Relevant and even prescient commentary on news, politics and the economy.

Trump Issues an Executive Order and . . .

Yea, Trump Issuing another Executive Order is a big so-what. What else is new?

This one is a little different and concerns social media websites.

“In a country that has long cherished the freedom of expression, we cannot allow a limited number of online platforms to hand pick the speech that Americans may access and convey on the internet.  This practice is fundamentally un-American and anti-democratic.  When large, powerful social media companies censor opinions with which they disagree, they exercise a dangerous power.  They cease functioning as passive bulletin boards, and ought to be viewed and treated as content creators.

The growth of online platforms in recent years raises important questions about applying the ideals of the First Amendment to modern communications technology.  Today, many Americans follow the news, stay in touch with friends and family, and share their views on current events through social media and other online platforms.  As a result, these platforms function in many ways as a 21st century equivalent of the public square.

Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and YouTube wield immense, if not unprecedented, power to shape the interpretation of public events; to censor, delete, or disappear information; and to control what people see or do not see.”

The Executive Order then goes on to complain about;

  • Flagging” content as inappropriate, even though it does not violate any stated terms of service,
  • making unannounced and unexplained changes to company policies that have the effect of disfavoring certain viewpoints, and
  • deleting content and entire accounts with no warning, no rationale, and no recourse.

Trump complains about Twitter placing warning markers on comments favoring his agenda and ignoring commentary on Russian collusion which everyone knows is a hoax??? Good thing he does not come to Angry Bear we would spam him for the loon he actually is.

Fear of Getting COVID-19 Can’t Be Used As An Excuse To Vote Absentee

The Texas state supreme court reversed lower courts decisions declaring coronavirus a valid excuse to vote absentee. The lower courts had ruled a lack of immunity to Covid 19 is an adequate reason to be able to vote absentee. While the Texas SC did levy some leeway to their decision, voters suffering  additional health conditions making them vulnerable to the virus could still cite the “disability” excuse to vote absentee. Several justices filed concurrences, but none wholeheartedly adopted the Democrats’ and voter groups’ arguments.

On the federal level, a federal trial court judge sided with the Democrats, but that decision has temporarily been put on hold while the conservative U.S. Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit hears the case.

Of course, the Texas AG has stated he will still go after those he believes violated state election law.

And “when looting starts, shooting starts

And with a wee bit of urban poetry, Trump tosses out his wisdom  jive to warn rioting protestors in Minnesota who are angry over the perceived murder of an African American by the Minneapolis police officers. The 3rd Precinct of the city’s Police Department and the base for the four officers involved in the incident was broken into and set on fire by protestors after they broke into the building.

I think I would have used “the” before shooting and looting.

Trump drops another pearl  at our feet tweeting; “These THUGS are dishonoring the memory of George Floyd, and I won’t let that happen.” If anyone can believe this, let me know. Trump had no qualms about displaying his racism pre-presidency and afterwards. You can tell it is an election year.

Mayor Jacob Frey responded to Trump’s usual deflections; “Weakness is pointing your finger at somebody else during a time of crisis. Donald Trump knows nothing about the strength of Minneapolis.”

It will be interesting to see how the DOJ responds to Trumps call for an investigation as AG Barr has already shown his prejudice against people who are perceived to be disrespectful of police officers.

 

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Mask-less While Standing in A Crowd

This is the same stuff/sh*t, I am seeing in Michigan. I wish I could give them one week of Covid so they could learn. The following is from Digby at Hullabaloo:

I just watched another 60 something mask-less Republican woman in Arizona standing in a crowd of others just like herself tell the news media that she thinks the Coronavirus is not worse than a cold or the flu and she has no fear of it. (She also weirdly said that they don’t even have a name for it yet, which she didn’t explain.)

Maybe she will listen to this fellow:

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Some Comments from Those Who Had Contracted Covid 19

I pulled some purposely unidentified comments from people on a website who have contracted COVID 19. At two months and alive, the virus or dead virus is still lingering, and they are hurting after having survived. My point? It is important you take the necessary precautions to prevent contracting Covid 19. Stay away from crowds and stay home.

