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Trump administration rescinded Courage Award for woman who criticized Trump

Donald Trump is incredibly petty. The State Department wanted to give a Finnish journalist an award for her courageous reports on Russian propaganda, including her criticisms of “President” Putin. Then they rescinded the award after discovering that she had also criticized Mr. Trump. So much for admiring courageous criticism of powerful people. And, of course, his government lied about what they had done and why.

Trump administration rescinded Courage Award for woman who criticized Trump

John Hudson, for the Washington Post.

The Trump administration rescinded an award recognizing the work of a journalist from Finland last year after discovering she had criticized President Trump in social media posts, then gave a false explanation for withdrawing the honor, according to a report by the State Department’s internal watchdog.

The report tracks how the discovery of the journalist’s remarks worried senior U.S. officials and prompted a decision to withdraw the honor to avoid a possible public relations debacle.

… According to the report, the journalist, Jessikka Aro, was selected for the State Department’s International Women of Courage Awards for her reporting on Russian propaganda activities dating back to 2014. Aro endured death threats and cyberattacks for her work, which helped expose Russian troll factories.

After she was informed of her selection and offered flight options, State Department interns discovered her Facebook and Twitter posts, including one from September 2018 in which she noted that “Trump constantly labels journalists as ‘enemy’ and ‘fake news,’ ” said the report. In another tweet, she noted that Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin would meet in Helsinki, where “Finnish people can protest them both. Sweet.”

… But the inspector general ultimately found that the decision to give her the award was not a mistake and was included in a memo approved by [Secretary of State] Pompeo.

The report also noted that the decision to withdraw the award stemmed from the discovery of the social media posts, despite public claims otherwise. “Every person OIG interviewed in connection with this matter acknowledged” that had her social media posts not been flagged, “Ms. Aro would have received the IWOC Award,” the report said.

This entry was tagged. Donald Trump Foreign Policy Pride Rush Limbaugh President2020

How Trump is undermining his own vaccine race

Donald Trump keeps promising that a COVID-19 vaccine will be available before the election. When the medical community promises to take the time to ensure that the vaccine is safe, he claims that he is being attacked and sabotaged. The more Mr. Trump promises to rush the vaccine, the more he scares everyone else. Now, nearly half of Americans say that they won’t take the vaccine, because they don’t believe that it will be safe.

We need better leadership.

How Trump is undermining his own vaccine race - POLITICO

by Adam Cancryn

FDA Commissioner Stephen Hahn spent weeks preparing a proposal to set more stringent standards for emergency authorization of a coronavirus vaccine, hoping to boost public trust in the government’s biggest public health decision in decades.

“Science will guide our decisions,” he pledged to a Senate panel on Wednesday. “FDA will not permit any pressure from anyone to change that.”

Hours later, President Donald Trump sought to do just that. Incensed over the prospect the new guidelines could slow the process, Trump blew up the FDA’s carefully laid plans – vowing to have final say over his administration’s procedures for authorizing a long-sought Covid-19 vaccine. The White House has since demanded that Hahn submit a fuller justification of his bid to set stricter standards, two administration officials said, a directive that could halt the proposal indefinitely.

Almost since the start of the coronavirus crisis, Trump has promised a vaccine is just around the corner, repeatedly contradicting his own experts on the timeline and the standards necessary for approval. The goal, he’s made clear, is a viable vaccine just before Election Day – the centerpiece of his own claims that the administration deserves an “A-plus” for its response to Covid-19.

But that single-minded pursuit has left a string of damaging episodes in its wake and hopelessly intertwined the delicate drug development process with Trump’s political aims, according to interviews with a dozen public health experts both inside and outside the administration.

“We shouldn’t even be having this discussion,” a former senior HHS official said of the struggle for control over the vaccine process. “There are experienced career scientists at FDA who make these judgments every day for public health. This shouldn’t even be a White House issue.”

The broader public’s faith in any eventual coronavirus vaccine, meanwhile, is in tatters. Just over half of Americans now say they would take a vaccine if it were available today, polling shows, a 21-point drop from earlier this year. That’s alarming from a public health point of view, since having fewer people take the vaccine dilutes its effectiveness.

Now, even as Trump’s top health advisers scramble to erect new safeguards, those involved in the process say they fear the damage is already done: Trump’s constant drumbeat for a vaccine by Nov. 3 has drowned out months of careful scientific work, reducing perhaps the most ambitious vaccine hunt in history to yet another presidential litmus test.

“It would help if Donald Trump stopped talking,” said Paul Offit, director of the Vaccine Education Center at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia and a member of the outside panel FDA has pledged to consult before authorizing a vaccine. “Every time he opens his mouth, most reasonable people feel they’re being sold something.”

This entry was tagged. COVID-19 Donald Trump Healthcare Policy President2020

Trump's use of false content is often defended as humor. But his supporters aren't always in on the joke

Mr. Trump’s campaign continually posts doctored videos to lie about Mr. Biden. When caught, they sound like idiotic teenagers: “Can’t you take a joke, man?” And when Facebook or Twitter flag the videos as misleading, they use it as an opportunity to claim that everyone is biased against them. Lie, deflect, sow mistrust—it’s the Trump way.

Trump's use of false content is often defended as humor. But his supporters aren't always in on the joke

Donie O’Sullivan, for CNN.

The video — which appears to show Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden sleeping as a TV news anchor repeats, "Wake up!" — was shared on Twitter by White House social media director Dan Scavino.

But the video was fake.

It was achieved by splicing together real footage of a 2011 interview between journalist Leyla Santiago, now of CNN, and entertainer and activist Harry Belafonte with footage of Biden looking down, his eyes appearing at least partially closed, to make it appear as if he were snoozing. An audio track of loud snoring was placed on the video to complete the effect.

