SOCIOPATH-IN-CHIEF?: The Mayo Clinic's list of symptoms!

MONDAY, APRIL 6, 2020

Senior gets it right:
On Saturday, President Trump's televised daily "briefing" got off to an early start.

It started at 4:15 PM Eastern. There followed an hour and 44 minutes of behavior which might be imagined to serve as a type of self-diagnosis.

According to the White House transcript, the televised session ended at 5:59 PM. There were different takeaways from the astonishing hour and 44 minutes which had been televised.

For us, the main individual takeaway involved the president's latest reversal. Remarkably, he reverted to his focus from the previous week, in which we need to get the economy open again as soon as possible—in which "the cure can't be worse than the problem."

Simply put, the president can't seem to maintain a point of view for more than four or five days at a time.

Others saw different takeaways. In Sunday's New York Times, the main takeaway involved the president's aggressive peddling of a particular "unproven drug," a push which became even more extreme during yesterday's televised briefing.

That said, our overwhelming reaction to Saturday's session involved a type of self-diagnosis the president seemed to be offering. Did more than two or three minutes ever elapse in which the president didn't display one of the basic symptoms of the disorder we have in mind?

We'll name that disorder tomorrow. For now, consider just one of the many things this badly disordered man said and did in the course of that hour and 44 minutes.

Midway through the endless session, the president was asked about Captain Brett Crozier, who was recently relieved of his command of the USS Theodore Roosevelt.

According to the official White House transcript, the reporter's question went like this:
REPORTER (4/4/20): Mr. President, can we talk about the—Captain Crozier of the USS Roosevelt?

TRUMP: Which one? What?

REPORTER: Captain Crozier, who was removed—the captain who was removed as the commander of the USS Roosevelt.

I don’t know if you saw the videos of sailors cheering for him as he left. Our reporting shows that some sailors have said that they are worried to re-enlist because they are not convinced that commanders are taking care of their health and taking care of them.

TRUMP: Yeah.

REPORTER: What do you say to them? And how does removing this captain take care of their health?
Personally, we hate the familiar, cloying "what do you say to them" type of question. But the reporter included another question:

There are more than four thousand sailors on the USS Roosevelt. How does removing Captain Crozier take care of those sailors' health?

Below, you see the president's answer in full. Warning! The public was apparently being misled as the president mocked Captain Crozier, who has reportedly now been diagnosed with COVID-19 himself:
TRUMP (continuing directly): Here we have one of the greatest—here we have one of the greatest ships in the world. Nuclear aircraft carrier, incredible ship, with thousands and thousands of people. And you had about 120 that were infected.

Now, I guess the captain stopped in Vietnam and people got off in Vietnam. Perhaps you don’t do that in the middle of a pandemic or, or something that looked like it was going to be—

You know, history would say you don’t necessarily stop and let your sailors get off, number one.

But more importantly, he wrote a letter. The letter was a five-page letter from a captain, and the letter was all over the place. That’s not appropriate. I don’t think that’s appropriate. And these are tough people. These are tough, strong people.

I thought it looked terrible, to be honest with you. Now, they made their decision. I didn’t make the decision. Secretary of Defense was involved, and a lot of people were involved.

I thought it was terrible what he did, to write a letter. I mean, this isn’t a class on literature. This is a captain of a massive ship that’s nuclear powered. And he shouldn’t be talking that way in a letter. He could call and ask and suggest.

But he stopped in Vietnam. A lot of people got off the boat. They came back and they had infection. And I thought it was inappropriate for the captain of a ship to do [that].
In typical fashion, Trump mocked Crozier for having conducted "a class on literature." He even complained that Crozier's letter "was all over the place!"

That was a remarkable criticism coming from President Trump!

That said, Trump began and ended by savaging Crozier for having stopped in Vietnam. "You know, history would say you don’t necessarily stop and let your sailors gets off, number one," the sarcastic commander sarcastically said, conducting a history class.

Because we know how this game is played, a few questions came to mind. Why and when did the USS Roosevelt stop in Vietnam? Knowing the way our discourse works, we decided to check the facts out.

We still can't tell you the full story concerning that event. We can't tell you how many sailors disembarked in Da Nang. We can't tell you who decided to let them leave the ship.

We can at least tell you this:

The USS Roosevelt stopped in Da Nang is early March. On March 24, Admiral Michael Gilday, the Chief of Naval Operations, discussed the event as part of a formal press conference.

Gilday explained why the decision to stop in Da Nang was made. He also revealed who made the decision.

It wasn't Captain Crozier's decision! According to the official Defense Department transcript, the Q-and-A went like this:
QUESTION (3/24/20): Admiral Gilday, back to the situation with the Theodore Roosevelt.

So 15 days ago, it was in port in Vietnam. How many sailors left and went on a port call visit, and was that really safe given what has been happening in Asia?

I've been asking for several briefings why port calls were continuing given the COVID virus. And then if you can explain how you figured out that these three sailors were sick.

Was it because you did broad testing, was it simply a fever? And once they have a fever, isn't it too late, you've already encountered a number of people?

ADM. GILDAY: So with respect to the port visit in Vietnam, so at that particular time when the decision was made in late February, early March, to pull the ship into Da Nang, which is on the central coast, at that time there were only 16 positive cases in Vietnam, and those were well to the north, all isolated in Hanoi.

And so, this was a very risk-informed decision by actually the INDOPACOM Commander, Admiral Davidson
, on whether or not we proceed with that port visit.
Gilday's answer continued from there. The reporter had asked a multi-part question. Several of his questions didn't get answered.

That said, let's return to Saturday's sarcastic attacks by Trump.

On Saturday, the commander-in-chief attacked Captain Crozier for stopping in Vietnam. He attacked him for this at the start, and then again at the end, of his latest non-answer answer.

