9 (Rep. Marcy Kaptur) or OH-11 (Rep. Marcia Fudge), with a higher per capita income.
Compare to Cuyahoga County which makes up part of OH-9 — it’s had at least 346 COVID-19 deaths.
All of which means that Jordan’s career is relatively unaffected by COVID-19. He can be casually racist by ignoring the number of Black and other non-white deaths in Marion’s prison facility because the rest of his district won’t feel the pain of their loss — the mostly-minority incarcerated are disposable to white rural conservatives.
He can be deliberately threatening to Democrats in Congress because it’s encouraged by the White House.
Jordan won’t worry about anybody else getting COVID-19 because he can continue to be nothing more complicated than a loud, irritating clown and still earn his party’s support.
He’ll even get backup from other clowns in his party like Louis Gohmert banging on the desk during the course of the hearing to obstruct witness testimony — neither being sly Harlequins but an evil clown with a village idiot sidekick.
Not merely an evil clown, either, if Jordan intended to threaten and hurt other members of Congress.
Jim Jordan, killer clown — an existential threat to members of Congress who have to put up with him while they represent the rest of us.
This is an open thread.
Three Things: Numbers, Hearings and Racist Code
There’s always more than three things to address but here’s three we should look at more closely.
~ 3 ~
This is what we’re up against.
823 Americans have died of COVID-19 since yesterday. In contrast, South Korea, which learned of its first case of COVID-19 the same day the U.S. learned of its own, has only lost 281 of its citizens.
We lost not one American to an attempted shoe bombing in 2001 and yet an immediate program was developed and implemented to detect future shoe bombing attempts, requiring air travelers to take off their damned shoes and go through multiple screenings.
But Trump can’t be arsed to shut up and let the professionals handle stopping an ongoing daily stream of deaths from COVID-19.
Yesterday the House Committee on Energy and Commerce held a hearing on oversight of the Trump Administration’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Called to testify before the committee:
Robert R. Redfield, M.D., Director, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (statement at 27:39)
Anthony S. Fauci, M.D., Director, National Institute for Allergy and Infectious Diseases, National Institutes o Health (at 33:40)
Admiral Brett P. Giroir, M.D., Assistant Secretary for Health, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (at 38:25)
Stephen M. Hahn, M.D., Commissioner, U.S. Food and Drug Administration (at 43:54)
Some of the GOP’s efforts are useless, wasteful filibustering — like Rep. Bob Latta’s (OH-5) question about how the human body makes antibodies. This is something he should have been briefed on let alone read on his own long before this hearing. He should have read this basic biology question MONTHS AGO when the pandemic began. So was his question about how the vaccine would be distributed WHEN WE’RE 6-18 MONTHS OUT AT BEST from having a viable, effective, safe vaccine through Phase III trials.
Rep. Diana DeGette asked Fauci about vaccine development (at about 1:28:00); I think he was extremely optimistic saying he thought there would be one by early 2021. But the question wasn’t as specific as it should have been; there are clinical trials in progress for a couple of candidates, but it’s not clear what phase they are in.
Reported last week by StatNews:
There are more than 100 projects around the world centered on the development of a vaccine for the coronavirus. As of May 11, eight candidate vaccines were being tested in clinical trials in people.
An official at the National Institutes of Health said in mid-May that large-scale testing could begin in July with a vaccine potentially available by January.
Other experts say the more likely timeline is summer or fall of 2021.
The other factor beyond the capabilities of the vaccines and developers which will predict the time to public distribution is Congress and the White House.
If we still have that malicious narcissist in the Oval Office without a veto-proof Democratic majority in the Senate, nationwide roll-out of a vaccine by the U.S. government may not happen even if an efficacious vaccine is found.
What happened this weekend was supposed to be a point where Trump turned the narrative back in his favor and moved the attention away from the activists and change that have controlled the news cycle for months. But what really happened was instead of taking the attention away from the K-Pop teens for his failures, those things all combined to add one more line to an endless line of failures that we can only hope will keep going until November.
It wasn’t just a loss of narrative and momentum but the complete trashing of campaign data harvesting.
We don’t know exactly what the data accumulated by Trump’s re-election campaign looks like after receiving ~800,000 registrations for the Tulsa rally. Some were valid, some were valid but no-shows, some were legitimate addresses of people who had zero intention of attending — likely sent by TikTok accounts.
The next morning, two officers asked if I’d ever been to a Shinola watch store in Detroit. I said once, many years ago. They showed me a blurry surveillance camera photo of a black man and asked if it was me. I chuckled a bit. “No, that is not me.” He showed me another photo and said, “So I guess this isn’t you either?” I picked up the piece of paper, put it next to my face and said, “I hope you guys don’t think that all black men look alike.”
The cops looked at each other. I heard one say that “the computer must have gotten it wrong.” I asked if I was free to go now, and they said no. I was released from detention later that evening, after nearly 30 hours in holding. …
It’s not just the software at fault, though. DPD made absolutely no attempt to confirm Williams’ identity against images they had before they took him into custody, processed him, and detained him overnight in holding.