When the video was fact-checked by news outlets, including CNN, and eventually labeled as "manipulated media" by Twitter, prominent Trump supporters complained that it was an obvious joke and a meme.

…The joke was lost on Chris, the Trump supporter in Bemidji, who apparently believed the video was real footage. He acknowledged, "I missed that one," when he was shown how the video had been manipulated.

…The dissemination of misleading videos about Biden by the Trump campaign in an effort to make the Democratic presidential nominee seem confused or senile has happened repeatedly.

On Tuesday, the campaign posted an eight-second video on Facebook that it titled "Joe Biden completely botches the Pledge of Allegiance." But Biden was not trying to recite the entire Pledge of Allegiance as the full version of the video shows. Facebook did not take any action against the video.

…Last week, Trump retweeted a video that was manipulated to make it appear as if Biden was dancing to the NWA song "F**k tha Police." He wasn't.

When false claims and doctored videos are fact-checked by Facebook or labeled as manipulated by Twitter, it is possible that they have already been viewed and shared for days.

And many of the Trump supporters who spoke to CNN in Bemidji said they simply do not trust the fact-checks that are deployed by Facebook.

This entry was tagged. Donald Trump Joe Biden President2020

Trump Promises Drug Discount Cards as an Expensive Pre-election Gift

Yesterday, Mr. Trump promised to send seniors $6.6 billion dollars using an existing program in an illegal way, paid for with funds that don’t exist. This is part of a healthcare plan that involves stealing credit from President Obama did and signing pointless, symbolic executive orders. The executive orders allow him to lie and claim that he’s actually done something, as long as you agree not to look behind the curtain. Another day, more proof that we elected a con man as President.

Trump Promises Drug Discount Cards as an Expensive Pre-election Gift

Sheryl Gay Stolberg and Margot Sanger-Katz, for the New York Times.

President Trump vowed on Thursday to send $200 discount cards for prescription drugs to 33 million older Americans, a $6.6 billion election-eve promise with dubious legal authority that he announced as part of a speech billed as presenting a long-awaited health care plan.

Mr. Trump made the announcement before an audience of health professionals in Charlotte, N.C., where he laid out what the White House called the America First health care plan. Though senior administration officials had previewed the speech, they had not mentioned the drug discount cards.

Mr. Trump’s broader plan is short on specifics, and its two core provisions are largely symbolic. The first is an executive order aimed at protecting people with pre-existing conditions — a provision already in the Affordable Care Act, which Mr. Trump is trying to overturn. The second — a push to end surprise medical billing — would require congressional action.

That left the drug discount cards as the major advance in Mr. Trump’s speech. It was not clear where the money for the cards would come from or whether the White House could legally issue them. But they amounted to a gift to a key constituency, offered weeks before Election Day.

A senior administration official said the discount cards would be authorized under a waiver program that allowed Medicare to test certain new policy ideas. The money would come from savings gleaned from the president’s directive this month that required Medicare to pay no more for prescription drugs than in other developed nations, the official said.

But that program has not yet been devised or enacted.

“Is the plan to borrow from potential future savings from a program that does not yet exist?” asked Rachel Sachs, an associate professor of law at Washington University in St. Louis, who studies prescription drug policy.

The announcement came as a surprise because the White House had tried last month to strike a deal with the pharmaceutical industry on a broad effort to lower drug prices. But that deal collapsed after Mark Meadows, the White House chief of staff, insisted that the industry pay for such cards. The companies balked, fearing that they would be footing the bill for the “Trump cards” aimed at older American voters.

… Mr. Trump has been promising since he ran for president in 2016 that he would put together a plan to lower costs, expand coverage and protect people with pre-existing conditions — the primary goals of the Affordable Care Act. But Republicans cannot seem to agree on a replacement.

In laying out his broader plan, the president promised to lower costs and offer “true health security for you and your loved ones.” Instead, that plan was mostly a laundry list of steps he had already taken to lower health care premiums and reduce the price of prescription drugs.

This entry was tagged. Donald Trump Healthcare Policy President2020

Funding promised by Trump for Kenosha can't be used to rebuild

Another story showing that Donald Trump is a con-man. He loves to promise largesse. It buffs his image and feeds his ego. But it often turns out to be a mirage. Either he doesn’t follow through or we later discover that his promise was just taking credit for something that he had nothing to do with. This story has a bit of both.

Funding promised by Trump for Kenosha can't be used to rebuild

None of the more than $40 million in federal help promised by President Donald Trump when he visited Kenosha earlier this month can actually be used to rebuild the community, according to Gov. Tony Evers and U.S. Sen. Tammy Baldwin.

And all but $1 million was already coming to the state, regardless of the damage done during protests that followed the shooting of a Black man, Jacob Blake, by a white Kenosha police officer, the officials wrote Trump.

But Baldwin and Evers wrote Thursday in a letter to the president that the $4 million for small businesses was already earmarked by the federal relief bill known as the CARES Act for coronavirus pandemic-related losses, and can’t be used for other purposes.

“It cannot be used for damages tied to the unrest,” Baldwin and Evers wrote.

Of the remaining federal funding allocated for Wisconsin, according to Baldwin’s office:

  • $30.6 million is for the state’s crime victims fund in fiscal 2020, grants announced in April.
  • $10.5 million comes from U.S. Department of Justice grants announced earlier this year to pay for costs associated with implementing body cameras, drug treatment, prosecutions, reducing violent crime, Operation Legend, and other programs.
  • $1 million in new public safety funding has been allocated for the City of Kenosha, in a joint application with Kenosha County, for expenses incurred during the period of civil unrest. This funding is new but private businesses cannot use it to rebuild.