That's what the commander did during Saturday's televised session. But eleven days earlier, Admiral Gilday, in a formal press briefing, had reported that the decision to stop wasn't made by Captain Crozier. The decision had been made higher up in the chain of command.

Yesterday morning, it didn't take long for us to locate this information. When we did, we thought of the famous statement by Joseph Welch during the Army-McCarthy hearings:

"At long last, have you left no sense of decency?"

In the case of President Trump, the answer routinely seems to be no. That said, we'll quickly say, as we've said before, that it probably isn't his "fault."

We have no idea if the commander-in-chief knows that the decision to stop was apparently made by the INDOPACOM Commander, not by Captain Crozier. That said, anyone who has watched the commander over the years will understand a basic fact:

Almost surely, the commander would have said what he said, and done what he did, without regard to any such knowledge or facts. This is the way the commander behaves—and relentless behavior of this type fits nicely with the Mayo Clinic's list of symptoms.

Starting tomorrow, we'll compare the Mayo Clinics's list to the president's behavior last Saturday. Did he ever go as much as two minutes without seeming to trigger a diagnosis of a serious disorder?

His behavior was wildly disordered during that hour and 44 minutes. It's long past time when rational players would be discussing, in careful ways, what his behavior may mean.

We'll discuss the Mayo Clinic's list of symptoms tomorrow. For today, we tip our hat to the New York Times for publishing this morning's column by Jennifer Senior, whose work we've recommended in the past.

At long last, the Times is publishing someone saying what needs to be said. Senior's column starts like this:
SENIOR (4/6/20): Since the early days of the Trump administration, an impassioned group of mental health professionals have warned the public about the president’s cramped and disordered mind, a darkened attic of fluttering bats. Their assessments have been controversial. The American Psychiatric Association’s code of ethics expressly forbids its members from diagnosing a public figure from afar.

Enough is enough....[T]hese are exceptional, urgent times.
Enough is enough, Senior says. APA guidelines to the side, it's time to start discussing the president's psychiatric state—his possible psychiatric disorder, the state of his mental health.

Senior continues as shown:
SENIOR (continuing directly): Back in October, George T. Conway III, the conservative lawyer and husband of Kellyanne, wrote a long, devastating essay for The Atlantic, noting that Trump has all the hallmarks of narcissistic personality disorder. That disorder was dangerous enough during times of prosperity, jeopardizing the moral and institutional foundations of our country.

But now we’re in the midst of a global pandemic. The president’s pathology is endangering not just institutions, but lives.
Senior is advancing one possible diagnosis. Starting tomorrow, we'll be advancing another.

It should be noted that George Conway isn't a mental health professional. Neither is Senior, nor are we at this site.

Other people are such specialists, and they've long been disappeared within the upper-end press corps. But at long last, the New York Times is publishing work which says we need to discuss the possibility that our disordered, sarcastic commander in chief is psychiatrically impaired.

More than two years ago, the editorial board of the Times shut down this nascent discussion through this ill-advised editorial. Today, Senior says that this discussion must proceed.

People are dying, Senior notes. "These are exceptional, urgent times."

Jennifer Senior has gotten it right. At long last, does the press corps have the decency, not to mention the smarts, to listen to what she has said?

Tomorrow: The Mayo Clinic's list. Also, notes on prevalence

BREAKING: An astonishing guest is terrified!

SATURDAY, APRIL 4, 2020

Elsewhere, the daily fail:
Along the way, we've come to admire Nicholas Kristof's devotion to human values.

Along the way, we sometimes thought he had a tendency toward a few types of mistakes. To cite one example, we thought he tended to accept, no questions asked, the standard presentations of "educational experts" in ways which didn't help.

We've come to admire his devotion. That said, we were balled by this passage from this Thursday's column:
KRISTOF (4/2/20): It’s baffling that the richest country in the history of the world fails so abysmally at protecting its health workers, especially when it had two months’ lead time. And for hospitals now to retaliate against health workers who try to protect themselves—ousting them just when they are most needed—is both unconscionable and idiotic.
We're not sure why that's baffling.

Why are we failing to protect our health workers? For starters, we'd offer the most obvious reason:

We have a deeply disordered person in the Oval Office. There's every chance that, at the end of the psychiatric day, he doesn't actually care.

We also have a widely disordered intellectual and journalistic culture. Anthropologically speaking, this may simply be part of "the human condition." But the way our journalistic culture is working hasn't helped.

As part of our journalistic culture, our major news orgs have agreed--we mustn't discuss the possibility that President Trump is severely disordered.

By the fall of 2017, Yale's Bandy X. Lee was trying to launch that discussion. With this editorial, the New York Times shut her effort down.

It's true that any attempt to conduct that discussion would have been beyond the upper-end press corps' extremely modest skill level. But this is part of our journalistic and intellectual culture. It helps explain the remarkable segment we saw Don Lemon conduct last night.

Lemon introduced two guests. Here's how he described them:
LEMON (4/3/20): New York City has become ground zero for the outbreak in this country. Residents reporting almost constant sirens. In just the last day, more than 6,500 new cases were reported, along with over 300 deaths. Just the past day.

So, joining me now, two New York heroes, Dr. Laura Ucik, and also Judy Sheridan-Gonzalez. She is an E.R. nurse and the president of the New York State Nurses association.

I'm so grateful to have both of you on this evening. Let me just thank you right off for what you're doing. And don't tell me that you're not heroes, because you indeed are.
We'll admit it. Our failure to protect such people is so extreme that we find it cloying to see them introduced as heroes. In our view, their devotion to duty takes them beyond the realm for which the rest of us have developed words.

We don't mean that as a criticism of Lemon, who skillfully conducted a remarkable segment about an ongoing state of disgrace.