They literally can’t be bothered or they are racist as hell in a minority majority city.
The ACLU is calling for a ban on facial recognition in Detroit, Williams being a perfect example of how flawed and racist the technology is as well as an assault on innocent citizens’ privacy.
Everyone should have the right to privacy. Tell the Detroit City Council to say NO to unchecked government surveillance.https://t.co/3pwtNBwylW
The House Judiciary Committee hearing on politicization at the Justice Department is still under way as hit Publish. If you haven’t been following along and want to catch up, here are four Twitter threads covering the hearing.
I had been worried about the risk of violence in Tulsa this weekend given Trump’s tweet bordering on incitement ahead of his rally.
Fortunately my concern was for naught. Didn’t see a single Hawaiian shirt cross my Twitter feed while watching the lead up to and after the event, not a one in the approximately 6,600 attendees.
But the event itself didn’t live up to other expectations.
I have to believe Brad Parscale will be looking for new contracts. Or perhaps he’ll be retained just to keep him from mucking things up further somewhere else in the election cycle food chain.
He’d claimed 800,000 had reserved for the event, a number which seemed wholly unrealistic considering the population within a four-hour drive of Tulsa and the advertisements placed for non-white attendees. We know now a confluence of activist engagement via social media platform TikTok, K-pop fans, and mounting concerns about COVID-19 contagion as well as risk of violence may have artificially boosted reservations and kept attendance down.
Parscale’s claimed this morning that protesters blocked access to the venue, pointing to an AFP photo of a gate with a couple handfuls of protesters and what looks like an equal amount of media.
Unfortunately for Parscale, AFP took a photo of another gate with red-hatted, pale-skinned, maskless attendees streaming through the gate.
And other media outlets took photos outside the venue showing an awful lot of pavement.
The speech intended for outdoor overflow audience was cancelled. Wouldn’t even need a sound system to speak to this few people.
The big feat of the day: one-handed drinking.
Attendees were subjected to a 20-minute ramble about the “fake news” from his Westpoint speech last weekend after which he had difficulty walking down a ramp.
What a perfect example of the cobra effect — trying to defuse a problem but only making it worse. But Trump is too much of a narcissist to allow criticism of his person to go unanswered.
The lowest point in Trump’s speech yesterday was his remarks about COVID-19 testing.
He’s made comments before about the number of tests correlating to the number of cases. Comic Sarah Cooper has famously riffed on this.
But this time he’s expressed an intent to withhold health care from the public for personal aims — to keep the reported number of cases artificially low, without regard to the effect this would have on actual reduction of COVID-19 cases.
Aside from revealing again he’s so utterly toxic, this statement needs investigation. It’s impeachable if he both demanded a reduction or slow-down in tests, especially if he did so for the purposes of improving his polling numbers.
None of his efforts skewing reality have paid off as he’d like. We can see the tangerine emperor’s ass.
And nothing he’s done will make this grim number go away.
This is an open thread.
Despite Rapid Growth In Civil Rights Tourism, Montgomery Remains Firmly In The Grip Of Racist White Men
In a tragic vote yesterday, the City Council in Montgomery, Alabama failed to pass an ordinance that would have required the use of face masks in public. This vote came after an impassioned plea from local doctors:
Jackson Hospital pulmonologist William Saliski cleared his throat as he started describing the dire situation created by the coronavirus pandemic in Montgomery to its City Council before they voted on a mandatory mask ordinance. “It’s been a long day, I apologize,” he said.
“The units are full with critically-ill COVID patients,” Saliski said. About 90% of them are Black. He said hospitals are able to manage for now, but it’s not sustainable. “This mask slows that down, 95% protection from something as easy as cloth. … If this continues the way it’s going, we will be overrun.”
More doctors followed him to the microphone, describing the dead being carried out within 30 minutes of each other, and doctors being disturbed when people on the street ask them if the media is lying about the pandemic as part of a political ploy.
There’s a lot to unpack here. Note that Salisky said that units at the hospital are full with critically ill patients. But also note especially that the newspaper adds that he said 90% of the patients are black. Finally, he said that without intervention, the hospital certainly will be overrun.
The intervention measure proposed is simple and direct. Salisky claimed 95% reduction in transmission with a mask. I’m not so sure on that number, but it is becoming increasingly clear that masks, especially when coupled with social distancing, make a huge difference in reducing transmission.
We need to set the stage properly before getting to the details of the council’s vote in order to fully appreciate it.
That’s right. Humans were literally warehoused between auction dates in Montgomery. In a bit of rare social justice, that building, 122 Commerce Street, is now one of several Equal Justice Initiative facilities in Montgomery:
It turns out we were far from alone in making this trip. In November of 2018, the Montgomery Advertiser noted a significant uptick in visits to Montgomery and traced them directly to the opening of the National Memorial and Legacy Museum that April:
Over 250,000 people have visited the Equal Justice Initiative’s downtown museum and memorial to lynching victims since the sites opened in April. More than that, the burst of international attention that came with those sites has turned the city into a destination, instead of a stop on the way to something else. That’s led more people to discover the city’s other historic sites and attractions, from Martin Luther King Jr.’s church, to the site where Rosa Parks boarded the bus.