This entry was tagged. Donald Trump Spending Wisconsin President2020

Trump’s businesses charged Secret Service more than $1.1 million

It sure is nice when you can use the Presidency to enrich yourself. The Washington Post’s David Fahrenthold shares their latest data on how the Trump Organization is using the Secret Service to pad their own bottom line.

Trump’s businesses charged Secret Service more than $1.1 million, including for rooms in club shuttered for pandemic

President Trump’s luxury properties have charged the U.S. government more than $1.1 million in private transactions since Trump took office — including for room rentals at his Bedminster, N.J., club this spring while it was closed for the coronavirus pandemic, new documents show.

The documents, including receipts and invoices from Trump’s businesses, were released by the Secret Service after The Washington Post filed a public-records lawsuit. They added $188,000 in previously unknown charges to The Post’s running total of payments to Trump’s properties related to the presence of Secret Service agents.

In Bedminster this spring, the records show, Trump’s club charged the Secret Service more than $21,800 to rent a cottage and other rooms while the club was closed and otherwise off-limits to guests. The documents don’t give a reason for these rentals. Trump didn’t visit the club while it was closed, but his eldest daughter, Ivanka Trump, and her family reportedly visited at least once.

In case you’re new to this entire story. And, note, it doesn’t need to be this way. The Trump Organization could easily provide rooms to the Secret Service at no-cost or a truly nominal cost. But they don’t. And that’s a deliberate decision to siphon money from the taxpayers to Donald Trump’s own pockets.

When Trump and his family members visit Trump properties, aides and Secret Service agents follow. When those federal employees rent rooms, Trump’s businesses get the revenue. Taxpayers foot the bill.

The bills are usually paid in private, with no public disclosure. The government has not disclosed how much it has paid the Trump Organization in total. Instead, The Post has tried to create an accounting of these payments, one receipt at a time, using public-records requests and lawsuits.

“The waste inherent in this is appalling,” Lisa Gilbert, executive vice president at the watchdog group Public Citizen, said of the Trump Organization’s charges. Gilbert said the costs were especially galling during a pandemic that has brought economic ruin and stretched federal budgets. “They’re nickel-and-diming the American people. At a moment when every penny counts.”

The White House and the Secret Service both declined to comment for this story. The Trump Organization did not respond to emailed questions.

Before he took office, Trump said he would be “completely isolating” himself from his business interests. He didn’t. Instead, Trump has visited his properties 274 times, according to a Post tally, in addition to promoting those properties on Twitter, encouraging his vice president visit them and briefly choosing one of them to host a summit of world leaders.

This entry was tagged. Corruption Donald Trump Greed President2020

Trump’s $647 Million Ventilator Deal

This must be some of that endless winning and good dealmaking that Donald Trump promised us. Agreeing to buy ventilators for 4x the list price—a ventilator design that the U.S. government funded a decade ago as a low-cost option.

The Trump Administration Is Backing Out of a $647 Million Ventilator Deal After ProPublica Investigated The Price

The federal government is backing out of a controversial $646.7 million deal to buy ventilators from Royal Philips N.V., acting before the company had delivered a third of the order.

This week, the House Committee on Oversight and Reform’s Subcommittee on Economic and Consumer Policy announced it is expanding its probe to look at other coronavirus-related deals negotiated by Peter Navarro, the president’s trade adviser, who served as the point man on the Philips deal.

In addition, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, which oversaw the Philips contract, confirmed that the deal is the subject of an internal investigation and legal review.

The congressional investigation determined that the deal would have resulted in the U.S. overpaying for the ventilators by as much as $500 million, thanks to “inept contract management and incompetent negotiating by the Trump Administration.”

ProPublica first wrote about the U.S. government’s relationship with Philips in March, detailing how a decade ago government planners had paid Philips millions of dollars to develop a low-cost ventilator that could be stockpiled and deployed if ever there were a pandemic. The U.S. ordered 10,000 once the company received clearance from the Food and Drug Administration.

But when COVID-19 cases overwhelmed hospitals in New York in the spring, Philips hadn’t delivered any. Instead, ProPublica found, Philips was selling a commercial version of that ventilator — manufactured at its Pennsylvania factory — overseas at far higher prices.

Rather than force production of low-cost ventilators, a White House team led by Navarro cut a new deal for more ventilators, agreeing to pay more than four times the price.

ProPublica in April revealed that this new deal boosted the price of what appeared to be similar ventilators from $3,280 each under the Obama administration deal to $15,000 under the Trump administration. Neither Philips nor HHS would explain how the two models were different.

In its investigation of the deal, the House subcommittee asked Philips to turn over a trove of records and discovered that the more expensive ventilators were “functionally identical” to the cheaper ones.

Navarro and his team “appeared gullible” and there was no evidence that they even tried to negotiate a lower price, the House investigators found.

The U.S. government paid the highest price for the ventilators among American buyers, the investigators found. The company’s records show that Philips had sold more than 5,000 of that model at far lower prices before May 27.

As coronavirus sweeps the globe, there is not a single Trilogy Evo Universal ventilator — developed with government funds — in the U.S. stockpile. Meanwhile, Royal Philips N.V. has sold higher-priced versions to clients around the world.

This entry was tagged. COVID-19 Donald Trump Government Efficiency President2020

Trump is the anti-vaccine candidate

Trump is the anti-vaccine candidate →

Michael Hiltzik, a business columnist at the Los Angeles Times, documents how Trump recently tried to make himself look better by accusing Joe Biden of doing what Trump himself frequently does. Here, Trump displayed his own narcissism, lying, and ignorance.