We'll start with the exchange shown below. Sheridan-Gonzalez had just finished reporting that some nurses at her hospital have already died as a result of their work with coronavirus patients:
LEMON: You've been experiencing coronavirus symptoms yourself. How are you feeling?

SHERIDAN-GONZALEZ: I'm OK now. I just want to see if I have antibodies. My test was negative. There is a lot of false negatives. But we're hoping to get the antibodies test to see if we have some kind of resistance. I think that would be helpful.

It doesn't necessarily protect us completely, but it seems to perhaps give us a little bit of immunity, because our colleagues are exhausted. You know, we started off being concerned. The concern turned to worry. The worry turned to fear and then to abject terror. And now we're just almost numb. Many of us are ill. We're still trying to work. But the need for protective equipment is essential.
Moments later, Lemon asked an excellent question:
LEMON: Why do you continue to go put your own life in danger? I know you're speaking on behalf of nurses throughout the New York area.

SHERIDAN-GONZALEZ: Correct. Yes. We go in. Nurses do what they do because that's what we have to do. This—we're like the Normandy of this viral invasion. We are on the front lines. We have had casualties. We hope we'll win.
In our view, this kind of devotion lies somewhere beyond the reach of our language and our common conceptions. When Lemon turned to Dr, Ucik, this point became even more clear:
LEMON (continuing directly): Dr. Ucik, you are 28 years old. You're writing your last will and testament. How concerned are you about your health?

UCIK: I'm absolutely terrified. We had people in their 20s die in our hospital this past week. And I realized when that happened that I also might not survive this pandemic. And it's really been a reckoning for me.

I wrote out my wishes. I spoke with my family. I've cried a lot this week.
But, you know, this pandemic is something that is affecting everyone, and nobody is really safe from coronavirus.

I think about what it would be like to be in a prison right now or in a nursing home...
To our eye and ear, Dr. Ucik seemed like a superb young person—almost unimaginably so. In our assessment, the quality of such devotion is almost baffling in itself, given the moral and intellectual squalor which obtains and largely goes unchallenged in so many other precincts.

She's 28, and she's made out her will. To our eye and ear, it seemed plain that she wasn't exaggerating the state of her personal fear. But she keeps going in.

For us, her personal affect as she spoke was striking and instructive. We think her second exchange with Lemon is also worth recording:
LEMON: You know, Doctor, a lot of people are getting restless under these social distancing guidelines and these stay-at-home orders. What is your message to people who say that I don't know anyone with this virus? My community will never be anything like a New York. I don't think we need this stay at home guidelines. What do you say to them?

UCIK: You know, I felt that way too, a few weeks ago, when I had friends over, and I realize now how serious this is, both on a personal level—

I had patients who I saw in the office, you know, a week and a half ago, and they were fine, and now they're dead. And the major financial impact for many of my patients and my community at large.

One of my coworkers who is a doctor recently had to PayPal a patient rent money so that the patient could stay home and not risk her life by going to work. So my patients, they're losing their lives. They're losing their jobs. They're losing their homes, and they need basic supports right now like eviction, rent support, income protections.

Those things are just as important as the kinds of protections that Judy and I are asking for, like masks and gowns, because this is something that we're all in together.
Ucik and Sheridan-Gonzalez are asking for masks and gowns. Dr. Ucik makes this request at age 28, even as she writes her will and makes her wishes known to her family.

And as she keeps going in.

Dr. Ucik is asking for masks and gowns. Is it baffling that a situation like this could be taking place here?

We'd say it isn't baffling. What's striking to us is the contrast—the contrast between this kind of devotion and the sorts of behavior we see in other precincts.

Commander Trump's daily briefings marvels of misdirection and aggressive blame-shifting. Quite routinely, if it weren't for the non-answer answers, there would be no answers at all.

The habitual refusal to answer straightforward questions extends beyond the reach of the president's long-winded campaign monologues. Consider an exchange from Thursday's prime-time event, which started with a reference to the commander's latest (negative) test for coronavirus.

The question was quite straightforward. The non-answer answer was not:
REPORTER 1 (4/2/20): Dr. Birx, with regard to the test, the president’s sample collection took one minute, results reported back in 15 minutes. I realize [he's] the president of the United States, but when will everyone get to take a test that works that quickly and you get results that quickly?

BIRX: So, these are new tests and we have prioritized the groups that we think have the least access to testing now. And who do we mean by that?

We mean the Indian Health Service—they’re often in remote areas; rural areas; the governors of the northwestern states that may not have the advantage of these high-throughput machines that are often across the East Coast and in high metro areas—Colorado—and then across the West Coast.

So we’ve prioritized the presidential 15-minute test to the Indian Health Services and public health labs so that they can support nursing home testing and other areas where we think surveillance is absolutely key. So at this moment they’re prioritized in that way.

TRUMP: It’s thirteen to twelve hundred.

BIRX: Yes, twelve hundred of them are going out that way.
The question was quite straightforward. Can you find an answer in the non-response response?

To her credit, the reporter attempted to follow up. The official White House transcript helps us see the futility in such attempts:
REPORTER 1 (continuing directly): So do more of those tests need to be made in order for more people—

TRUMP: They are being made.

BIRX: Yeah.

REPORTER 1: Okay. So in a matter of—

TRUMP: They’re moving very quickly—it’s happening—in this case.

BIRX: So I’m glad you asked that because, today, there’s 18,000 of these machines already out there. We’re trying to find out exactly where everyone is because you can see that gives you amazing flexibility. Because if people would allow it to be loaned to a state that’s in a hotspot or a state where you want to do additional surveillance, 18,000 tests, 18,000 machines, is a huge amount. And it really gets to your very question about how we can prioritize what we have at the same time we’re moving out what is new.