“EJI has put Montgomery on the world’s radar,” he said. “I think Montgomery is in the best position for tourism appeal than it has ever been.”
Now, they’re voting with dollars.
Hotel room stays in Montgomery inched up by about 5,500 in 2017, according to state figures. This year they’re up 97,579 through October, according to the Montgomery Area Chamber of Commerce’s Convention and Visitors Bureau.
Note the mention of Rosa Parks as another part of Montgomery’s role in civil rights history. The Montgomery Bus Boycott, from December, 1955 to December, 1956 marked Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s rise to national attention. This adds significantly to the historic legacy of Montgomery and civil rights.
So with this rich history of civil rights activism, burgeoning civil rights tourism and a population 61% black, surely Montgomery’s City Council would vote for an ordinance that would slow down a disease where one doctor characterized those hospitalized as 90% black, wouldn’t they?
Not so fast. This is, after all, still Alabama. Here’s a link to the current Montgomery City Council. In a city that has 61% black citizens and only 33% white, the City Council has five white men, three black men and one black woman. Hardly representative.
Returning to the Advertiser story on last night’s vote:
After they spoke, and before the council voted on a proposal by Councilman C.C. Calhoun to mandate mask-wearing in public in Montgomery, Councilman Brantley Lyons questioned whether masks and six-foot distancing really helps. They do, the doctors replied. Lyons was unmoved. “At the end of the day, if an illness or a pandemic comes through we do not throw our constitutional rights out the window,” Lyons said.
From the crowd, doctors called for him to visit the hospital sometime.
Instead, the council killed the ordinance after it failed to pass in a 4-4 tie, mostly along racial lines, with Councilman Tracy Larkin absent. Councilman Clay McInnis voted with three Black council members — Calhoun, Oronde Mitchell and Audrey Graham — in favor of the ordinance. Lyons, Charles Jinright, Richard Bollinger and Glen Pruitt voted against it.
Only one white man voted for the ordinance. Sadly, one of the black men on the council was absent. I haven’t seen anywhere whether there might be an attempt at a new vote with all members present, since if no members change their vote, it would have a good chance at passage.
But note especially the behavior of Brantley Lyons. He asked the doctors whether it is true the masks and distancing would help prevent spread of the disease. Even though the doctors assured him it was true, Lyons trotted out the trope that the frothy right has been spewing all through the pandemic. Trying to claim that an ordinance mandating masks somehow would “throw our constitutional rights out the window” is the same sort of stupid rhetoric that racist conservative white people have spewed for generations whenever blacks sought equal protection under the law. And that circles back perfectly on the first quote from this article, where the doctors described being upset when the public approaches them to ask if the media is lying about the pandemic as part of a political ploy.
We know exactly where the real political ploy is coming from. Donald Trump is saying the quiet part out loud to fan the flames of racism in our country and he is directly responsible for these ideas spreading rapidly through people who listen to OAN and Fox News creating the narrative that the pandemic is fake. There also is no doubt that there is a huge component of racism in this entire process. Trump doesn’t hide his, but two-bit worthless politicans like Brantley Lyons happily spew this bunk without regard to the real and ongoing danger to the black citizens of Montgomery. You can rest assured that if this disease primarily attacked old white men, those not wearing masks would risk being shot on sight.
COVID-19 Exposes Migrant Worker Conditions Amounting To Modern Day Slavery In Florida Agriculture
My home county, Alachua County in Florida, has been rocked by news that came out just after noon yesterday, that, as of that time, 76 agricultural workers in the county had tested positive for COVID-19. Today, that number appears to have grown even more, as the Florida COVID-19 dashboard shows 91 new cases of the disease being added on June 10 and 11, bringing the total to only 506. That means that this outbreak in only two days has grown the total for the county by about 20%.
Here is the report from one of the local television stations:
Although the particular farm where the outbreak occurred is not identified, this report appears to confirm my first suspicion, which is that due to the time of year, this outbreak almost certainly had to be among migrant workers harvesting watermelons, which are at the height of their season now locally.
The problem of migrant agricultural workers living and working under conditions conducive to an outbreak of the virus is not localized to Alachua County, of course, as we have been aware for some time of a severe outbreak in Immokalee. As AP reported today:
Immokalee is among several immigrant communities in Florida — and numerous rural areas across the U.S. — that have recently experienced outbreaks of the coronavirus. Once thought likely to be spared because of their remote locations and small populations, such communities have seen spikes in infections while having fewer resources to deal with them.
The secluded town of 25,000 north of the Everglades has reported more than 1,000 cases, outpacing in recent weeks the rate of infection in Orlando, which has a population 10 times bigger and is home to a busy international airport. The number of total cases in Immokalee has surpassed those in Miami Beach, with more than 900, and St. Petersburg, which has more than 800, according to state health department statistics.
Meanwhile, the percentage of tests that have come back positive in Collier County, home to Immokalee, is the highest in the state among counties that have tested more than 5,000 people.
