Disconnection from Reality 6

Still, it was impossible to avoid gloomy forecasts for the next year. The scenario that Mr. Trump has been unrolling at his daily press briefings — that the lockdowns will end soon, that a protective pill is almost at hand, that football stadiums and restaurants will soon be full — is a fantasy, most experts said. ...
Others were harsher, especially about Mr. Trump’s idea of combining a chloroquine with azithromycin.

“It’s total nonsense,” said Dr. Luciana Borio, a former director of medical and biodefense preparedness at the National Security Council. “I told my family, if I get Covid, do not give me this combo.” ...
A public health crisis of this magnitude requires international cooperation on a scale not seen in decades. Yet Mr. Trump is moving to defund the W.H.O., the only organization capable of coordinating such a response.

And he spent most of this year antagonizing China, which now has the world’s most powerful functioning economy and may become the dominant supplier of drugs and vaccines.
- Donald G. McNeil Jr., The Coronavirus in America: The Year Ahead, NYT, April 18, 2020

I think by Memorial Day Weekend [May 23-25] we will largely have this coronavirus epidemic behind us.
- Mike Pence, April 23, 2020, on Geraldo Rivera's radio show, reported in Morgan Phillips, Pence says coronavirus could be 'largely' behind us by Memorial Day weekend, Fox News, 4/23/20

Now-declassified Cold War records tell a more complicated story. The C.I.A.’s primary audience was presidents, not the public. Presidents Lyndon B. Johnson and Richard M. Nixon had rejected the C.I.A.’s pessimistic reporting on Vietnam, telling the American people that victory, or peace with honor, was at hand when it wasn’t. The presidents, their national security advisers and the Pentagon had pressured the C.I.A. to confirm their political preconceptions. Sometimes the agency bent to their will, but not often.
Those records do bear out Mr. McGehee’s critique that the C.I.A. had neglected the gathering and analysis of intelligence, its founding mission, in favor of bold covert operations that changed the world, often for the worse, especially in the years leading up to the disastrous Bay of Pigs invasion in Cuba, approved by President John F. Kennedy, in 1961.
- Tim Weiner, Ralph W. McGehee, Agent Who Exposed the C.I.A., Dies at 92, NYT, May 14, 2020

President Trump on Wednesday escalated his assault against mail voting, falsely claiming that Michigan and Nevada were engaged in voter fraud and had acted illegally, and threatening to withhold federal funds to those states if they proceed in expanding vote-by-mail efforts.

The president inaccurately accused Michigan of sending mail ballots to its residents, as his aides later acknowledged, and he offered no basis for his claims of illegal actions by either Michigan or Nevada. The Michigan secretary of state has sent ballot applications — not the ballots themselves — to registered voters, a growing practice among election officials, including in states led by Republicans. In Nevada, where the Republican secretary of state declared the primary a nearly all-mail election, ballots are being sent to registered voters.
- Reid J. Epstein, Nick Corasaniti and Annie Karni, Trump Steps Up Attacks on Mail Vote, Making False Claims About Fraud, NYT, May 20, 2020

Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher of Britain — President Ronald Reagan’s partner in the conservative revolution of the late 20th century — captured these sentiments in a seminal speech in 1983, declaring that “the state has no source of money other than the money people earn themselves. If the state wishes to spend more, it can only do so by borrowing your savings or by taxing you more.”

That thinking sounds reasonable to people, including me when I first absorbed it. But Mrs. Thatcher’s articulation of the deficit myth concealed a crucial reality: the monetary power of a currency-issuing government.
- Stephanie Kelton, Learn to Love Trillion-Dollar Deficits, NYT, June 9, 2020

On a call with governors Monday, Mr. Pence encouraged them to adopt the administration’s explanation that a rise in testing was behind new outbreaks, a claim that Dr. Fauci rebutted on Tuesday, when he said that the higher percentages of positive tests “cannot be explained by increased testing.”
Testing capacity has increased significantly since the pandemic’s early days, allowing public health officials to identify a higher percentage of cases. But across the Sun Belt, testing alone does not explain the recent upticks. In Arizona, where the number of known cases has nearly doubled since the start of June, more than 1,500 people believed to have the coronavirus were hospitalized on Monday, the highest number of any date in the pandemic and almost double the number from a month prior. And though far more Arizonans are being tested for the virus now than in early spring, the percentage of people testing positive is also increasing. ...
In Texas, Gov. Greg Abbott said that he had been concerned to see photos emerging from bars, restaurants and Memorial Day celebrations showing that people — and especially young people — were not following the guidelines for social distancing.