Donald Trump’s habit of projecting his own failings onto his adversaries reached a new level of absurdity on Labor Day, when he attacked the Democratic ticket of Joe Biden and Kamala Harris for “reckless anti-vaccine rhetoric” and accused them of a position that “undermines science.”

As for “reckless anti-vaccine rhetoric,” that defines Trump, too. For more than a decade, Trump has promoted the long-debunked and fraudulent claim that vaccines cause autism. He has advocated stretching out the schedule of childhood vaccinations, a practice condemned by creditable pediatric experts.

Trump has made common cause with anti-vaccine cranks such as Robert F. Kennedy Jr., and even lent credence to Andrew Wakefield. He’s the notorious perpetrator of the myth linking autism with the measles, mumps and rubella vaccine, a stance that got Wakefield’s medical license revoked in Britain and that has caused needless disease and suffering in Britain, across Europe and in the U.S.

Now to Trump’s anti-vaccine rhetoric.

As ably documented by quackery watchdog David Gorski, it dates back at least to 2007. At a press conference that year, Trump said, “When I was growing up, autism wasn’t really a factor. And now all of a sudden, it’s an epidemic.... My theory, and I study it because I have young children, my theory is the shots. We’ve giving these massive injections at one time, and I really think it does something to the children.”

“When a little baby that weighs 20 pounds and 30 pounds gets pumped with 10 and 20 shots at one time, with one injection that’s a giant injection, I personally think that has something to do with it. Now there’s a group that agrees with that and there’s a group that doesn’t agree with that.”

Trump repeated his “theory” on “Fox and Friends” in 2012: “It’s also very controversial to even say. But I couldn’t care less. I’ve seen people where they have a perfectly healthy child, and they go for the vaccinations and a month later the child is no longer healthy.”

He repeated it again during a Republican presidential debate in September 2015: “Just the other day, 2 years old, 2 and a half years old, a child, a beautiful child went to have the vaccine, and came back, and a week later got a tremendous fever, got very, very sick, now is autistic.”

Accusing President Trump

Accusing President Trump →

In an election, I normally look for a candidate that I can vote for, rather than just voting against candidates. This Presidential election is not normal. In this election, I am absolutely voting against Donald Trump. Morally, he is our worst President since Richard Nixon. He may be the worst President since Andrew Johnson succeeded Abraham Lincoln.

But you don't have to take my word for it. David Roberts, writing for Vox, put together a damning indictment, as part of a larger article.

Trump has made no secret of his feelings toward protests and law enforcement generally. He once told Breitbart, “I can tell you I have the support of the police, the support of the military, the support of the Bikers for Trump — I have the tough people, but they don’t play it tough — until they go to a certain point, and then it would be very bad, very bad.”

He has advocated for the failed and racist “stop and frisk” policy to be expanded to new cities and called Democrats “anti-police.” He removed Obama-imposed limits on military equipment sold to police, encouraged police brutality, told states to “dominate” protesters, threatened protesters with “vicious dogs” and “ominous weapons,” and tweeted, “when the looting starts, the shooting starts,” a prominent segregationist rallying cry from the civil rights era. He wanted to deploy 10,000 active-duty American soldiers to US cities to quell domestic protests and considered firing his secretary of defense, Mark Esper, when Esper resisted.

All this comes in the context of a long history of lurching authoritarianism. The first thing Trump did on entering office is flout the longstanding US tradition of presidents separating from their personal financial interests while in office. His business interests are still mixed up in affairs of state in ways no one fully understands, and his administration is openly deferential toward sectors of the economy that pledge loyalty to him.

He has completely shut down congressional oversight and is currently engaged in a purge of inspectors general, the independent watchdogs within government agencies. One of those IGs, at the State Department, was in the final stages of an investigation into whether some of Trump’s arms deals with the Saudis were legal.

He has pushed for loyalty tests at the FBI, the State Department, and the Department of the Interior, put immigrant kids in cages, used state power to force international allies to launch bogus investigations of his political opponents, and flouted impeachment despite compelling evidence of his guilt. He voiced support for the armed mob of right-wing protesters that stormed the Michigan legislature.

He has waged relentless war on independent journalism, called journalists enemies of the people, threatened to sue journalists, and denounced or threatened any media platform that fact-checks him.

Throughout it all, he lies, lies, lies — 18,000 times during his presidency, as of April. There is no discernible set of principles or governing philosophy at work, only Trump’s day-to-day impulses as he watches Fox News, stews in the residency, and tweets.

Trumpism, if there is such a thing, is a shameless disregard for norms and laws in service of a will to power. It runs on demands for loyalty, disregard of oversight, and devotion to dominating and humiliating opponents.

Yet the GOP has supported him, enabled him, and protected him from accountability, right up to voting him free of impeachment, covering for his disastrous coronavirus response, and echoing his calls for state violence. The party has followed his every impulse.

This November, I will be voting for Democrats across the board. As far as I can remember, this will be the first time that I've ever voted for Democrats. But, as Mr. Reagan said, "I didn't leave the Republican party, the Republican Party left me." As long as the Republican Party is the party of Trump, authoritarianism, bullying, and lying, I cannot vote for a single member of the party.

More deaths, no benefit from malaria drug in VA virus study

More deaths, no benefit from malaria drug in VA virus study →

I'm sure this is just fake news. There's no possible way that President Trump and Elon Musk could both be wrong about medicine. The VA is probably loaded with Deep Staters who will stop at nothing to bring Trump down. 🙄

A malaria drug widely touted by President Donald Trump for treating the new coronavirus showed no benefit in a large analysis of its use in U.S. veterans hospitals. There were more deaths among those given hydroxychloroquine versus standard care, researchers reported.