Because they initially couldn’t get the attention of state officials in Florida, the Coalition of Immokalee Workers enlisted Doctors Without Borders to help them with testing and treatment. But that is not enough. See their website for their very simple demands and how you can lend your name to their call for help. Here is Greg Asbed of the Coalition in a New York Times Op-Ed published back in April:
Picture yourself waking up in a decrepit, single-wide trailer packed with a dozen strangers, four of you to every room, all using the same cramped bathroom and kitchen before heading to work. You ride to and from the fields in the back of a hot, repurposed school bus, shoulder-to-shoulder with 40 more strangers, and when the workday is done, you wait for your turn to shower and cook before you can lay your head down to sleep. That is life for far too many farmworkers in our country today.
Those conditions, the result of generations of grinding poverty and neglect, will act like a superconductor for the transmission of the coronavirus. And if something isn’t done — now — to address their unique vulnerability, the men and women who plant, cultivate and harvest our food will face a decimating wave of contagion and misery in a matter of weeks, if not days.
Yes, Greg told us so. The conditions under which migrant agricultural workers are forced to work in the US are horrific and incredibly conducive to disease outbreaks.
Returning to the story here in Alachua County, I want to share information I received today from the farmer who runs the CSA from which our family gets its produce for much of the year (today was coincidentally our final pickup for a while, as production pauses during the hottest part of the summer). It turns out that some of the footage (but not the watermelon harvest footage) in the TV story above was shot, without permission, at his farm, presumably because his farm is very close to town and media outlets tend to contact him about any agricultural story. He shared with us his response to the media organizations that contacted him regarding the outbreak:
Our produce has always been safe. We have always practiced good hygiene and field work is by nature socially distanced work.
The problem is when people work and live and travel in groups. The American system of farming depends on mobile low wage workers who are are powerless to poor conditions. I’ve seen 15 people living in a single wide mobile home that another local farm pays for. The workers don’t make enough to live elsewhere and their work is transient because our American model of production is based on the efficiency of monoculture.
People will get sick when they live in crappy conditions. You should do a story that brings modern day slavery to light in Alachua county. Don’t put our farm in with all the rest. We have a safe normal job with benefits for our workers. We pay a living wage and retain employees for years. That is not the norm for agriculture in the United States. People demand cheap produce and people in the shadows pay the price. That should be the theme of your story.
And don’t call it a community. A community is when people live stably together. These people travel up and down the east coast. Their children miss school or they are separated from their parents. They have no home and their families are split up for economic reasons. Calling it community is just more ignorance for the general public who have no idea where food comes from.
Wow. That is just so damning in how our country goes about producing food. These migrant workers really are trapped in a modern version of slavery with virtually no chance of escape. They are forced into cramped living and working conditions that put them much more at risk than those affluent citizens whom they feed. And our media mostly misses the true impact of those conditions and the fact that it doesn’t have to be that way. My CSA costs are a bit higher than buying the same items at the local grocery store, but the difference is very small. When you factor in the cruelty of the modern slavery system and the cost to society when outbreaks like this hit workers, our current system can be characterized as nothing less than heartless evil.
One farm worker who traveled to Alachua County from Miami-Dade County unknowingly infected at least 76 additional workers with COVID-19.
A total of 98 people traced back to the worker were tested for the virus Saturday evening, said Paul Myers, administrator for the Department of Health in Alachua County. Eight tested negative, and 14 tests are still pending.
Hmmm. So one person coming here from South Florida managed to infect over 70 (and likely now around 90) people with COVID-19. And yet, our esteemed governor is hell-bent on “opening” the University of Florida this fall. Yes, there are plans to “screen” students before they’re allowed on campus. And students don’t live with 15 or so people in a single wide trailer. But student living groups like fraternities, sororities and dorms do wind up with many students in close quarters. And does anyone really think that student parties or even student bars downtown will follow social distancing guidelines?
This will not end well.
Is COVID-19 Why Florida Has About 1300 More Pneumonia Deaths This Season Than Average Over Previous Five?
Earlier today, I saw this tweet that suggests a huge excess of pneumonia deaths in Florida this year compared to previous years. The data in the tweet suggested that Florida has around 4000 more pneumonia deaths this year than the average for the previous five years. That sounded a little high to me, as I have spent a lot of time over the past few months poring through the data at this CDC site on weekly numbers for pneumonia and influenza deaths. Looking deeper into the tweet, it appeared to depend on a reddit post and it had a low number for Florida reported COVID-19 deaths, so it was necessary to go back to original sources.
A couple of weeks ago, I spent several hours downloading data from the CDC national database you can access at the link above and picking out just the Florida data to paste into another spreadsheet. I chose a poor strategy that day, as I only looked at the total pneumonia and influenza deaths even though the data are broken down into both categories. I few days later, I realized that I needed to go back into the data and look only at pneumonia deaths, as it seems likely that there could be quite a few deaths attributed to pneumonia in patients who were never tested for COVID-19. Also, flu deaths vary widely from year to year depending on the severity of the outbreaks and the effectiveness of that year’s vaccine, so that total number has a lot of noise year to year. Seeing the tweet today prompted me to go back and download the data again so that the 2019-2020 data would be more up to date.