And so really figuring out who should those go to, how—who can we ask communities—because these will be in the community—to share those machines into the community who need the testing now. And I think that’s really an incredible question that really needs to be answered over the next 24 hours.
Reporter 1 was interrupted twice as she tried to restate her question. That said:

Even as Dr. Birx expressed her pleasure with the reporter's very question, can you find an answer to that question? When will everyone get such tests? Can you find an answer?

Reporter 1's simple question had been met with a string on non-answers. And sure enough! At this point, the press corps' greatest gods, Scattershot and Look Over Here, imposed their will on this reporter's effort:
REPORTER 2 (continuing directly): Dr. Birx, a point of clarity about the face-covering guidance. You said it’s still a point of debate. You said—you used the phrase, “the guidance, if it comes out.” Is the guidance coming out? And when?
Instead of insisting on an answer to Reporter 1's question, Reporter 2 returned to the topic of masks.

The press corps has loved the topic of masks because it's so simple-minded and easy to picture that even they can grasp it. So it has gone, down through the years, with so many other topics:

Who would you like to have a beer with? What's up with that clothing and hair?

Scattershot and Look Over Here control large swaths of our non-discourse discourse. We think of scattershot congressional hearings, in which each member has to get on TV. We think of press "briefings" like this.

Given our species' state of evolution, we live with this familiar behavior as if it makes sense. Meanwhile, walking among us are Don Lemon's guests.

Is it baffling that we aren't protecting Sheridan-Gonzalez and Ucik? Major anthropologists keep telling us that it's actually par for the course.

It's bred in the bone, these despondent future experts say. Our species contains quite a few Trumps, then ever so slowly works its way up to the level of Lemon's astonishing guests.

We saw Lemon's segment in rerun in the 3 AM hour. We're glad we happened to catch it.

BREAKING: Commander salutes a consummate pro!

FRIDAY, APRIL 3, 2020

Pence refuses to flinch:
Let's be fair! Commander Trump's daily marathon briefings do serve an important purpose.

Sure, they serve his political interests. But they serve a much more serious purpose—they keep us rubes well informed.

Cable suits keep airing these shows to serve this public interest. At yesterday's briefing, to cite one example, the public got to learn this:
TRUMP (4/2/20): One other thing, just a quick thing. So, what I've found is when governors called me, I think in every case they’ve always been so nice, so nice and I’ve seen them and heard them say, “Thank you, very much. You have done a great job"—a "fantastic" job in one case—"Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.”

Then I’ll see the governor, usually of the opposite party in almost all cases except maybe one, but in almost all cases they’re very generous. They’re very nice. They thank me, everything’s great. We’re doing a great job. And then I’ll see him on television and it’s like a different person.

And I realize there are some people, because of politics, that if they say, “We want a thousand ventilators” and I’ll say, “No, Jim. I want to give you five thousand ventilators," they’ll say, “Thank you. You are the greatest president that’s ever lived.”

And then I’ll see them quoted in a paper, or see them on a show, and they’ll say, “The president didn’t come through for me. I’m very disappointed in the president.”

And we have a lot of that. They’re very happy when they talk to me.
Then I see them. But there are some people, if they asked for give hundred of something and if I gave him five thousand, you’ll say, “How’s the president doing?” “Well, we don’t like the job.”

To my face they’re very nice. But, then sometimes, I guess they assume I don’t watch them or something, but I watch very closely.
In such ways, the people learn about their Dear Leader's daily experience. We're allowed to learn what the governors say—what they say to Dear Leader in private.

He gives them ten times what they want. Then they go out and trash him!

This is important information; the people need to know this. The cable suits keep these marathon shows on the air in prime time to serve this key public interest.

The airing of these daily shows also provides a type of anthropology lesson. We learn about the intellectual horizons of our species, Homo sapiens, in this first Year of the Plague, at least on the upper ends of prevailing American culture.

We learn what kinds of exchanges make sense to those in our upper-end press corps. We learn what kinds of behaviors they can swallow without any questions asked.

What looks like a real exchange to members of this upper-end caste? What will be taken as an "answer" after they have offered a question?

Within the realm of these upper-end players, what kinds of behavior will seem to fall within the unremarkable range? What kinds of behaviors will come and go without any further comment?

What counts as a sensible Q-and-A? What counts as information? Consider what happened at Wednesday's briefing when John Roberts, he of Fox News, asked a very good question, then refused to accept the response.

Roberts is a Canadian-born, non-Hannity, semi-hunk anchor type. He worked for CBS News, then for CNN, before he landed at Fox.

He sits up front at the daily briefings. The commander calls on him a lot. On Wednesday, he asked a good question. His question went like this:
ROBERTS (4/1/20): There are a lot of people who are worried about getting sick, and do they end up in a hospital. People who are uninsured, and will they be crushed by medical bills.

You were considering
, last month—it was last month already, in March—reopening the Healthcare.gov exchanges. There has been a determination not to do that. Could you tell us what the rationale was behind that decision and what—what do you have as an alternative?
For basic background to this question, you can just click here. Sample:

"The option to reopen markets, in what is known as a special enrollment period, would have made it easier for people who have recently lost jobs or who had already been uninsured to obtain health insurance."

People who are losing their jobs could obtain health insurance! The commander had decided not to adopt that policy.

Now, John Roberts was asking why. This was Trump's response:
TRUMP (continuing directly): I’ll tell you—Mike?

Okay. They took that up under the task force, and maybe, Mike, you want to say a few word about this—words about that?
Skillfully delegating, the commander threw to Pence. As seen above, the leader tends to save his own words for matters of major importance.

Vice President Pence made his way to the mike. He set sail as shown:
PENCE (continuing directly): Well, thank you, Mr. President. And what I can tell you is that the president has made a priority, from the outset of our task force work, to make sure every American knows that they can have a coronavirus and they don’t have to worry about the cost.