The nationwide study was not a rigorous experiment. But with 368 patients, it’s the largest look so far of hydroxychloroquine with or without the antibiotic azithromycin for COVID-19, which has killed more than 171,000 people as of Tuesday.

The study was posted on an online site for researchers and has been submitted to the New England Journal of Medicine, but has not been reviewed by other scientists. Grants from the National Institutes of Health and the University of Virginia paid for the work.

Researchers analyzed medical records of 368 male veterans hospitalized with confirmed coronavirus infection at Veterans Health Administration medical centers who died or were discharged by April 11.

About 28% who were given hydroxychloroquine plus usual care died, versus 11% of those getting routine care alone. About 22% of those getting the drug plus azithromycin died too, but the difference between that group and usual care was not considered large enough to rule out other factors that could have affected survival.

Hydroxychloroquine made no difference in the need for a breathing machine, either.

Researchers did not track side effects, but noted hints that hydroxychloroquine might have damaged other organs. The drug has long been known to have potentially serious side effects, including altering the heartbeat in a way that could lead to sudden death.

Earlier this month, scientists in Brazil stopped part of a hydroxychloroquine study after heart rhythm problems developed in one-quarter of people given the higher of two doses being tested.

Why Southern Democrats Saved Joe Biden

Why Southern Democrats Saved Joe Biden →

Mara Gay traveled through the South, talking to black Democrats about their support for Joe Biden. She wrote about it in the New York Times.

For those who lived through the trauma of racial terrorism and segregation, or grew up in its long shadow, this history haunts the campaign trail. And Mr. Trump has summoned old ghosts.

“People are prideful of being racist again,” said Bobby Caradine, 47, who is black and has lived in Memphis all his life. “It’s right back out in the open.”

In Tennessee and Alabama, in Arkansas and Oklahoma and Mississippi, Democrats, black and white, told me they were united by a single, urgent goal: defeating Mr. Trump this November, with any candidate, and at any cost.

“There’s three things I want to happen,” Angela Watson, a 60-year-old black Democrat from Oklahoma City, told me at a campaign event there this week. “One, beat Trump. Two, beat Trump. And three, beat Trump.”

They were deeply skeptical that a democratic socialist like Mr. Sanders could unseat Mr. Trump. They liked Ms. Warren, but, burned by Hillary Clinton’s loss, were worried that too many of their fellow Americans wouldn’t vote for a woman.

Joe Biden is no Barack Obama. But he was somebody they knew. “He was with Obama for all those years,” Mr. Caradine said. “People are comfortable with him.” Faced with the prospect of their children losing the basic rights they won over many generations, these voters, as the old Chicago political saw goes, don’t want nobody that nobody sent.

Many Progressives, who long for a Revolution, have been angry about what they see as short-sighted support for a moderate who will ensure that "nothing changes" in the United States. But these black Americans have seen what's happening around them and aren't dreaming about striding forth into a Glorious Future. They're afraid of sliding back into a horrible past—a past that many of them lived through. I'm not going to second-guess their decision.

Trump Has Driven Away New Hampshire Republicans

Trump Has Driven Away New Hampshire Republicans →

From Maggie Haberman and Annie Karni, at the New York Times, on how Mr. Trump has affected the party.

Yet if the New Hampshire Republican Party now belongs to the president, it has also seen a significant decline in enrollment.

“New Hampshire is going to be a challenge for him to win in November,” said Jennifer Horn, the former New Hampshire Republican chairman and a staunch critic of Mr. Trump. “A week ago, we had more than 20,000 fewer registered Republicans than there were Election Day in 2016.”

Ms. Horn noted that Republican candidates lost large, consistently red areas in the 2018 midterm elections, and that the same thing could happen here to Mr. Trump. While other state Republicans played down concerns about the drop in party members on the voter rolls as the natural ebb and flow that happens in a state with same-day voter registration, Ms. Horn said 20,000 was “way outside the norm.”

And the state’s demographics reflect the type of place where Mr. Trump will face challenges: concentrations of working-class whites, but multitudes of college-educated voters, who polls show have been abandoning the Republican Party.

Many Errors Are Evident in Iowa Caucus Results

Many Errors Are Evident in Iowa Caucus Results →

Nate Cohn, Josh Katz, Denise Lu, Charlie Smart, Ben Smithgall and Andrew Fischer analyzed the reliability of the caucus results, for the New York Times. My takeaway is that the caucuses are far too complex for providing an accurate distillation of voter preferences. They're fine for selecting county delegates, who then select state delegates, who then vote on who to support at the national convention. There's a certain elasticity to results when preferences are being filtered through that many levels of trust and reasoned judgment. That may have been the world we lived in 100 years ago, but it's not today's world, when voters expect their caucus alignment to directly support a given candidate.

You should read the entire article to see all of the different ways that the results got fouled up. Here's a sample.

The results released by the Iowa Democratic Party on Wednesday were riddled with inconsistencies and other flaws. According to a New York Times analysis, more than 100 precincts reported results that were internally inconsistent, that were missing data or that were not possible under the complex rules of the Iowa caucuses.

In some cases, vote tallies do not add up. In others, precincts are shown allotting the wrong number of delegates to certain candidates. And in at least a few cases, the Iowa Democratic Party’s reported results do not match those reported by the precincts.

“The caucus math work sheet is the official report on caucus night to the I.D.P., and the I.D.P. reports the results as delivered by the precinct chair,” [Mandy McClure, a spokeswoman for the Iowa Democratic Party (I.D.P.)] said. “This form must be signed by the caucus chair, the caucus secretary and representatives from each campaign in the room who attest to its accuracy. Under the rules of the delegate selection process, delegates are awarded based off the record of results as provided by each precinct caucus chair.”