As downloaded today, there are data in the spreadsheet through week number 20 for each state. For Florida, the week 20 numbers appear to be only partial totals, so for this analysis, I only went through week 19 of 2020. Each season in the data begins with week 40 of the year (so this year’s data starts at week 40 of 2019). However, since the COVID-19 outbreak is generally considered to have started in earnest in mid- to late November of 2019, I included only the last four weeks of 2019 with the first 19 weeks of 2020. I then found the totals for the same time period in each of the five previous seasons.
The totals for pneumonia deaths are:
One of these things is not like the others. The average total for the previous five years is 5486 pneumonia deaths for weeks 49 through week 19 of each season. That means that 2019-2020 has 1286 more deaths from pneumonia than the average for that period in the previous five seasons. The Florida COVID-19 dashboard right now is showing 2319 deaths from the virus. I would suggest that number is more like 3605 when the excess pneumonia deaths are included. Note also that there may well be other deaths due to the virus in patients who were not tested but died due to the other types of pathology seen by the virus that don’t manifest directly as pneumonia.
The medical journal The Lancet published a study Friday which showed anti-malarial drug hydroxychloroquine (HCQ) — the same drug repeatedly pushed by Trump — does not work as intended against the virus which causes COVID-19.
Hydroxychloroquine’s precursor drug, chloroquine, has shown mild antiviral action in vitro against the Borna disease virus (an orthobornavirus), the minute virus of mice MVMp (a parvovirus), and the avian leukosis virus (a retrovirus) as well as the coronavirus which causes SARS. It has also shown promise against Hepatitis A (a hepatovirus).
But both hydroxychloroquine and chloroquine posed inherent risks to patients as they increased the risk of heart arrhythmia.
Ideally, HCQ’s antiviral effect would prevent the coronavirus SARS-CoV-2 from replicating, allowing the body to attack and remove the virus before it could attack human cells and spread through the body, resulting in earlier recovery from the infection.
Patients who received both HCQ, or its precursor chloroquine, with or without an additional antibiotic, did not recover faster than the cohort which didn’t receive chloroquine.
Further, the patients receiving the drug therapies were more likely to die than those who didn’t.
– 1 in 11 patients in the control group died
– 1 in 6 patients treated with chloroquine or hydroxychloroquine alone died
– 1 in 5 treated with chloroquine and an antibiotic died
This study is the latest showing HCQ or chloroquine both didn’t work and increased patient mortality. Previous negative studies included:
Effect of High vs Low Doses of Chloroquine Diphosphate as Adjunctive Therapy for Patients Hospitalized With Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) Infection – A Randomized Clinical Trial
Mayla Gabriela Silva Borba, MD; Fernando Fonseca Almeida Val, PhD; Vanderson Souza Sampaio, PhD; et al
JAMA Network Open. 2020;3(4):e208857. doi:10.1001/jamanetworkopen.2020.8857
Of particular note:
Findings In this phase IIb randomized clinical trial of 81 patients with COVID-19, an unplanned interim analysis recommended by an independent data safety and monitoring board found that a higher dosage of chloroquine diphosphate for 10 days was associated with more toxic effects and lethality, particularly affecting QTc interval prolongation. The limited sample size did not allow the study to show any benefit overall regarding treatment efficacy.
Outcomes of hydroxychloroquine usage in United States veterans hospitalized with Covid-19
Joseph Magagnoli, Siddharth Narendran, et al
Pre-print; posted April 23, 2020. medRxiv 2020.04.16.20065920; doi: https://doi.org/10.1101/2020.04.16.20065920
Of particular note:
CONCLUSIONS: In this study, we found no evidence that use of hydroxychloroquine, either with or without azithromycin, reduced the risk of mechanical ventilation in patients hospitalized with Covid-19. An association of increased overall mortality was identified in patients treated with hydroxychloroquine alone. These findings highlight the importance of awaiting the results of ongoing prospective, randomized, controlled studies before widespread adoption of these drugs.
We still don’t know why Trump is pushing this drug. It’s no longer under a patent and now a generic medication; it’s cheap to produce. If there’s money to be made by promotion of this medication it’s not clear how Trump profits.
We still can’t be certain he’s taking it himself though he claims he is; the letter from his doctor does not clearly state that Trump has been prescribed HCQ and at what dosage for what period of time nor has there been any information provided with regard to the nature of monitoring Trump receives while taking HCQ.
We don’t know why Trump would claim to take HCQ on the advice of some unknown person alleging to be a doctor. We’ve no further information about the letter, the letter’s author, whether a letter even existed since Trump has a proven propensity for making up shit.
“I happen to be taking it … right now, yeah” — Trump claims he’s taking hydroxychloroquine, a drug he’s touted as a potential coronavirus treatment despite a lack of evidence that can lead to potentially fatal heart problems pic.twitter.com/zxiNxlyfEs
All we can be sure of at this point is that more patients with COVID-19 may have died, potentially because of HCQ’s promotion by Trump, than may have died had he refrained from practicing medicine without a license by pushing HCQ.