“There are certain counties where a majority of the people who were tested positive in that county are under the age of 30, and this typically results from people going to bar-type settings,” he said Tuesday, naming Hays, Bexar, Lubbock and Cameron counties, and warning bars that violate protocols could face the suspension of their liquor licenses. ...

In Florida, Gov. Ron DeSantis, a Republican, attributed the uptick to more widespread testing. Epidemiologists have said that even taking into account the increase in testing, the rise in confirmed cases in several Sun Belt states suggested increased transmissions. Other measures, such as the percentage of positive tests and hospitalizations, reflect that worsening outlook. In Florida more than 4.5 percent of those who tested between May 31 and June 6 had the virus, compared with about 2.3 percent of people who tested in mid-May.

He dismissed the idea that the recent infections stemmed from the reopening of businesses including bars and restaurants and said the state would not shutter activity again.
- Coronavirus Live Updates: Pence Says U.S. Is Not in ‘Second Wave’ While Fauci Warns Country Is Still in First Wave, NYT, 6/17/2020

President Trump on Monday downplayed concerns of a rising number of coronavirus cases in states across the country, indicating that the increase was due to more testing.

"If we stop testing right now, we’d have very few cases, if any,” Trump said during a White House event highlighting administration actions to help senior citizens.
- NATHANIEL WEIXEL, Trump on coronavirus: 'If we stop testing right now, we'd have very few cases, if any', The Hill, 06/15/20

Trump protecting his tie from potential spill while drinking water at West Point:

- Trump Struggles w/ Ramps & Water at West Point

Trump's account of what happened:

So then my wife said, "Well it wasn't only the ramp. Did you have water?" So what's the problem? She said, "I know what you did. You had on a very good red tie, that's is [it's?] sort of expensive." It's silk, because they, they look better, they have a better sheen to 'em. And I don't want to get water on the tie. And I don't want to drink much. So I lifted up the water. I said we have a little glass of water, where the hell did this water come from? Where did it come from? And I looked down on my tie, cuz I've done it. I've taken water, and it spills down into [onto?] your tie it doesn't look good for a long time, and frankly the tie is never the same. So I put it up to my lip and then I say — because I don't want it — that's just in case, and they gave me another disease. They gave me another disease. [He drinks water using only one hand, crowd loudly applauds.]
- Aidan McLaughlin, Tulsa Rally Crowd Goes WILD After Trump Successfully Drinks Glass of Water, MEDIA ITE, Jun 20th, 2020

In the video he does not appear to look down at his tie, and his hand does not appear to be held in a suitable way to protect his tie from spilled water. See also video of Tramp's walk down the ramp at West Point, which appears to contradict his claim about running the final 10 feet in his explanation that

The ramp that I descended after my West Point Commencement speech was very long & steep, had no handrail and, most importantly, was very slippery. The last thing I was going to do is “fall” for the Fake News to have fun with. Final ten feet I ran down to level ground. Momentum!
- Trump's tweet, shown in Ken Meyer, Trump Tweets ‘Momentum!’ Over His Bizarre Walk Down ‘Very Long & Steep’ Ramp at West Point, MEDIA ITE, Jun 14th, 2020, and in Trump Struggles w/ Ramps & Water at West Point

In Mexico, where President Andrés Manuel López Obrador has suggested that a clean conscience helps ward off infection — “no lying, no stealing, no betraying, that helps a lot to not get coronavirus,” he recently told reporters — the country has already suffered three times as many deaths as officials first predicted. ...

As the virus was tearing through Brazil and stirring widespread anger at Mr. Bolsonaro, the president, his administration made a decision that shocked health experts: It simply stopped reporting the total death toll. And while his health ministry was urging people to stay home, Mr. Bolsonaro encouraged mass demonstration and shook hands in public.