To emphasize: the Iowa Democratic Party collates the results and publishes them, but isn't actually responsible for validating the data coming from the precincts. If it's calculated wrong at the precinct level, it'll stay that way.

The errors are detectable because of changes to the way the Iowa Democratic Party reports its results, put in place after the Sanders campaign criticized the caucus results in 2016. This cycle, and for the first time, the party released three sets of results corresponding to different steps in the caucus process. The rules are complex and thorough, and they create conditions in which the results can be obviously inaccurate or inconsistent within a precinct.

That these errors are only detectible now, after the Sanders campaign insisted on collecting and reporting more data, makes me wonder how often the numbers have been wrong before.

The Iowa Democratic Party has corrected some errors, but the errors became far more frequent on Wednesday as the count dragged on.

On Wednesday afternoon, the Iowa Democratic Party released a wave of results showing Deval Patrick sweeping central Des Moines. That was incorrect. Mr. Sanders’s votes had been reported as being for Mr. Patrick, while Elizabeth Warren’s tallies went to Tom Steyer.

A plausible explanation is that an Iowa Democratic Party staff member accidentally copied the results of one column too far to the left in a spreadsheet for some precincts. Such errors inevitably occur in manual data entry, but the Iowa Democratic Party does not appear to have enough quality checks to assure that it reports accurate results.

​What's the point of having a state-level political party if it's not setup to do the work of actually collecting and disseminating reliable information about what its members want? It sounds like a debate club with delusions of grandeur.

This entry was tagged. President2020

An ‘Off-the-Shelf, Skeleton Project’

An ‘Off-the-Shelf, Skeleton Project’ →

Jason Koebler, Joseph Cox, and Emanuel Maiberg, writing for Vice, provide a look at the app that was supposed to make it easy for volunteers to report the results of the Iowa caucuses.

Motherboard asked six cybersecurity and app development experts we trust to analyze the app. The app was built on top of React Native, an open-source app development package released by Facebook that can be used for both Android and iOS apps, according to Kasra Rahjerdi, who has been an Android developer since the original Android project was launched, and Robert Baptise, a white-hat hacker who has exposed security flaws in many popular apps and reviewed the code. Rahjerdi said that the app contains default React Native metadata and that it comes off as a "very very off the shelf skeleton project plus add your own code kind of thing."

"Honestly, the biggest thing is—I don’t want to throw it under the bus—but the app was clearly done by someone following a tutorial. It’s similar to projects I do with my mentees who are learning how to code," Rahjerdi said. "They started with a starter package and they just added things on top of it. I get deja vu from my classes because the code looks like someone Googled things like 'how to add authentication to React Native App' and followed the instructions," Rahjerdi said.

"The mobile app looks hastily thrown together," Dan Guido, CEO of cybersecurity consulting firm Trail of Bits, told Motherboard.

So the app has the look of something that was written by someone who's a newcomer to programming, rather than someone experienced.​

To properly login and submit results, caucus chairs had to enter a precinct ID number, a PIN code, and a two-factor identification code, each of which were six-digits long. "We saw a lot of people entering their precinct ID instead of their PIN in the PIN spot. There were some issues with not knowing where to put what credential, which is a difficult thing to design around,” Niemira said. “Having to sign in with three different six-digit numbers is confusing on the best day, but it was a call that was made in order to help keep this process as secure as possible.”

The app required users to keep track of 3 different 6-digit codes and enter them in the correct fields, during a confusing, high-pressure event. And those users are all volunteers, from a demographic that's not known for its fluency with technology. That's a complete failure of user-experience design.

According to state records, the app was built in several months at a cost of $63,182.

"We started our engagement with the IDP in August and began requirement gatherings and beginning to develop the app at that point, so we basically had the month of August, September, October, November, and December to do it, though requirements gathering takes a long time, so we didn’t have a final production version of this until pretty close to caucus time," Niemira said.

​The app was done in a rush, with no time to think through the requirements and create a design that would be usable, secure, and fault tolerant. Let alone to create code that was well-tested and robust. Or time to adequately train users and ensure that they had the app installed and working several weeks before the caucuses.

Election security experts have been saying for years that we should not put election systems online, and that we shouldn't be using apps to transmit results. And, if U.S. election officials are going to use apps like this, that they should be open to scrutiny and independent security audits.

“We were really concerned about the fact there was so much opacity. I said over and over again trust is the product of transparency times communication. The DNC steadfastly refused to offer any transparency. It was hard to know what to expect except the worst,” Greg Miller, cofounder of the Open Source Election Technology Institute, which publicly warned the IDP against using the app weeks ago, told Motherboard.

Stamos echoed that sentiment. "Our message is that apps like this should be developed in the sunlight,” he said, “and part of an open bug bounty."

Politicians seems to be allergic to doing things out in the open, with the full scrutiny and criticism that comes with transparency. This debacle is the inevitable result of secrecy, penny-pinching, tight timelines, and hubris.

Bernie Sanders Raised More in January Than Any Rival in Any Quarter

Bernie Sanders Raised More in January Than Any Rival in Any Quarter →

Some good news for fans of Senator Sanders, from Shane Goldmacher. If I'm going to point out why I think Sanders is a risky candidate (and I am), then it's only fair to point out one of the reasons why he's a strong candidate.

Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont raised $25 million in January, his campaign said on Thursday, a staggering sum that gives him an enviable financial advantage at an crucial moment in the Democratic primary race.

The $25 million haul is more money than any other candidate raised in any full quarter during 2019, including several presidential hopefuls who hold the big-dollar fund-raisers that Mr. Sanders forgoes. The announcement is the latest sign of an epochal change in money in politics, with candidates now able to finance a top-tier national campaign fueled by masses of donors giving a steady stream of small amounts.