In the case of the study of HCQ at Veterans Health Administration medical centers, former service persons who’ve already paid a price for our freedoms have been used in human experimentation in what might have been an attempt to validate Trump’s claims about HCQ — and some of them died for it.
It seems odd VA doctors used it out of the clear blue when the Food and Drug Administration hadn’t formally approved this drug for COVID-19 patients. (It’s probably just a coincidence the Center for Disease Control lifted its guidance on off-label use of HCQ two weeks before the VA study was published, right?)
It’d be nice to know if Trump’s three golf buddies at Mar-a-Lago — one of then a doctor — had anything to do with the use of HCQ and chloroquine at VA hospitals on COVID-19 patients.
There’s simply no good reason for Trump’s plugging this particular drug therapy except to harm and kill Americans.
How Many COVID-19 Deaths Is Ron DeSantis Hiding?
I had been told a couple of days ago, either here in comments or on Twitter, that Ron DeSantis had put his cronies in charge of the Florida database for COVID-19 cases and deaths. I hadn’t followed up on that, but then on Twitter last night i learned that the scientist who had been in charge of the site was fired back on May 1. She spoke last night with a West Palm Beach TV station which broke the blockbuster story of why she was fired:
Rebekah Jones said in an email to CBS12 News that her removal was “not voluntary” and that she was removed from her position because she was ordered to censor some data, but refused to “manually change data to drum up support for the plan to reopen.”
Jones made the announcement May 5 in a farewell email to researchers and other members of the public who had signed up to receive updates on the data portal, according to Florida Today. She said that for “reasons beyond my division’s control,” her office is no longer managing the dashboard, involved in its publication, fixing errors or answering any questions.
Wow. Note that DeSantis “reopened” Florida on May 4. So the timing here, coupled with Jones saying she was ordered to change or censor data, shows a clear intent by DeSantis to game the numbers and create the false impression that the reopening would be a success. Just how stupid can a governor be?
Well, in his case, pretty stupid. He can’t even figure out how to wear a mask:
So who would trust this clown, compared to the scientist he fired? Here she is in a photo she supplied to Florida Today:
Near the end of the story filed last night, Jones notes that the Florida database still hasn’t been repaired. Here’s what I got when I checked at 1:40 this afternoon (refreshing 15 minutes later gave a plot for cases but not deaths, so there may be some “repair” work underway as I write this; and both plots were visible at 2:50):
There are big holes where the plots of new cases by day and deaths by date of death for the last 30 days would show up. Back on May 5, when Jones talked to Florida Today about her firing (but without mentioning the orders to censor data), Jones noted that near the end of her time in the job, the database suddenly started to malfunction:
Late last Friday, the architect and manager of Florida’s COVID-19 dashboard — praised by White House officials for its accessibility — announced that she had been removed from her post, causing outcry from independent researchers now worried about government censorship.
The dashboard has been a one-stop shop for researchers, the media and the public to access and download tables of COVID-19 cases, testing and death data to analyze freely. It had been widely hailed as a shining example of transparency and accessibility.
But over the last few weeks it had “crashed” and gone offline; data has gone missing without explanation and access to the underlying data sheets has become increasingly difficult.
The site was created by a team of Florida Department of Health data scientists and public health officers headed by Rebekah Jones. She announced last week her removal as of May 5 in a heartfelt farewell note emailed to researchers and other members of the public who had signed up to receive updates on the data portal.
Citing “reasons beyond my division’s control,” Jones said her office is no longer managing the dashboard, is no longer involved in publication, fixing errors or answering questions “in any shape or form.”
Note that the story from the West Palm Beach TV station says Jones announced her firing on May 5, but this Florida Today story makes it clear she informed people on May 1 that she was being removed May 5. Since she speaks of the database malfunctioning at the time of her firing, for the purposes of discussion here I consider May 1 the firing date and the time when fuckstickery of the database began. With today being May 19, it’s clear that the database has been malfunctioning for nearly three weeks at a minimum.
The big problem, though, is that the plot for deaths magically starts dropping right after Jones was fired. I captured this version of the death plot around 9 this morning and noted the date Jones was fired (did she insert a parting shot of a bit more reality on her last day of May 4?):
There should be one partial note of caution here even though it’s really hard not to get the impression death numbers are being artificially reduced. There is a note on the death graph that I’m pretty sure popped up fairly recently and may well have been added around the time of Jones’ departure. The note says that deaths are now counted on the day of death rather than on the day the report is entered into the database. Since it can take a while for deaths to be reported depending on the county involved, the last few days in the plot can be expected to show increases as more death reports get entered into the system. But it has been long enough now since Jones was removed for it to be clear that there is a discontinuity in the plot that coincides precisely with her removal.
I haven’t included a plot of cases by day, but I also find the current data there (site is here) not believable. With the partial reopening of the state on May 4, it’s simply incomprehensible that the number of new cases per day is holding steady rather than increasing.