We were very inspired as well, because of the president’s engagement with the leading health insurance companies
in the country that now—so far, two of the top health insurance companies in America have announced that they’re not only willing to waive co-pays on testing, and now testing is fully covered because of the bill the president signed for every American.
According to Pence, everyone is now covered for the cost of testing (if they're able to get it). There had been some other "very inspiring" stuff. So far, though, Pence hadn't said anything about the question Roberts asked.

This is thoroughly normal behavior at these highly informative briefings. But for some reason, Roberts had a bug up his ascot this day. For that reason, the big hunk said this:
"But what about people who don’t have insurance?"
Oh yeah! The question Roberts had asked concerned people who don't have insurance! Thus refreshed, Vice President Pence set sail again, this time at major length:
PENCE (continuing directly): But also, that these two insurance companies have waived co-pays on all coronavirus treatment. And I can assure you that as Congress and the president and the administration begin to discuss the next piece of legislation, we’re going to make sure that Americans have those costs compensated and covered.

Our priority right now is ensuring that every American takes the “30 Days to Slow the Spread” to heart. The best thing we can do for one another, for our family’s health, for the most vulnerable among us, is practice those mitigation strategies that the president outlined yesterday for the next 30 days.

We’re dealing with testing to make sure that every American can have a test that needs one. We’re dealing—we’re dealing with supplies, and we’re making great progress in building personal protective equipment and ensuring that ventilators are available, particularly for the communities most impacted.

But the American people can be confident that as we move into this, we’re going to make sure that our healthcare workers are properly compensated for their extraordinary and courageous work. And we’ll make sure that the financial burden on those who end up contracting the coronavirus and dealing with its most serious symptoms also can deal with those issues and deal with those costs.
Once again, it was inspiring stuff. But in this second bite at the apple, Pence dealt with mitigation and testing and ventilators and the courage of our health care workers.

He didn't seal with Roberts' question. Danged if the fellow from Fox didn't haul off and do it again!
ROBERTS (continuing directly): Understood, Mr. Vice President. But there will be people who don’t have insurance who get sick before any of these mitigation efforts are put into place. And without opening the healthcare exchanges, where can they find insurance? The people who aren’t insured by these companies that are covering the cost of the co-pay, where can people go now to get health insurance if they get sick—before they're sick?
Simply put, this sort of thing is never done. It simply isn't part of our floundering nation's scattershot, low-comprehension press culture.

Like a Westworld refugee, Roberts was breaking the rules. In the face of this malfunction, Pence displayed the professionalism the commander in chief would soon praise:
PENCE (continuing directly): Well, all across America, we have Medicaid for underprivileged Americans. And at the president’s direction, the Center for Medicaid and Medicare Services has given unprecedented waivers for states to expand coverage for coronavirus testing and treatment.

We’ve also extended waivers for Medicare administration to make sure that people have access to that coverage. But we’re going to continue to bring opportunities to the president. The traditional systems of Medicaid, in particular, for the uninsured in America—
At this point, the malfunctioning Fox machine broke in on the speaker again! Initially, he almost allowed himself to be misdirected. But then, he got himself back on track, and actual sparring ensued:
ROBERTS (continuing directly): Could you expand that to cover middle-class people?

PENCE: Well, the—I think what we’re seeing health insurance companies do today, John, is really inspiring. I mean, one of the things—

ROBERTS: But, again, Mr. Vice President—

PENCE: One of the things that’s characterized—

ROBERTS: I’m sorry to belabor a point, but that’s for people who

PENCE: —the president’s approach here—

ROBERTS: That’s for people who already have insurance.
He was sorry to belabor the point; doing so is an offense to the culture. But Trump's designee kept discussing people who already have insurance. Roberts' question concerned those people who don't.

From there, Pence delivered one more peroration. He again discussed the inspiring conduct of American business under the president's leadership.

(Sample: "As the president said many times, we’re, we’re inspired by the spirit of American businesses...And, frankly, because of that, that patriotic and compassionate spirit that’s being reflected, we’ve already seen two of the largest insurance companies in the country announce that they’re going to be providing full coverage, free of charge, for coronavirus treatment.")

Pence was back to the way (two) insurance companies were providing free coverage. Were providing free coverage for those who are already insured!

This had gone on, and on and on, for a very long time now. Roberts' behavior had been very odd, but Vice President Pence hadn't lost his temper, the way Roberts hoped he would.

Roberts had broken every rule in prevailing upper-end press corps culture! At this point, the Dearest Leader of all stepped in with his wise assessment.

Th wisest and dearest of all known leaders praised the vice president's work. He chuckled as he did so, with Pence's face growing tight:
TRUMP: John, I think this: I think it’s a very fair question though, and it’s something we’re really going to look at because it doesn’t seem fair. If you have it, you have a big advantage. And at certain income level you do.

I think it’s one of the greatest answers I’ve ever heard, because Mike was able to speak for five minutes and not even touch your question.

So I said—I said, that’s what you call a great professional.

But let me just tell you, you really are—it’s really a fair question and it’s something we’re looking at.
Dear Leader wisely stopped the exchange. In his assessment, Vice President Pence had given "one of the greatest answers [the commander had] ever heard."

Pence had been able to speak for five minutes without even touching the question! "That’s what you call a great professional," our cable-anointed dispenser of important information now said.

The cable nets air these briefings in prime time so we can be thus served. We get to learn about the way the nation's governors treat the commander. If one of the machines malfunctions, we get to see our great professionals keep such bad conduct in check.

The people who run the cable networks air these marathons in prime time. As a matter of anthropology, the sessions are highly instructive.

Something somewhat similar:
In our view, something somewhat similar happened at Tuesday's briefing. As we noted in this post, one of the supporting players had asked a sensible question:
QUESTION (3/31/20): Can I just ask a follow up testing question, real quick, before we move on?

