Donald Trump

Coronavirus vaccine may be only 50% effective

Masks and social distancing will be with us for a while:

Scientists are hoping for a coronavirus vaccine that is at least 75% effective, but 50% or 60% effective would be acceptable, too, Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said during a Q&A with the Brown University School of Public Health. “The chances of it being 98% effective is not great, which means you must never abandon the public health approach.”

Dr. Stephen Hahn, the FDA’s commissioner, said last month that the vaccine or vaccines that end up getting authorized will prove to be more than 50% effective, but it’s possible the U.S. could end up with a vaccine that, on average, reduces a person’s risk of a Covid-19 infection by just 50%. “We really felt strongly that that had to be the floor,” Hahn said on July 30, adding that it’s “been batted around among medical groups.”

I know it's depressing as hell to see this on a Monday, but the sooner we get this through our heads the better. That 50% is about the same as influenza vaccines:

Manhattan DA mentions the "F" word in Trump investigation

We're talking about Fraud, and the noose is tightening:

The Manhattan district attorney’s office suggested on Monday that it has been investigating President Trump and his company for possible bank and insurance fraud, a significantly broader inquiry than the prosecutors have acknowledged in the past.

The reports, including investigations into the president’s wealth and an article on the congressional testimony of his former lawyer and fixer, Michael D. Cohen, said that the president may have illegally inflated his net worth and the value of his properties to lenders and insurers. Lawyers for Mr. Trump have said he did nothing wrong.

"May" have? Dude lies in his sleep, of course he misled investors. With all the evil he's done, these charges might not seem very sexy. But remember how they finally brought down Al Capone. No doubt he will try to delay this investigation until after the Election (if not forever), but he can't stop us from talking about it.

Trump's EPA has been corrupt since day one

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Completely subservient to the industries it's supposed to regulate:

Not long after President Trump’s inauguration, the head of a fossil fuels industry group requested a call with the president’s transition team. The subject: Barack Obama’s requirement that oil and gas companies begin collecting data on their releases of methane. That outreach, by Kathleen Sgamma, president of the Western Energy Alliance, appeared to quickly yield the desired results.

“Looks like this will be easier than we thought,” David Kreutzer, an economist who was helping to organize the new president’s Environmental Protection Agency, wrote of canceling the methane reporting requirement in an email to another member of the transition team on Feb. 10, 2017. Three weeks after that email, the E.P.A. officially withdrew the reporting requirement — and effectively blocked the compilation of data that would allow for new regulations to control methane, a powerful climate-warming gas.

This isn't just willful ignorance (burying your head in the sand), it's a concerted effort to conceal information that's vital to the public and its institutions. Among many other things, it allows fossil fuel cheerleaders like John Hood to write glowing Op-Eds about natural gas to a public that is kept ignorant on purpose. Just as methyl mercury once was for coal, fugitive methane is the dirty secret of the natural gas industry, and Trump's kakistocracy has been working overtime to maintain that secret:

Notes from the Kakistocracy: Trump's vaccine czar won't disclose investments

Billions of taxpayer dollars and thousands of lives are at stake:

The scientist leading the Trump administration’s coronavirus vaccine program will be allowed to remain a government contractor, a decision that permits him to avoid ethics disclosures required of federal employees and maintain his investments in pharmaceutical companies.

Two prominent watchdog groups as well as some Democrats in Congress had called for the Department of Health and Human Services to require that the scientist, Dr. Moncef Slaoui, a venture capitalist and a former executive at the pharmaceutical giant GlaxoSmithKline, fall under the same ethics rules as federal employees.

And why are only Democrats in Congress worried about this? Rhetorical question, we all know why. The GOP has hitched its horse to a corrupt President, and it will go wherever he tells it to. This situation is ripe for conflicts of interest, but aside from the corrupt aspects, the end goal of securing and producing a vaccine is put in jeopardy by those conflicts:

FERC authorizes MVP Southgate to begin eminent domain takings in NC

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And you can thank the Trump administration for that heavy hand:

Environmental advocates immediately condemned FERC’s decision. “The Mountain Valley main pipeline has violated water quality standards more than 300 times in Virginia and West Virginia. Yet, this same company plans to extend into North Carolina and bring its reckless construction practices to bear on the communities of these three counties for an entirely unneeded project,” said Ridge Graham, North Carolina field coordinator for Appalachian Voices.

The FERC certificate allows the developer, Mountain Valley Pipeline, LLC, to begin using eminent domain to seize private property for construction along the proposed route, even as the pipeline’s viability remains in question.