The Sanders campaign also announced that it had received 1.3 million donations in January, and that more than 1.5 million different individuals had donated over the course of the campaign.

“Working-class Americans giving $18 at a time are putting our campaign in a strong position to compete in states all over the map,” said Faiz Shakir, Mr. Sanders’s campaign manager, in a statement.

Snail Mail and Nuisance Calls: New Details on the Iowa Caucus Problems

Snail Mail and Nuisance Calls: New Details on the Iowa Caucus Problems →

I've seen the Berners claiming that the chaos coming out of Iowa is an attempt to stop Bernie Sanders by denying him a clear cut win. I like to go with Hanlon's Razor instead: "Never attribute to malice that which can be adequately explained by stupidity". I don't think the people that go into politics and become leaders of state or national parties are actually smart enough to be running complex one-day-only events like primaries and caucuses. Nothing I've heard out of Iowa has changed my mind.

Trip Gabriel and Reid J. Epstein, for the New York Times.

Iowa Democratic officials said on a private conference call on Wednesday night that nearly all the much-delayed results of Monday’s caucuses would be released by Thursday, although a few precincts might remain outstanding.

The reason? Tally sheets had been dropped into snail mail.

Besides an untested, buggy smartphone app that was used for the first time, a backup hotline number for caucus organizers to call in results was flooded with nuisance calls after the number was disseminated on social media, party leaders said.

“All the Trump people from around the country started calling and tearing everybody a new one,” Ken Sager, the Iowa Democratic Party treasurer, told members of the party’s central committee on the 1 hour 20 minute call.

There were 85 phone lines to take calls at the party headquarters in Des Moines, said Kevin Geiken, the party’s executive director. But caucus chairs faced long wait times “because of the excessive calls we were getting” and because the legitimate calls to report results each took about five minutes, twice as long as in a dry run.

As he has said publicly, Mr. Price repeated that Monday night’s problems began when a coding error was discovered in a back-end computer that received the results sent in by volunteer leaders of each caucus via the app.

“We moved to Plan B, which was to ask precinct captains to call us with their results,” he said.

After the phone lines became swamped, with some precinct leaders giving up and going to bed without reporting results, the party moved essentially to Plan C, a manual examination of the worksheets from each caucus.

“We’re using the caucus math worksheets to report the results, and that takes time," Mr. Price said.

Because a few precinct chairs dropped their worksheets into traditional mailboxes, they would not be counted until they were delivered. “We are in the process of waiting for the mail to arrive,” Mr. Price said. “Those final precincts may take a little bit for us to get those sheets.”

One caucus chairman not on the call, Tom Courtney, said on Wednesday that he had been taken aback by what happened. After hours of being unable to get through to party headquarters on Monday night, Mr. Courtney gave up and went to bed. “I couldn’t sleep,” he said. “At 3 in the morning, I emailed everything to the guy I was trying to call, then I texted it.”

The next day, he said, he received a call from state headquarters that it hadn’t seen his results. “I gave them to him over the phone, again,” Mr. Courtney said.

Then someone from the state party drove the 2 hours 40 minutes from Des Moines to Burlington, where Mr. Courtney lives, to pick up the paper worksheets from his county.

Trump Greets National Prayer Breakfast With Impeachment Rage

Trump Greets National Prayer Breakfast With Impeachment Rage →

Thanks Charles P. Pierce. This is great and gets right at the narcissism that bugged me when I heard that Mr. Trump had turned an event about prayer into an event about himself.

He arrived at the event waving a newspaper with the banner headline “ACQUITTED” over his head and, when Dr. Arthur Brooks, the conservative religious leader in charge, made the mistake of referring to the obscure Christian concept of loving your enemies, the president* had a ready response to that heretical notion.

Arthur, I don't know if I agree with you.

At which point, the president* brought out the hammer and drove the nails into his own palms with his usual alacrity.

As everybody knows, my family, our great country and your president have been put through a terrible ordeal by some very dishonest and corrupt people. They have done everything possible to destroy us and by so doing very badly hurt our nation. They know what they are doing is wrong, but they put themselves far ahead of our great country.Weeks ago and again yesterday, courageous Republican politicians and leaders had the wisdom, fortitude and strength to do what everyone knows was right.

As dozens of attendees stared into their fruit cups and longed for the sweet release of the Rapture, the president* continued to read from Paul’s Second Epistle to the Hannitites.

I don't like people who use their faith as justification for doing what they know is wrong nor do I like people who say, 'I pray for you,' when they know that's not so. So many people have been hurt and we can't let that go on. We have allies, we have enemies, sometimes the allies are enemies but we just don't know it. But we're changing all that.

State Demographics Matter

State Demographics Matter →

Mara Liasson, writing for NPR on what matters in the election.

Also, while the electorate continues to get younger, browner and more female, a lot of those voters live in the wrong states as far as Democratic hopes at winning go. In other words, it doesn't matter as much if there's a huge surge in turnout in California and New York (two states where Hillary Clinton got one-fifth of all her votes from); it matters who shows up in Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin. In Michigan and Pennsylvania, white, working-class voters make up 56% of eligible voters; in Wisconsin, it's 61%.

I'm less interested in a candidate's national numbers than I am in their state-by-state numbers and how their positions poll in each battleground state. You can run up the score quite a bit in California and New York and still lose because voters in Pennsylvania don't like your plan to ban fracking and because white moderates in Wisconsin think your policies too radical.

Socialism Is Underwater Among Independents

Socialism Is Underwater Among Independents →

Mark Murray, writing for NBC News:

Finally, the NBC/WSJ poll finds differing public attitudes about capitalism and socialism, especially with Sanders running for president in 2020 as a democratic socialist.