So the testing numbers—I understand a million tests [have been] done; it’s a big increase. But we were told there would be 27 million tests available by the end of the month.

So can you outline where in the supply chain, where in the logistics chain, are those other 26?
Where are the 26 million missing tests?

In our view, it could have been the start of a wonderful discussion! While saying she wanted to be "real quick," the reporter had asked a fairly good question.

Once again, the commander threw to Pence. Once again Pence staged an oration. He started with these fateful words:

"Just for clarification..."

To our ear, the clarification which followed was deeply obscure. Beyond that, it wandered away from the obvious gist of the question, in which the reporter suggested that the administration has made an array of "promises, promises" which they haven't come close to keeping.

Pence's response was deeply obscure. It led us away from the gist of the question. But to our ear, the reporter didn't behave like Roberts.

To our ear, she bought into the obscurification Pence had delivered. The exchange was over "real quick."

Cable suits air this mess in prime time. When they do, we learn about the present state of the species.

Third letter to today's 9-year old kids!

THURSDAY, APRIL 2, 2020

An early glimpse of a method:
After reviewing the moral and intellectual squalor of our nation's daily briefings—"in the darkness of this time"—it's hard to redirect one's sensibilities toward a loftier realm.

For that reason, we went outside and experienced sunshine and air. Let's consider how Wittgenstein entered the world of academic philosophy in 1911, at the age of 22.

Professor Goldstein described this history in her 2005 book about Godel's incompleteness theorems. The history involves a comical part of 20th century high-end "philosophy. It also gives us an early look at a certain Wittgensteinian method.

Goldstein sets the scene. For the moment, we're leaving the squalor of Donald J. Trump and the walking dead behind:
GOLDSTEIN (page 90-91): Wittgenstein came from one of the wealthiest and most culturally elite families of Vienna, "the Austrian version of the Krupps, the Carnegies, the Rothschilds, whose lavish palace on Alleegasse had hosted concerts by Brahms and Mahler"...While studying aeronautical engineering at the Technische Hochschule in Berlin, he had learned of Russell's paradox, and became interested in the foundations of mathematics.
(The quotation comes from Professor Monk.)

Wittgenstein "became interested in the foundations of mathematics," whatever that might mean. In October 1911, therefore, he presented himself, unannounced, at (Bertrand) Russell's lodgings in Cambridge.

Before the decade was done, he was one of the foremost figures in the world of English-language academic philosophy.

We'll examine "Russell's Paradox" at some point in the future. Suffice to say that it concerns "the set of all sets not members of themselves," a silly theoretical construct which, to this very day, provokes the laughter of the gods lounging about on Olympus.

Russell's Paradox will come a bit later. That said, Goldstein compares it to the ancient "liar's paradox," which she describes like this:
GOLDSTEIN (page 49-50): Paradoxes, in the technical sense, are those catastrophes of reason whereby the mind is compelled by logic itself to draw contradictory conclusions. Many are of the self-referential variety; troubles arise because some linguistic term—a description, a sentence—potentially refers to itself. The most ancient of these paradoxes is known as the "liar's paradox," its lineage going back to the ancient Greeks. It is centered on the self-referential sentence: "This very sentence is false." This sentence must be, like all sentences, either true or false. But if it is true, then it is false, since that is what it says; and if it false, well then, it is true, since, again, that is what it says. It must, therefore, be both true and false, and that is a severe problem. The mind crashes.
Should the mind of a sensible person "crash" when confronted with the liar's paradox? Should any sensible person regard the liar's paradox as "a catastrophe of reason?"

We'll have to say that the answer is no. Follow us down this byway:

"This very sentence is false!" So goes the liar's paradox. Professor Goldstein explains why it makes the mind crash. She starts with this assertion:
"This sentence must be, like all sentences, either true or false."
"Like all sentences," the liar's paradox must be true or false. On its face, that may seem to make perfect sense.

That said, the later Wittgenstein came to lodge a type of objection. Some collections of words which look like well-formed sentences are neither true nor false, he said, demonstrated or implied.

Those collections of words are incoherent. They don't make recognizable sense. They don't rise to the level of being false. They're neither true nor false.

Certain collections of words are simply incoherent. That said, these collections will often resemble other collections of words which do make perfect sense.

For that reason, they may seem to make sense. They may seem to make sense, but they actually don't in any established manner.

Consider some other collections of words which do make perfect sense. On the surface, these collections of words resemble the collection of words known as the liar's paradox:
Four collections of words:
1) The second sentence on page 98 of John Smith's book is false.
2) The very first thing you just said was false.
3) Every sentence out of your mouth last night was false.

4) This very sentence is false.
Those first three sentences can be said to share a "surface grammar" with the liar's paradox. That said, we all know how to evaluate such sentences. We look at the (pre-existing) sentence in question and decide if it's true or false.

On the surface, those first three sentences resemble the liar's paradox. That said, a major difference exists in what might be called their "depth grammar." Here's what we mean by that:

In each of those three sentences, we're told that some pre-existing sentence or statement is false. By the well-known rules of the game, we then examine that pre-existing sentence to determine whether we agree.

Everyone knows how to do this! But in the case of the liar's paradox, there is no pre-existing sentence for us to evaluate. No one has actually presented a statement. Nothing has been offered which could be true or false.

In that sense, the peculiar collection called "the liar's paradox" is fundamentally different from a wide array of very familiar statements. On the surface, the liar's paradox resembles those familiar statements, but it's fundamentally different.

The younger Wittgenstein was drawn to Cambridge by "Russell's Paradox." He bought the package Russell was selling. By the time of his later work, he had decided that vast amounts of his celebrated early work were just plain old wrong.