Will DeSantis ever face consequences for this egregious breach of public trust? Odds aren’t good. The Republican Party in Florida has a long tradition of doing whatever it pleases, rules and laws be damned. Just look at how they over-ruled the will of the people on the initiative overwhelmingly passed in 2018 to restore voting rights to felons who have served their sentences. It would seem that firing a scientist because she refused to censor data and mislead the public on a life or death matter would be the end of a normal political career. But in Florida, there is no limit to how criminal Republican officeholders can be.
Pompeo’s Latest Attempts To Propel Propaganda On Lab Escape Of SARS CoV-2 Suffer Two Epic Swat-Downs
Recall that back on April 30, I wrote about how the Trump Administration had been orchestrating a propaganda push to claim that SARS CoV-2 was accidentally released from the Wuhan Institute of Virology. Of special importance is that the New York Times article I cited on the topic specifically mentioned Mike Pompeo as one of the primary forces behind pushing the story. Recall also that a part of this propaganda effort came from “leaked” State Department cables.
Apparently, getting called out by the New York Times was not enough to deter Pompeo from this effort. He returned to the airwaves on May 3, telling ABC that there is “enormous evidence” that the virus came from the lab. And then “magically”, but in reality following the aluminum tubes playbook straight out of Cheney’s Iraq WMD playbook, a “report” came into the hands of NBC, who published it May 8. The report purportedly relied on “open source” data to make the case that some sort of accident occurred at the lab in late October, prompting officials to shut down the lab and block roads surrounding it. NBC debunked one aspect of the report in their story, noting that a conference at the lab that the report claims was cancelled in this timeframe actually took place as planned.
Yesterday, Erin Banco and colleagues at Daily Beast published what can only be described as one of the most epic slap-downs of fake intelligence I’ve ever seen. Please go read the piece in full, because summarizing cannot properly capture its full glory.
The dissection of the false intelligence in the report begins with work done by Jeffrey Lewis (one of the best follows on Twitter at @ArmsControlWonk), who utterly destroyed the report’s claims regarding satellite data:
What’s more, imagery collected by DigitalGlobe’s Maxar Technologies satellites and provided to The Daily Beast reveals a simpler, less exotic reason for why analysts believed “roadblocks” went into place around the lab after the supposed accident: road construction. The Maxar images also show typical workdays, with normal traffic patterns around the lab, after the supposedly cataclysmic event.
“This is an illustrated guide on how not to do open source analysis,” said Jeffrey Lewis, director of the East Asia Nonproliferation Program at the Center for Nonproliferation Studies, who analyzed the MACE report for The Daily Beast. “It is filled with apples-to-oranges comparisons, motivated reasoning, and a complete refusal to consider mundane explanations or place the data in any sort of context.”
That’s right. The report took images showing roads blocked for ordinary road construction and claimed they showed that a catastrophic accident in the lab meant that traffic had to be kept away to prevent exposure to the leaked virus.
But the fun doesn’t stop there. I’ll get to who MACE, who prepared the report, is a bit later. The story continues:
MACE’s analysts tried to establish a “pattern of life” at the Wuhan lab in order to reveal what they claim is an anomaly, one purportedly caused by a leak. The MACE document charts the movement of apparent Wuhan lab personnel into and out of the facility leading up to October, when the alleged leak took place. In one slide, analysts wrote that there is an “18 day gap” in which “there were no observable events” from devices at the lab between Oct. 6 and 24, supposedly suggesting an accidental leak.
In doing so, they appear to have been unaware of a key cultural factor complicating the normal course of events: a holiday. “The first week of October is a golden week in China, which is going to disrupt that pattern,” Lewis said.
Yep. The “anomaly” MACE ascribes to leak was in fact an ordinary holiday when activity would be diminished around the lab for a perfectly ordinary reason.
And the Daily Beast investigators spread the fun around, getting the folks at Bellingcat involved in investigating the claims made in the report:
The Daily Beast asked analysts at the award-winning open source investigative news outlet Bellingcat to review the MACE dossier and evaluate the quality of its conclusions. Within minutes of receiving the dossier, Bellingcat senior investigator Nick Waters disproved one of the MACE document’s claims: that a conference on biosafety lab management at the Wuhan lab scheduled for the first week of November was canceled.
But the conference did take place, as NBC first reported. Waters found a Facebook post from a Pakistani scientist who had attended the event and taken selfies there, including at the BSL-3 laboratory.
Wow. And Waters doesn’t stop there:
He also took a dig at one of the many amateurish elements in the MACE presentation. “Perhaps the authors should have spent more time testing their analysis rather than working out how to crop the eye of Sauron into a logo copy-pasted from the internet,” Waters said.
Okay, I got a huge laugh at the eye of Sauron bit. That’s because I’ve run into the folks behind MACE before. As Daily Beast points out, MACE stands for Multi Agency Collaboration Environment. And according to this link they provide, MACE is hosted at a company in Las Vegas by the name of Sierra Nevada Corporation. Way back in 2011, I wrote about a technology called Gorgon Stare, developed by Sierra Nevada Corporation, that claimed to enable real time remote viewing analysis of entire villages in Iraq or Afghanistan from imaging equipment carried by high-flying drones. Of course, this technology turned out to be a very expensive boondoggle that did nothing to help intelligence-gathering. I can’t help wondering if the eye of Sauron bit was an insider joke at Sierra Nevada that Waters understood and shot right back at them to ridicule this report and the old Gorgon Stare technology.