Elections have consequences, Chapter 98. Donald Trump made it clear in 2015/2016 when he was campaigning that he would push de-regulation hard if elected President, but many of us (including me) did not believe he would be able to do much along those lines. I was wrong. I made the fatal mistake of assuming that legal barriers and the relative autonomy of individual states would hold him back. But he doesn't understand those things, so he just plows right over them:

To serve and protect: AG Josh Stein sues Trump over vehicle emissions

Sometimes you have to fight to preserve progress:

The lawsuit argues that the final Safer Affordable Fuel-Efficient Vehicles (SAFE) rule stops progress that has been made to protect the environment and reduce greenhouse gas emissions, hurts the economy, and harms public health.

“The Trump administration’s new rule undoes hard-earned progress to protect our health, environment, and economy,” said Attorney General Josh Stein. “As Attorney General, I will fight to uphold the law and safeguard the air we breathe and the water we drink.”

"Hard-earned progress" is right on the money. The U.S. Supreme Court had to (literally) order George W. Bush's EPA to regulate vehicle emissions in 2007, and they fiddled around until Obama's EPA started genuinely working on it. But here's the kicker: auto makers responded to both the emissions regulations and CAFE Standards (MPG), and vast improvements were made in both areas. Traffic still backs up around LA, but most of the smog is gone. In other words, everybody's happy, except the anti-government ideologues. This is what we're dealing with:

Trump wants to set off a Nuke to scare China and Russia

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God how I wish this was fake news:

The Trump administration has discussed whether to conduct the first U.S. nuclear test explosion since 1992 in a move that would have far-reaching consequences for relations with other nuclear powers and reverse a decades-long moratorium on such actions, said a senior administration official and two former officials familiar with the deliberations.

The matter came up at a meeting of senior officials representing the top national security agencies May 15, following accusations from administration officials that Russia and China are conducting low-yield nuclear tests — an assertion that has not been substantiated by publicly available evidence and that both countries have denied.

Not really surprised; Trump views our entire military and its weaponry as his own personal toys he can play with whenever he wants. But I am both terrified and disgusted. I served in the military during the latter days of the Cold War, and a nuclear "exchange" with Russia was a constant backdrop to that. Needless to say, I do not relish the idea of returning to that constant state of alert and fear. Trump has already thrown out several important treaties that were keeping us marginally safer from catastrophe:

The Trust deficit that is plaguing America

I recently posted in a Facebook group dedicated to politics about the judge's decision to open up the churches, and one of the commenters asked where all the attacks on Governor Cooper's pandemic restrictions were coming from. I explained about the upcoming election, including Dan Forest's dismal poll numbers, and that has definitely played a role in the visible pushback. Forest is connected to both the ReopenNC people and the Return America group that filed the lawsuit.

But in order to really understand why these (and many other) people are primed to defy common-sense government actions, we need to delve into the trust deficit that has been building for decades. Follow me below the fold if you can trust me to not mislead you:

Notes from the Kakistocracy: Louis DeJoy is the new Postmaster General

Money makes the Trump world go 'round:

The Postal Service’s board of governors confirmed late Wednesday that Louis DeJoy, a North Carolina businessman who is currently in charge of fundraising for the Republican National Convention in Charlotte, will serve as the new postmaster general.

The action will install a stalwart Trump ally to lead the Postal Service, which he has railed against for years, and probably move him closer than ever before to forcing the service to renegotiate its terms with companies and its own union workforce.

If DeJoy was genuinely interested in supporting and improving the Postal Service, the very first thing he would do is lobby the Senate to amend the stupid law that requires them to fully fund decades-worth of retirement benefits. The main reason that was enacted is so Republicans could wail and gnash their teeth about the post office's financial woes (which they caused). It's the classic GOP "Break it and then complain about it being broken" approach to governing, which we see all the time here in NC. We will see if he is prepared to do the job right, or help Trump attack Jeff Bezos:

The U.S. military is charting its own course during pandemic

And there's no room for Trump's false bravado in that mission:

Defense Department restrictions barring troops, their families and civilian workers from nearly all official travel will not be lifted May 11 when the initial orders were set to expire, Defense Secretary Mark Esper said Tuesday.

The worldwide travel halt has stopped thousands of military moves and has forced some deployed units to remain overseas longer than expected. Esper did not announce immediately how long he expected the stop-movement order to last. But a new target date to end the restrictions meant to help thwart the coronavirus spread could be announced this week, he said.

I've had some feedback from active duty folks who say mid-June is the likely new target. Understand, this is not something the DoD would do unless they were very concerned. PCS moves (Permanent Change of Station) are not about service members going where they want; they are mission-critical re-assignments to keep the myriad of units at capable staffing levels. And freezing deployed units in place (wherever they are) is an expensive and often dangerous nightmare. It's a stark contrast to Trump's push to "get back in business," and we should look at this military stance as a bellwether on the COVID 19 threat level. And in case you were wondering about the ship Captain Crozier sacrificed his career over:

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