The later Wittgenstein decided that the early Wittgenstein was wrong. He might also be seen to have said something like this:

Much of traditional philosophy is comprised of statements which resemble perfectly reasonable statements. Because they resemble familiar statements, we may not notice that, in the depth of their logic (or "grammar"), they aren't like the familiar statements at all, and they don't make any obvious sense.

"The very sentence is false?" I have no idea why a sensible person would regard that as a "catastrophe of reason" which makes "the mind crash." It's just a bit of silly wordplay, apropos of nothing.

"Up is down" is rather odd too, but it's just a bunch of words. No one's mind should crash when they hear it said. So too with the ancient liar's paradox.

Shortly after the turn of the century, Bertrand Russell was wasting his time attempting to ponder "the set of all sets not members of themselves." He was trying to limn "the foundations of mathematics," whatever that might mean.

Russell was all tangled up in his eponymous "paradox." As a very young fellow from Vienna, Wittgenstein got sucked in.

Years later, he reconsidered. He ended up producing the book you shouldn't attempt to read.

Next: The preface and the first few pages of Philosophical Investigations. "Not a good book," he said.

BREAKING: Todd, Burnett start bending the curve!

THURSDAY, APRIL 2, 2020

Cable nets pull the plug on a virus:
CNN's Chris Cuomo has tested positive for the coronavirus.

Not only that, he's sick. Last night, at the end of his 9 PM hour, he described the symptoms he experienced Tuesday night:
CUOMO (4/1/20): So yes, I've had a—I've had a fever. You've had a fever. But 102, 103, 103-plus that wouldn't quit, and it was like somebody was beating me like a pinata.

And I was shivering so much that Sanjay's right—I chipped my tooth! These are not cheap, OK? And they call them the rigors, like rigors, R-I-G-O-R-S, but rigors.

So the sun comes up. I'm awake. I was up all night. It was one of—I'm telling you, I was hallucinating. My—my dad was talking to me. I was seeing people from college, people I haven't seen in forever. It was freaky, what I lived through last night.

And it may happen again tonight. Doctor says it may happen like five, eight times.
Cuomo said he expects to recover. But why was he on the air last night, broadcasting from quarantine in the basement of his family home?

He explained himself in substantial detail. We'll present fuller text below.

For now, we'll present one key part of what he said near the end of the hour. Building on earlier remarks, Cuomo offered this:
CUOMO: Now look, again, I'm lucky, and I'm going to keep saying it to you because you have to understand.

I'm doing this show not because I don't want to—I want to make myself sick. I don't want to make myself more sick. I don't know that I could, to be honest. But the—you have to see that you can get through this, OK?

But at the same time, I'm trying to get you to understand the urgency. I'm doing the show because that's how much it matters. I can't sit on the couch and watch us have this bad information put out here and this false sense of security that's going on.
He said he couldn't sit on his couch and "watch us have this bad information put out here."

Whose "bad information" was he talking about? Along the way, he dropped hints:
CUOMO: This president and vice president can keep saying how much they're testing. But it's not enough. It's not even close, and they know it.

And they can say that anyone who wants a test can get one, and they know that's BS
, because you and I both know that we know people in our lives who can't get tested. And when they do get tested, they can't get results, until they're already over the illness.
In fairness, Trump and Pence haven't exactly said, of late, that anyone who wants a test can get one. Where Trump once made that ludicrous claim, he's now more inclined to dissemble and misdirect when the topic arises.

Talking around so basic a topic is "bad information" too. Then too, as he introduced New Jersey governor Phil Murphy, Cuomo mentioned this:
CUOMO: Governor, the president once again suggested today, "You know, these governors, you'd be shocked at what they ask you for. It's like you can't believe they can even use the amounts that they're asking for. They just ask. It's never enough."

Are you anywhere near over-capacity with absolutely anything that you need to fight the virus?

MURPHY: I mean the stark answer, Chris, is no, and that doesn't mean that we don't have open lines, and it doesn't mean that we haven't gotten support because we have. The lines are open, and we've gotten support.

But we're still way short on what we're going to need. For ventilators, we've made progress, but we're way short. We're way short on personal protective equipment.
Murphy saying it doesn't make it so, of course. But just for the record:

You'll almost never see the walking dead of the upper-end press corps formulate good strong questions concerning equipment shortfalls. You'll never see them insist on good clear answers, possibly from the commander in chief, more plausibly from Fauci or Birx.

The children simply don't play it that way. They have extremely limited skills, and they're afraid of Trump.

In a rational world, the commander's bogus "suggestions" qualify as bad information too. Earlier, Cuomo had even cited something Dr. Birx said at yesterday's "briefing"/campaign event:
CUOMO: Testing. To hear Dr. Birx today say, Hey, you know, these ELISA tests, these are easy. You know, we can test workers. We can work it up in no time.

We ask, you know, "What? Where has it been for months then, if it's so easy?"

And to hear them have a COVID conference today, you know, I'm all bundled up, I'm ready to watch the conference...and they start talking about drug interdiction? Now?

[...]

We've got to have straight-talk right now. We don't have the time for BS.
Should someone ask Dr. Birx that question? It certainly wouldn't hurt!

But the "bad information" to which Cuomo referred was mainly coming from Trump and Pence. He said we don't have time for their endless BS. With that, we cut to Chuck Todd and Erin Burnett.

We've never been happier to see Chuck—though we'd like to have seen him earlier.

Last night, at 7 PM Eastern, the commander was droning on and on in his latest marathon rally.

At the start, he'd appeared with a swarm of generals. As with the caravans from the south which he conjured during our last election, he now conjured the notion that drug cartels are pushing product in from the south under cover of the pandemic.