Fifty-two percent of all voters say they have a positive view of capitalism, versus 18 percent who have a negative opinion.

The numbers are reversed for socialism, with 53 percent having a negative view and 19 percent a positive one.

Yet there’s a striking difference by party and age.

Democratic primary voters have a net-positive impression of socialism (40 percent positive, 23 percent negative), and Dem voters ages 18-34 view it even more favorably (51 percent to 14 percent).

But key general-election groups like independents (-45 net rating), suburban voters and swing-state voters have a much more negative impression of socialism.

Again, I'm worried about overestimating how much attention voters are really paying to the Democrat primary and to Sanders' positions and his embrace of (Democratic) Socialism. Once we get to the summer and Trump starts hammering him over socialism, what's going to happen to his poll numbers?

Running Bernie Sanders Risks Losing Moderates

Running Bernie Sanders Risks Losing Moderates →

Jonathan Chait's piece has already gotten a lot of attention. But I'd like to draw my own attention to a few of the points that he made. (Full disclosure: If I could vote in Arizona's Democrat primary, I would vote for someone other than Bernie Sanders.)

Nobody “cared” how Michael Dukakis looked in a tank, and probably not many voters cared about Mitt Romney’s dismissive remarks about the 47 percent, but both reinforced larger attack narratives. Vintage video of Bernie palling around with Soviet communists will make for an almost insultingly easy way for Republicans to communicate the idea that his plans to expand government are radical.

Sanders has never faced an electorate where these vulnerabilities could be used against him. Nor, for that matter, has he had to defend some of his bizarre youthful musings (such as his theory that sexual repression causes breast cancer) or the suspicious finances surrounding his wife’s college. Democrats are rightfully concerned about attacks on Hunter Biden’s nepotistic role at Burisma, but Sanders is going to have to defend equally questionable deals, like the $500,000 his wife’s university paid for a woodworking program run by his stepdaughter.

Let's set aside Sanders' current proposals and the merits of them. His past is a rich treasure trove of attack ads waiting to happen. This election will be fought in the suburbs. And Trump's team doesn't need to convince suburban moderates to vote for him. He just needs to convince them that Bernie is just as bad and that they should stay home on Election Day. Ads depicting Sanders as a nepotistic communist will certainly do that. When it happens, Sanders will need a surge of new voters to power him to victory. And any campaign that starts out saying "we'll win because the non-voters will vote for us" is already losing.

For obvious reasons, the Democratic Party’s left wing has always resisted this conclusion (as has the Republican Party’s right wing.) But Hillary Clinton’s surprising defeat created an opportunity for the party’s left to promote an alternative theory for how the party could and should compete. It deemed Donald Trump’s win a sign that capitalism had created such distress that voters were now rejecting conventional politicians altogether and open to radical alternatives who might promise to smash the failing system. Indeed, by this reasoning, Democrats would do better, not worse, by nominating more left-wing candidates, who could distance themselves more credibly from the discredited Establishment.

​This is not a bad assumption. If American Carnage taught me anything, it's that there are far more voters willing to burn down the system and elect the craziest person possible than I had ever believed. So Progressives ran a lot of Progressive candidates, while the party establishment ran a lot of moderate candidates. It was a good experiment to see who was right. And it turned out to be the party establishment.

As we now know, it was a good strategy to win the House. Democrats flipped 40 seats. Tellingly, while progressives managed to nominate several candidates in red districts — Kara Eastman in Nebraska, Richard Ojeda in West Virginia, and many others — any one of whose victory they would have cited as proof that left-wing candidates can win Trump districts, not a single one of them prevailed in November. Our Revolution went 0–27, Justice Democrats went 0–18, and Brand New Congress went 0–6. The failed technocratic 26-year-old bourgeoise shills who were doing it wrong somehow accounted for 100 percent of the party’s House gains.

Progressives went a combined 0–51 in their house races.​

The leftists chose to focus on a handful of left-wing candidates, like Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, who defeated center-left Democrats in deep-blue districts. The conservative media strategically elevated her in a bid to make AOC and her squad the party’s face. The mutual interest of the two sides made AOC the narrative center of the election. The fact that the party had just run a field experiment between two factions, and the moderate faction prevailed conclusively, was forgotten.

​And I think this is worth emphasizing too. Progressives won running Progressive candidates against moderate Democrats, in Democrat districts. They didn't win running Progressive candidates in moderate or Republican districts. And winning the Presidency will require them to win moderate and Republican districts.

Public satisfaction with the economy is now at its highest point since the peak of the dot-com boom two decades ago. Trump has serious weaknesses of issues like health care, corruption, taxes, and the environment, and a majority of the public disapproves of Trump’s performance, but he does enjoy broad approval of his economic management. Therefore, his reelection strategy revolves around painting his opponents as radical and dangerous. You may not like me, he will argue, but my opponents are going to turn over the apple cart. A Sanders campaign seems almost designed to play directly into Trump’s message.

Whatever evidence might have supported a Sanders-esque populist strategy for Democrats after the 2016 election, it has since collapsed. But in the ideological hothouse of the Sanders world, no setbacks have been acknowledged, no rethinking has taken place, and the skeptics are dismissed as elitist neoliberal corporate shills, as ever. The project moves forward even as the key tests of its viability have all failed. Once enough energy has been invested in a cause, it has too much momentum to be abandoned. For the socialist left, which has no other standard-bearer to choose from, Bernie is too big to fail.

​I will vote for anyone against Trump—even Bernie Sanders. But I feel that I'm distinctly in the minority on that viewpoint. I think Sanders is going to be a hard sell for many Americans and that he's polling well right now because Republicans have not yet begun to run ads attacking him as a godless Commie.