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Hi all survivors, I am two months in .  . feel much stronger than 2 weeks ago, even though not 100% myself yet but I am grateful to be able to get on with my daily tasks ( and home working). I still have many symptoms as many of you have : heart rate issues, pins and needles/numbness in the feet / fingers ( they got red and burning).. think my blood circulation is not as good as before. I remain positive and I noticed I smile more and more. One of the things really remind me every day that I have covid is my breathing-SOB.. I have tight chest some days, but most day I have this mild SOB, the feeling of needs to take deep breath ( like I forgot how to breath), when trying to take in deep satisfying breath I just cannot , lit’s like I cannot complete the action, and not get enough air in my lung yet I cannot expand my lungs anymore.. it often helps if I yawn in order to get the air in.. ( I hope you get what I mean) I also noticed on the days I have bad reflux, the breathing seems to get worse  .  .   Do you have similar experience? Can you share hope you cope with it? Or any dr advice from your Experience. Ps . My x ray was clear, blood oxygen level perfect   .   .

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Hi I’m from India. 27 yo M I’m in the same situation as you are in. My symptoms (SOB and fainted once) started in March 13th. Worsened by the end of March. Visited multiple doctors. Got checked by pulmonologists and cardiologists. Reports were normal. Breathing symptoms eased around mid of April. Then the chest pains set in. Had a weird chest pain for 2 weeks. Had an echocardiogram and reports were normal. Now two months in. The SOB still exists. But I am able to lie down flat on the bed from past week. But the chest aches though. I walk slowly everyday for 30-60 mins. My arms become numb sometimes. I find my chest and back (area near my heart) sore. I have severe stomach bloating sometimes. My testicles hurt. All this while i never had fever or cough. And my oxygen remained above 95 throughout this time. I noticed one thing, my resting heart rate dropped from 70 to 60. When i was lying flat it someone’s reached 45 at nights. Maybe my heart rate was always like that. Who knows.

Was on a 5 day dose of azithromycin around mid April. Now I’m only on vitamins.

I hope i can get back to normal soon. Like the way i was before march 13.

I’m glad that you have improved. I wish you a faster recovery and good health.

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Who Ordered This Stuff?

I am reading this on Bloomberg entitled “Saudi oil rush threatens to disrupt stabilizing U.S. oil market.”

These shipments are planned, Saudis are not sending this over out of the goodness of their hearts. Furthermore, the shipments themselves take roughly 21 days to get to the US. The orders were placed over 3 weeks ago. When you have a lot of US capacity which produces at a higher price and we are seeking to become oil independent and we are seeking to become manufacturing independent; why would you destroy your capability if we want made in America product? Who is the perpetrator?

Bloomberg: “Over 30 tankers laden are set to arrive in the U.S. Gulf Coast and West Coast during May and June, according to ship tracking data compiled by Bloomberg. The more-than 50 million barrels of Saudi crude on the water threaten to disrupt a positive supply development: U.S. crude stockpiles declined for the first time since January and inventories at the Cushing, Oklahoma storage hub contracted by the most in months.

Director of oil and products research at Morningstar Inc., Sandy Fielden: ‘The expected Saudi deliveries could push U.S. inventories back to builds depending on their timing. If the shipments land at a rate that isn’t balanced by falling production or an uptick in exports, then we’ll see a domestic build.'”

What a surprise. What he is saying here is if you see two shipments a week which surpasses demand rather than one shipment per week to match demand, inventory will build once again and prices will drop. Fracking as a business will decrease. Once again, we will be at the mercy of an unstable Middle East and now the Russians.

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Asking the Wrong Questions: Reflections on Amazon, the Post Office, and the Greater Good

The Greater Good

“If they can get you asking the wrong questions, they don’t have to worry about answers.” — Thomas Pynchon, Gravity’s Rainbow

 

Originally written in 2018 on the Save The Post Office blog and featured at Angry Bear in 2019, retired North Carolina Post Master Mark Jamison wrote on the issues facing USPS while in competition with Amazon, UPS, and FedX. The same issue has been brought to the forefront again with President Trump refusing to give a subsidy to the USPS, unless the USPS raises prices to deliver packages for Amazon, and also punishes Amazon’s Owner Bezos. The answer remains the same, “no” and Mark explains why.

I have not written or said much about postal issues for the last couple of years. After seven years of writing articles for Save the Post Office and other websites, as well as contributing numerous comments to the Postal Regulatory Commission, what more was there to say?