Mexico’s president, Mr. Lopez Obrador, also mocked the virus early on, continued to hug and kiss his supporters, and encouraged Mexicans to patronize restaurants until the end of March. Even his coronavirus czar, Mr. Lopez Gatell, claimed that the president’s “moral authority” would protect him from the virus, and until last month, he dismissed the utility of face masks.
- Azam Ahmed, Anatoly Kurmanaev, Daniel Politi and Ernesto Londoño, Virus Gains Steam Across Latin America, NYT, June 23, 2020

Four years ago, ahead of the 2016 presidential election, the baseless notion that Hillary Clinton and Democratic elites were running a child sex-trafficking ring out of a Washington pizzeria spread across the internet, illustrating how a crackpot idea with no truth to it could blossom on social media — and how dangerous it could be. In December 2016, a vigilante gunman showed up at the restaurant with an assault rifle and opened fire into a closet.
In the years afterward, Facebook, Twitter and YouTube managed to largely suppress PizzaGate. But now, just months before the next presidential election, the conspiracy theory is making a comeback on these platforms — and on new ones such as TikTok — underlining the limits of their efforts to stamp out dangerous speech online and how little has changed despite rising public frustration. ...
The conspiracy has regained momentum even as its original targets — Mrs. Clinton, her top aides and a Washington pizzeria, Comet Ping Pong — are still dealing with the fallout.

Hateful comments have recently surged on the Facebook page and Yelp and Google review pages for Comet Ping Pong, where the child trafficking supposedly happened. The pizzeria’s owner, James Alefantis, said he had received fresh death threats that caused the Federal Bureau of Investigation to open a new investigation two months ago.
- Cecilia Kang and Sheera Frenkel, ‘PizzaGate’ Conspiracy Theory Thrives Anew in the TikTok Era, NYT, June 27, 2020

This makes human beings, who are after all the ones making the observations, in essence responsible for conjuring the reality we experience out of a murky netherworld that quantum mechanics implies is simply unknowable. ...
Schrödinger himself, as disconcerted as anyone by quantum theory’s lack of description, figured that it was simply incomplete — a conclusion his contemporary Albert Einstein shared, pointedly asking one colleague if he truly believed that the moon wasn’t there when no one was looking.
- Bob Henderson, https://www.nytimes.com/2020/06/25/magazine/angelo-bassi-quantum-mechanic.html, NYT, June 25, 2020

“Our politicians can say our testing is awesome, but the fact is our testing is inadequate,” said Scott Hensley, a viral immunologist at the University of Pennsylvania who was not involved in the research.
- Coronavirus Live Updates: U.S. Cases Soar as Leadership on Virus Fails, NYT, 6/27/20

In an Independence Day speech on Saturday at the White House, Mr. Trump sought to dismiss widespread criticism of his administration’s slow and ineffective response to the virus. He repeated his false claim that an abundance of testing made the country’s cases look worse than they were, and he asserted that 99 percent of the nation’s cases were “totally harmless.” ...
On Sunday, the former F.D.A. commissioner Dr. Scott Gottlieb said that “certainly more than 1 percent of people get serious illness” if they are infected. Speaking on the CBS program “Face the Nation,” he estimated that when all cases were counted, including asymptomatic ones, between 2 and 5 percent of infected people become sick enough to require hospitalization.
- Coronavirus Live Updates: Phoenix Mayor Says FEMA Refused to Help With Testing, NYT, 7/5/2020

''After his annual physical in 2018, the White House physician at the time, Dr. Ronny L. Jackson, said that.... there was “no reason whatsoever to think the president has any issues whatsoever with his thought processes.” ...

;;Andrew Bates, a spokesman for Mr. Biden, said the accusations were a product of Mr. Trump’s standing in the polls. “If the Trump campaign believes the answer to their precipitously dropping support is to triple-down on yet another smear that’s backfired on them for over a year,” he said, “then frankly, maybe it’s not just Donald Trump who’s missing something.... ...

Private Republican polling has shown the attacks on Mr. Biden’s cognitive state have not done much to move the needle with voters, according to people who described the details of the surveys. And Mr. Trump is a difficult messenger for an attack on Mr. Biden as his own health has come under scrutiny.

That included an episode during a speech at West Point last month when the president had difficulty bringing a water glass to his mouth with one hand and then walked gingerly down a ramp to exit the stage.

In response to the questions that followed, Mr. Trump lashed out on Twitter, insisting the ramp was slippery, and then he devoted more than 10 minutes of his rally in Tulsa, Okla., a week later to defend himself and insist he was healthy. The president described it to the crowd as a “journey” down the ramp and insisted the ramp was as slick as an ice-skating rink.

