By Robert A. Vella
When even the conservative polling firm Rasmussen shows President Trump‘s approval rating 15 points underwater, you know his reelection hopes are in big trouble (see: Poll: Trump Hits Lowest Rasmussen Net Approval Since 2017). Consequently, Trump has been crying about the damage done to his presidency by the coronavirus pandemic like a spoiled brat who is forced to eat his vegetables (see: “This Is So Unfair to Me”: Trump Whines About His COVID-19 Victimhood as Campaign Flails). What he and his Republican sycophants refuse to understand is that this deadly contagion presented them with a perfect opportunity to boost their political prospects by demonstrating great leadership in times of great crisis. George Washington accomplished that by forging a fledgling nation. Abraham Lincoln did that by preserving a nation torn apart by violent civil war. Franklin Delano Roosevelt achieved that too by lifting a devastated country out of the Great Depression and by rallying the nation against the scourge of fascism in World War II. Most recently, Barack Obama‘s stable stewardship through the Great Recession helped save America and the world from an economic collapse which could have been much, much worse. All four of those presidents, by the way, won reelection by large margins.
Obviously, presidential leadership means a lot to Americans; and, they know Donald Trump is no leader.
Instead, Trump and his GOP are doing the exact opposite of leading a nation. They are waging a cultural and ideological war against America. Through their rhetoric (i.e. propaganda) and actions (often done covertly), they are trying to systematically destroy the core principles this nation was founded upon (i.e. the rule of law and democracy). Theirs is the right-wing extremist agenda of authoritarianism, privilege, and social stratification brutally epitomized by America’s WWII enemies Nazi Germany, fascist Italy, and Imperial Japan. When Trump rails against vote-by-mail, he really means that only he and his supporters should have that privilege. When he rampages against Twitter for correctly flagging his tweets as disinformation, he isn’t promoting his free speech rights. He is really trying to suppress anyone who challenges his blatant falsehoods. Twitter is a corporation. The First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution only prohibits government from infringing upon free speech rights:
Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.
What Twitter did in the story detailed below is exercise its free speech rights (as affirmed by the U.S. Supreme Court in its 2010 ruling on Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission). Ironically, what Trump is doing now by threatening to wield the regulatory powers of the federal government against Twitter is a clear violation of the Constitution. Such hypocrisy by Trump and his henchmen exposes what he and the GOP are up to. To help illustrate this, I highly recommend watching the recently concluded three-part documentary series on Ulysses S. Grant (see: Grant on The History Channel) which is poignantly analogous to the current culture wars plaguing America. Additionally, it will help you understand why police protect white supremacist protesters (e.g. Charlottesville) but attack black protesters who voice anger over police misconduct (e.g. Minneapolis). Also, I strongly urge readers to learn more about how right-wing ideologues – masquerading as The Federalist Society – are attempting to effectuate a hostile takeover of the U.S. judicial system as the centerpiece of their authoritarian agenda (see: The Right-Wing Legal Network Is Now Openly Pushing Conspiracy Theories).
Here’s today’s news:
Federal and state officials across the country have altered or hidden public health data crucial to tracking the coronavirus’ spread, hindering the ability to detect a surge of infections as President Donald Trump pushes the nation to reopen rapidly.
In at least a dozen states, health departments have inflated testing numbers or deflated death tallies by changing criteria for who counts as a coronavirus victim and what counts as a coronavirus test, according to reporting from POLITICO, other news outlets and the states’ own admissions. Some states have shifted the metrics for a “safe” reopening; Arizona sought to clamp down on bad news at one point by simply shuttering its pandemic modeling. About a third of the states aren’t even reporting hospital admission data — a big red flag for the resurgence of the virus.
The spotty data flow is particularly worrisome to public health officials trying to help Americans make decisions about safely venturing out.
In one cruise-ship coronavirus outbreak, more than 80% of people who tested positive for COVID-19 did not show any symptoms of the disease, according to a new paper published in the journal Thorax.
The research shows just how prevalent asymptomatic transmission of COVID-19 may be—a reality that both suggests official case counts are drastic underestimates, and emphasizes the importance of practicing social distancing even if you feel healthy.
Researchers have known for months that asymptomatic transmission of COVID-19 is possible and common, but without population-wide testing, it’s been difficult to estimate how many people get infected without showing symptoms. The new paper provides an example of how widespread asymptomatic transmission can be, at least in a contained environment.
First-time claims for unemployment benefits totaled 2.1 million last week, the lowest total since the coronavirus crisis began though indicative that a historically high number of Americans remain separated from their jobs.
Economists surveyed by Dow Jones had been looking for 2.05 million.
Continuing claims, or those who have been collecting for at least two weeks, numbered 21.05 million, a clearer picture of how many workers are still sidelined. That number dropped sharply, falling 3.86 million from the previous week. Since the pandemic was declared in mid-March, more than 40 million have filed claims.
Related story: Boeing is cutting 12,000 jobs, plans thousands more layoffs
White House officials have decided not to release updated economic projections this summer, opting against publishing forecasts that would almost certainly codify an administration assessment that the coronavirus pandemic has led to a severe economic downturn, according to three people with knowledge of the decision.
The White House is supposed to unveil a federal budget proposal every February and then provides a “mid-session review” in July or August with updated projections on economic trends such as unemployment, inflation and economic growth.
Budget experts said they were not aware of any previous White House opting against providing forecasts in this “mid-session review” document in any other year since at least the 1970s.
Real GDP growth, a measure of economic activity in the U.S., averaged 3.33% during the 64 years and 16 presidential terms going back to the mid-1940s, according to a 2013 research paper by professors of economics Alan Blinder and Mark Watson at Princeton University. With a Republican in the White House, though, the economy’s growth slowed to 2.54%, the economists found. With a Democrat in office, growth jumped to 4.35% on average.
Trump’s directive chiefly seeks to embolden federal regulators to rethink a portion of law known as Section 230, according to the two people, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to describe a document that could still evolve and has not been officially signed by the president. That law spares tech companies from being held liable for the comments, videos and other content posted by users on their platforms.
The law is controversial. It allows tech companies the freedom to police their platforms for abuse without fear of lawsuits. But critics say those exceptions have also allowed some of Silicon Valley’s most profitable companies to skirt responsibility for the harmful content that flourishes on their online platforms, including hate speech, terrorist propaganda and election-related falsehoods.
The order would prompt federal officials to open a proceeding to reconsider the scope of the law, the people familiar with the document said. A change could mean potentially dramatic free-speech implications and wide-ranging consequences for a broad swath of companies reliant on doing business on the Internet.
The order would also seek to channel complaints about political bias to the Federal Trade Commission, which would be encouraged to probe whether tech companies’ content-moderation policies are in keeping with their pledges of neutrality. It would also require federal agencies to review their spending on social media advertising, according to the people familiar with the White House’s thinking.
The U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit resoundingly rejected a lawsuit the conservative legal organization Freedom Watch and right-wing provocateur Laura Loomer filed in 2018 against four major technology companies: Google, Facebook, Twitter, and Apple.
Facebook, Twitter and other platforms have banned Loomer, citing anti-Muslim statements.
The unanimous court decision from a three-judge panel runs to only four pages, but is dismissive of a wide range of legal claims some conservatives and liberals have leveled at social media firms in recent months.
The appeals court judges said that despite the companies’ power, they cannot violate the First Amendment because it only regulates governments, not the private sector.