I spent thirty years of my working life at the Postal Service. I’ve put in countless hours reading USPS reports, OIG reports, GAO reports, and who knows how many pleadings before the PRC. I have written numerous articles about the general idea of the postal network as an essential public infrastructure, the arcane minutiae of postal costing and the actions of the PRC, and the machinations of a Congress that seemed more inclined to bloviate and posture than attempt to solve a serious problem affecting millions of Americans and thousands of communities, large and small, rural and urban.

I never stopped thinking about these issues, but what more was there to say? And why bother, really, when the politicians and managers that could actually make changes seemed inclined to let inertia and the status quo slowly erode the capabilities of the postal network while degrading hundreds of thousands of good middle-class jobs?

And then President Trump had one of those brain farts he periodically shovels out over Twitter.

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Plight of Indians During Epidemic and Who is Helping

About a month ago I wrote on the COVID 19 plight of the Navajo Indians in New Mexico, Arizona and Utah. New Mexico Governor Lujan Grisham requested military field hospitals to be set up to handle the fast moving virus. Trumps comment was, “Wow, that’s something.” The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and Federal Emergency Management Agency together constructed three reservation field hospitals to be used as alternative care sites according to the tribe earlier in the month of April..

Experts say more than 5 million people who identify as American Indian and Alaskan Native are especially vulnerable.

Most recent :

WINDOW ROCK, Ariz. — The Navajo Department of Health in coordination with the Navajo Epidemiology Center and the Navajo Area Indian Health Service, reported 85 new cases of COVID19 for the Navajo Nation and a total of 79 deaths as of Tuesday. The total number of positive COVID-19 cases for the Navajo Nation has reached 2,559. A total of 15,651 COVID-19 tests have been administered with 11,609 negative test results.

Navajo Nation President Jonathan Nez: Today, the federal government announced that they intend to release a portion of funds appropriated by Congress over one month ago to tribes to help fight COVID-19, but I’ll believe it when I see it. We’ve had to file a lawsuit to get what states received weeks ago. We couldn’t sit around and wait for those dollars, so we’ve had boots on the ground in nearly 20 communities giving out food, water, fire wood, protective masks, and other supplies using our own dollars and contributions from outside entities. This will help many families, but we need to continue to do our part as individuals by staying home as much as possible to flatten the curve.”

Another donation to the Navajo Nation is coming from overseas.

“More than 170 years ago, the Choctaw Nation sent $170 to starving Irish families during the potato famine. A sculpture in County Cork commemorates the generosity of the tribe, itself poor. In recent decades, ties between Ireland and the Choctaws have grown.

Hundreds of the people of Ireland are repaying the kindness shown to them during the potato famine by giving to a charity drive for two Native American tribes suffering from the Covid-19 pandemic. As of Tuesday (5th), the fund-raiser has raised more than $1.8 million to help supply clean water and food and health supplies to people in the Navajo Nation and the Hopi Reservation, with hundreds of thousands of dollars coming from Irish donors.

The generosity of the Choctaw came not long after the United States government forcibly relocated the tribe and several other American Indian tribes from the Southeastern United States to  western parts of the US in a march of thousands of miles known as the Trail of Tears that left thousands of people dead along the way.

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“cannot remember a single International Crisis in which the United States had no global presence at all”

A good Anne Appelbaum read here at The Atlantic to which I subscribe to in print and via computer. The print-version makes for a brief case stuffer when I am flying somewhere far away.

The Youtube depicts China as a Lego terra-cotta warrior with a low masculine voice and the United States as a Lego Statue of Liberty with a high, squeaky voice. “The rest of the World is Laughing at Donald Trump” The official Chinese news agency “Xinhua,” is poking at Trump and the US in a comical manner or lets just say they are laughing at our president and us as we idlily standby watching this buffoon represent us. 1.6 million viewers have seen this Youtube.
The lead-in title comes from a statement made by a former (1990s) Swedish Prime Minister, Carl Bildt who was also a United Nations envoy during the Bosnian wars and a foreign minister for many years afterwards. In a comment to Anne Appelbaum, he remarked he could never remember a time over his 30 years of service to his country when the United States did not have or did not display a global presence at all during an international crisis.

“’Normally, when something happens’—a war, an earthquake—’everybody waits to see what the Americans are doing, for better or for worse, and then they calibrate their own response based on that.’”

Now they are looking to China.