“I looked very handsome,” he said. “I wouldn’t want to run down the whole thing because the fall there would be definitely bad. So I took these little steps — I ran down the last 10.”

The video did not show Mr. Trump going any faster until the final three steps.
- Maggie Haberman, Trump Says He ‘Aced’ Cognitive Test, but White House Won’t Release Details, NYT, July 10, 2020

We should keep all of this in mind as we try to understand the Trump administration’s response to the Covid-19 economic crisis, whether it is the hostility to more stimulus, the indifference to the mounting eviction crisis, the opposition to state budget aid, the drive to reopen businesses, or the current push to reopen public schools, even as the virus rages nearly out of control in huge sections of the country.
- Jamelle Bouie, Trump Would Like to See You Now, NYT, July 10, 2020 [virtually out of control? — a good example of wishful thinking or denial]

In a separate interview, with the conservative website Townhall.com, that was published on Tuesday, Mr. Trump falsely claimed that a white couple in St. Louis who confronted peaceful marchers outside their home with guns were on the verge of being attacked. “They were going to be beat up badly, and the house was going to be totally ransacked and probably burned down,” he said.

Video of the episode, which became a flash point in the national debate over racial inequality, showed that the protesters at no point physically threatened the couple.
Mr. Trump’s Rose Garden appearance had its share of false or misleading statements, as well. He complained once again that the rising cases of the coronavirus in the United States were really because of an increase in testing. “If we did half the testing, we’d have half the cases,” he said. He likewise brushed off the death toll of more than 136,000 by saying that he had saved as many as three million people by taking the actions he did.
- Peter Baker, The White House Called a News Conference. Trump Turned It Into a Meandering Monologue., NYT, July 14, 2020

For example: Vice President Pence’s June 16 claim in a Wall St. Journal op-ed, as outbreaks exploded across the Sun Belt: “We are winning the fight against the invisible enemy.”
Or the April 29 prediction by the president’s son-in-law and adviser, Jared Kushner: “I think you’ll see by June a lot of the country should be back to normal and the hope is that by July the country’s really rocking again.”
Or this Feb. 27 gem from Mr. Trump himself: “It’s going to disappear. One day — it’s like a miracle — it will disappear.”
- Editorial Board, We don’t worry for Dr. Fauci. We worry for the country., Washington Post, July 13, 2020

Trump’s jealousies are so petty that when Fauci threw out the first pitch at Major League Baseball’s opening day at Nationals Park, Trump lied and said that he had been invited to throw out the first pitch at Yankee Stadium on Aug. 15. As this newspaper reported:

''“There was one problem: Mr. Trump had not actually been invited on that day by the Yankees, according to one person with knowledge of Mr. Trump’s schedule. His announcement surprised both Yankees officials and the White House staff.”'
- Charles M. Blow, The Tanned Man Has a Green Monster, NYT, July 29, 2020

Just a few days ago Larry Kudlow, Trump’s top economist, insisted that a so-called V-shaped recovery was still on track and that “unemployment claims and continuing claims are falling rapidly.” In fact, both are rising.
- Paul Krugman, The Nightmare on Pennsylvania Avenue, NYT, July 30, 2020

If anything, Mr. Trump’s advertising spending has only increased recently: Since early July his campaign has spent over $30 million on television and digital ads. Many of those ads sought to sow fear and division about the racial justice protests around the country, and several falsely stated Mr. Biden was in favor of defunding the police (he has stated repeatedly that he is not).
- Nick Corasaniti, Annie Karni and Shane Goldmacher, Trump Halts TV Advertising as He Struggles in Polls Against Biden, NYT, July 31, 2020

Giessen | 2h ago [9/4/20]
I am a University teacher and scientist and am well aware that some of the finest Universities, brightest scientists and an above-average share of Noble prize winners are located in the US. Scientific talents are well supported. Yet, despite academic success, the US educational system must be deeply broke. That 30-40% of the US american people still support a shameless liar and shammer can only be explained by a large portion of the populace not capable to distinguish truth from untruth. Such a lack of general informedness cannot be found in any European country I am aware of. This wimpy POTUS caricature (sister: "he never reads") is rather a symptom.
- Comment on Paul Krugman, Trump and the Attack of the Invisible Anarchists, NYT, Sept. 3, 2020

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