So, while the MACE report clearly originated in the US, what I haven’t seen yet is a clear indication of just when it surfaced, especially when it surfaced for senior Trump Administration officials and the intelligence community. It would not surprise me if it goes all the way back to the propaganda campaign in mid-April I described in my previous post. The version of the report that NBC published has the last several pages redacted with the description that this was done to protect names from being disclosed. That really makes me wonder if the specific question from John Roberts of Fox News to Trump on April 14 about an intern at the lab being infected and then spreading it to her boyfriend and the wet market was based on the redacted portion of the MACE report. All we know about timing is that the report had made its way to Congressional committees by May 8 when NBC published it.
There is another weak intelligence document, though, that this time is traced directly to the State Department. On May 7, the Sydney Morning Herald debunked a “dossier” that had been leaked from the US embassy in Canberra that the Daily Telegraph (a Rupert Murdoch paper in Australia) wrote about on May 2. The Herald says this about Australian officials looking for the basis of the dossier:
Senior members of the Morrison government and Australian intelligence agencies at first had trouble finding the document. Eventually they found a research report, based on publicly available information including news reports, which appeared to fit the description. The research paper contained no information that was generated from intelligence gathering, according to people who have read it.
Labor MP Anthony Byrne, the deputy chair of the influential intelligence and security committee, was “incensed” by the report of the dossier. Mr Byrne, one of Parliament’s biggest supporters of the US alliance, directly raised his concerns with senior members of the Morrison government and intelligence agencies, saying Australia shouldn’t accept intelligence that doesn’t exist and fall for a “tricked-up document”.
There are now widespread suspicions within senior ranks of the Australian government and the intelligence community that the document was leaked to The Daily Telegraph by a staff member in the US embassy in Canberra. This suspicion, whether true or not, underlines how the positions between sections of Canberra and Washington national security circles have diverged over the claim. Some senior officials clearly believe the US embassy is pushing a narrative in the Australian media that could be counter to the beliefs and interests of its hosts.
The story continues:
The episode highlights the danger of mischaracterising the work of intelligence agencies. Some of the footnotes in the document contained references to US media reports that were based on unsubstantiated assertions from the US government – the same kind of circular intelligence which resulted in the “children overboard” affair in 2001.
Wow. The Herald also goes there, comparing this propaganda ploy to an Australian false information scandal of similar magnitude to the Iraq WMD operation in the US.
But again, Pompeo and those under him seem to be central to this whole operation. The Daily Telegraph story appeared just a day before Pompeo claimed “huge evidence” and likely was based on a document leaked by a US embassy. And then NBC published the MACE document a few days later. I haven’t seen anyone suggest that the document in Australia is the MACE document, but the Herald’s description and debunking of it sure would fit with them being the same or at least having the same source.
Given Pompeo’s central role in spreading propaganda that has been so easily refuted, I can’t help wondering if we will have another shoe drop on the firing of Steve Linick. Note that in his letter to Congress on the firing (which will be complete at the end of a 30 day clock starting Friday night), Trump said it was based on Pompeo’s suggestion that Linick be fired. Also note that we were first told it was because Linick was investigating Pompeo using State Department personnel to run personal errands. Today, that’s been expanded to cover the fast-tracking of arms sales to Saudi Arabia. But in their article on that, CNN notes:
But at this time, House Democrats say they do not yet know which investigation was the biggest factor behind the decision to dismiss Linick.
“I wouldn’t assign percentages,” a Democratic committee aide said.
Democrats on both the House Foreign Affairs and Senate Foreign Relations committees are interested in learning more about Linick’s investigations into Pompeo, and Engel emphasized the importance of cooperation from the administration in his statement Monday.
“The administration should comply with the probe I launched with Senator Menendez and turn over all the records requested from the Department by Friday,” he said, a reference to Sen. Bob Menendez of New Jersey, the ranking Democrat on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.
I find it hard to believe that Pompeo would have felt truly threatened by either the investigation into using aides for personal errands or expediting the Saudi arms sales. Those just seem like garden variety Trump corruption that gets shrugged off as the next daily outrage appears. However, if Linick had started nosing around the leak of the State Department’s own Wuhan cables and/or the allegation of the leak of the report from the Canberra embassy, I think Pompeo would see a bigger danger. That would represent an investigation into an ongoing propaganda operation in which Pompeo disseminated easily disproved disinformation.
The final beautiful irony here is that if Linick had started such an investigation, it likely was based on open source information. Unlike the MACE information though, this open source information would consist of Pompeo’s own recorded media appearances and the subsequent public debunking of the propaganda. That propaganda getting debunked would be both Pompeo’s direct statements and the debunking of the “supporting” material that appears to have been released either by him or those doing his bidding.