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Risk Corridor Funds Awarded to Healthcare Insurance Companies and Coops

SCOTUS decided 8-1 in favor of health insurance companies and coops in MAINE COMMUNITY HEALTH OPTIONS v. UNITED STATES decision, April 27, 2020 to be paid.

I have been following this issue since 2015 and SCOTUS finally ruled on Republican’s (Sessions, Upton, Kingston) blockage of the Risk Corridor Program funding. A bit of history to explain how we got to this point.

Letter to the editor at Modern Healthcare Alert (2019):

“If you are going to report on this particular incident within the Cromnibus Act which passed December 11, 2014, why not give the complete history of how the Risk Corridor Program was stymied?

Initially, then Budget Committee Republican Ranking Member Senator Sessions sent a letter to the GAO asking whether the Risk Corridor payments were being appropriated correctly. In a letter back to Sessions the GAO said Agencies can only appropriate funds at the “discretion of Congress.” Funding had not been properly secured for the Risk Corridor Program. This effectively stopped any new funding from being used for the Risk Corridor Program; however, funding could be transferred from other healthcare programs according to the GAO.

With the aid of House Energy and Commerce Chair Fred Upton and House Appropriations Chair Jack Kingston, Section 227 was inserted into the Cromnibus Act.

“Page 892, Section 227: None of the funds made available by this Act from the Federal Hospital Insurance Trust Fund or the Federal Supplemental Medical Insurance Trust Fund, or transferred from other accounts funded by this Act to the ‘‘Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services—Program Management’’ account, may be used for payments under section 1342(b)(1) of Public Law 111–148 (relating  to risk corridors).”

End of comment.

Comment on Health Affairs Blog (2020)

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Will Labor and Capitalism Survive the Current Republican Party?

On April 20th Georgia Governor Kemp called for “reopening more of the state’s economy to minimize the ‘terrible impact of Covid-19 on public health and the pocketbook.’” It would apply to certain non-essential businesses. Kemp, who was later told by Trump it was too early to reopen Georgia’s economy, was following Trump’s lead to begin to open state economies.

Many states like Georgia do not have the funds available (by choice) to pay for long periods of unemployment benefits and the magnitude of them from the shutdown. Indeed and in the past, Georgia cut unemployment benefits to 14 weeks. Georgia’s constitution also restricts the government from raising taxes and prevents the state governor from borrowing money.

From March to April 2020, Georgia paid out $220 million in unemployment benefits and just shy of what was paid out all of 2019 ($297 million). Forty percent of the unemployment benefit paid went to non-essential businesses employees who worked in health clubs, hair salons, tattoo parlors, bowling alleys, and also eat-in restaurant employees. Most are low-wage jobs concentrated in the cities of Atlanta, Brunswick, Savannah and Statesboro. The make up of this segment of the labor force is mostly black citizens or citizens of color. In Georgia, 19% of African-American workers are employed in the service industry (2018 BLS Statistics). Governor Kemp calling back to work this segment of the labor force puts them at a greater risk to contract COVID 19. Many of them lack reliable access to healthcare (Georgia did not expand Medicaid). By allowing them to go back to work, the amount of unemployment being paid monthly decreases.

In a normal economy, an employee who’s been released or laidoff (automotive language) can not keep receiving unemployment benefits if they are offered their job back, a similar job, and they do not take it. Even with the threat of the COVID to their health and safety, Georgia can define a return to their old jobs as suitable work.

After the leap, Texas and Iowa  .  .  .

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First Pass of Small Business Loans to States

This was the first pass (Ernie Tedeschi of Evercore prepared the data) and it is arranged by the percentage of loans completed in each state. As you can see Nebraska received ~81% of the loans applied for by the small businesses in Nebraska. One million, 35 thousand and 86 SBA PPP Loans (1,035, 086) were approved by April 13 totally $247, 543, 397, 521 by 4,664 lenders. Seventy percent of the funds were already allocated by April 13.

Some Applicant Complaints:

  • Applied at Bank 0f America on April 3. Got 3 calls on Friday Saturday and Tuesday asking if I uploaded my documents. They were already there!! Instead of approving my loan BOA is delaying and stalling to run out the clock.
  • In Michigan, one small company dealing with Comerica was told repeatedly Comerica had not received the code to apply for the loans yet. The small ten person  applied when the program first started.

Some detail from Bob Clough at “CloughNotes” which looks at the numbers in a different manner after the leap.

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