Death by Stupid

I’ve made a start on reading the new Bob Woodward book, and once again I marvel at what a clunky writer Woodward is. Mary Trump is a much better writer; her book is enjoyable to read. Michael Wolff, often identified as a hack journalist, is also a much better writer. When I read Bob Woodward, I am reminded how I felt when my third grade teacher assigned long division homework. It’s a slog.

Anyway, I’ve barely made a start, and so far I haven’t run into anything that hasn’t been discussed in the news. If you are reading it also and can recommend some juicy bits, do speak up. I anticipate skimming through a lot of this. Still, I appreciate that he conducted the interviews. And I don’t believe for a minute that it would have made any difference if he had released his “downplayed” tape when it was new.

Here in Trumpland, the covid cases keep going up. Missouri is one of the worst states to be in right now, and St. Francois County (where I’m living) is the worst county. Bollinger County, south of here, has a higher cases-per-100,000 population rate, but there are maybe three people living in Bollinger County.

So the country administration met and voted for a mask mandate, to begin Monday. Naturally there were sign-waving, maskless jerks at the meeting arguing loudly against it. Since then, county administrators who voted for the mandate have been getting death threats. People are writing letters to the local paper warning of communist mask conspiracies. A petition drive is being organized. It’s a bleeping piece of cloth, people. What’s the deal? 

So I don’t go anywhere. Not that I’d been going anywhere since last March. Things won’t get better until a lot more people get sick, I fear.

And so much for Trump’s argument that our covid rates would be better if we ignored the blue states. In fact, from what I see, they’d be better if we ignored the red states. This says the top ten states for covid rates are Louisiana, Alabama, Florida, Mississippi, Arizona, Georgia, South Carolina, Tennessee, Nevada, and Iowa. Texas is #11. New York has dropped to #13.

Trump, of course, is still promising a vaccine by election day or shortly thereafter.

Trump’s optimistic promises have left him in a battle with the realities of time, the deadline of the election, and the increasing skepticism of the stock market that he frequently cites as a barometer of his success. On Thursday, stocks continued a two-day slide, underscoring the skepticism on Wall Street that a vaccine is near.

On Tuesday, Trump said at an event hosted by ABC that it “could be three, four weeks, but we think we have it.”

On Wednesday, Trump said that vaccine distribution could start sometime in October. “That’ll be from mid-October on. It may be a little bit later than that, but we’ll be all set,” he said.

And on Thursday morning, Trump said a vaccine will be ready “either before or just shortly after” election day on Nov. 3. Taken together, Trump is promising a vaccine for some part of the American public between Oct. 6 and early November.

But Trump’s health experts, including Dr. Anthony Fauci and CDC director Robert Redfield, are saying that’s not going to happen. There may be a vaccine approved by the end of the year, but even then it will take several months to get doses manufactured and distributed. Redfield told Congress — yesterday, I believe — that a vaccine will be available to the public by summer or early fall of next year. About a year from now, in other words.

Trump insisted that Redfield was “confused.” The vaccine is almost here! Any second now! Just like Trump’s great health care plan that he’s been promising since 2016! Just another week or two!!!!!

Today, White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows told the Fox and Friends crew that Redfield just didn’t have his facts straight.

“I think that we’ll at least have some results in October,” the White House senior official said. “And as we start to look at those results, I can tell you the President is pushing very hard to make sure that we’re delivering a vaccine before the end of the year.”

“So I’m not sure where Dr. Redfield got his particular timetable, but it’s not based on those that are closest to the process,” he added.

I’d like to know who is “closest to the process” if not the CDC director. Jared and Ivanka, maybe?

Nobody who knows anything about vaccines thinks this is possible. See also Greg Sargent, Trump Is Losing Control of His Own Propaganda.

At the Atlantic, Deborah Pearlstein writes about all the ways our government has become less and less competent over the past fifty years. Reforms are proposed. I’m going to skip to the last paragraph:

A final step works across the whole of constitutional democracy, as Americans’ all-time ignorance of the fundamental structure of government has become visible in recent surveys revealing, for example, that nearly 75 percent could not name the three branches of the federal government at all. As long as ours is a representative government, this staggering degree of basic incapacity will be represented among our elected officials and their staff. Part of the correction here will require improved civic education in elementary and secondary schools; one in five states, for example, currently has no civics requirement for graduation at all. But another part can be implemented more quickly, as soon as a new administration takes office. Just as congressional and government ethics offices have traditionally trained all new federal employees and even transition teams in the rules of ethical compliance (financial-disclosure requirements and more), it is easy to imagine requiring new hires to receive a refresher in constitutional civics. Among the essential topics: the duties of Congress, the president, and the courts, and the purposes of separating powers in the first place. Because core among those purposes was promoting the Hamiltonian value of good government from both reflection and choice.

And better science education would help, too. See also Matt Yglesias, America Needs a Democratic Revolution.