The commander spent less time yesterday with his standard monologues. That said, even before his military fluffers departed, he was even able to deliver his Monologue Concerning The Wall:
TRUMP (4/1/20): You know, the wall is up to about 160 miles already. And any areas where we have that wall, it’s, for the most part, contiguous. We have fill-ins. But we’re up to 161 miles exactly.

And any place where you have that wall, other than walking around it on the edges, it’s stopping everybody cold. I mean, we’re stopping, we’re—Nobody has seen anything like it. That’s how good it works...
Nobody has seen anything like it! As the monologue droned on from there, we learned that The Wall is even stopping the virus!

Concerning the governors' attempts to administer testing and acquire supplies, we also got to hear this:
QUESTION: Is the U.S. stopping shipment of our own stockpile, through USAID, to other countries?

TRUMP: No. Whatever we have, whatever we’ve committed to, we commit. But we also need a lot for ourselves, so we’re very focused on that until we get over this. So obviously, we’re not going to be shipping too much until—now, we do have excess of certain things, and we don’t have enough of others.

I just had a great talk today with the—Doug McMillon, from Walmart. And I gave him a very, very big order to—for gowns, for protective gear for the doctors, for the nurses, for everything. And he’s actually very excited about it. He’s the biggest purchaser of this kind of thing. I mean, of anything probably in the world. And he is very excited about it.

And he said, “What size?” I said, “It’s almost unlimited.”

When you look at these hospitals, the amount that they order, you almost say, “How could they possibly use so much, whether it’s masks or the protective gear?” But we are supplying a tremendous amount, and we just ordered a lot from Walmart.

And he’s taken this on personally. And I said, “Let it go ship—let it be shipped not to a warehouse, directly to the site of the hospital or wherever they need it,” because we save a lot of time when we do that.

So Walmart, in addition to many other companies and people, is now involved at the highest level.
The hospitals are asking for things they don't need, but Walmart is now on the case.

The order Walmart took is "very, very large." We have so much extra stuff, we'll be shipping to other countries!

This gong-show is staged every day before the press corps' walking dead. The gong-show is a campaign event. It's North Korean TV. It's also an endless source of "bad information."

Tomorrow, we'll return to a question which was asked at Tuesday's briefing (see yesterday afternoon's post). We'll pair it with a remarkable statement by the commander after his trusty vice president burned a large chunk of America's time pretending to answer a very salient question.

The commander's statement said it all. We'll explore those exchanges tomorrow.

For today, we have never been so happy to see our old pal Chuck. It happened at 7 PM Eastern. All of a sudden, there he was, with a panel of pundits!

The commander was still blathering on. But at long last, MSNBC had pulled the plug on the daily "briefing."

We flipped over to CNN, and there sat Erin Burnett. CNN had also pulled the plus on the "bad information!"

Don't get us wrong! As of 7 PM, yesterday's "briefing" had already run for 85 minutes. "Bad information" is the principal product these horrible sessions produce.

These daily "briefings" are a virtual criminal act—an assault on public order. In the course of the daily proceeding, the most disordered man in this country spreads a virus around.

He spreads the virus of "bad information." It's something he's done his entire life, and he's quite skilled at the task.

Over the past three years, the upper-end press corps has refused to discuss the commander's disordered mental state. This would make it harder for them to explain why they decided to stop airing his performances.

That said, the big news yesterday concerned the pulling of the plug. Quite belatedly, Todd and Burnett were bending the curve on the spreading of "bad information."

These daily briefings are an assault on good order. They're staged by a master of false impressions, one the press corps has been enabling for many long years at this point.

More from Cuomo: Why did Cuomo broadcast last night? Near the end of his show, he said this:
CUOMO: What, am I going to sit around all day and watch that there is not the right information being given still? That we're letting states make choices about whether or not they do the only single thing that can make a difference for this country?

Nobody can sit on the sidelines right now, least of all somebody who has been blessed with a platform to talk to you about it.

[...]

It's easy for someone like me. I'm lucky, OK? No matter how my journey goes with coronavirus, the life I've had, the family I have to take care of me, the ability I have to self-quarantine, and people bringing me food, and a wife, and my kids.

Thank God they didn't have it! Look how lucky I got here.

I want you to be thinking about everybody who is not as lucky as I am, who are dealing with the same that I am, and ten times worse...
Once again, the commander had blathered and peddled disinformation at length. Presumably, it isn't his "fault" that he's mentally disordered.

His apparent illness isn't his fault. What's everyone else's excuse?

It almost could have been the start...

WEDNESDAY, APRIL 1, 2020

...of a beautiful question-and-answer:
Should cable channels broadcast the president's "daily briefings?"

Three New York magazine scribes debate the question here.
Especially after yesterday's marathon lunacy, we would say the answer is no. But any news org which took that stand would have to bite a series of bullets.

By now, it's abundantly clear that these daily "briefings" are really campaign events / propaganda sessions. Tiny amounts of information may sometimes emerge, but they're buried under an avalanche of nonsense and disinformation.

As we noted this morning, the haplessness of our upper-end journalists turns them into key players in this power grab. Their skills are virtually non-existent. They might as well not even be there.

You'd think that everyone could agree on the following points. The basic blocking-and-tackling of our current disaster turns on these basic question:
How much testing is available? How much testing is needed? Precisely when will the gap disappear?

How many ventilators exist in this country? How many ventilators will be needed? When will the shortfall be addressed?

How much testing will soon be possible? How many new ventilators will be produced? How much protective gear for the nation's health workers?

In all cases, we need to see two sets of numbers—current numbers versus projected need. How hard is this point to grasp?
In all these matters, the journalists must compare the amount of material being produced to the amount which will be needed. Otherwise, Trump will simply bluster ahead, rattling a litany of very large numbers, creating the impression that his incredible leadership has virtually flooded the zone.

So far, our journalists show no ability to produce such interrogations. With that in mind, consider a moment from last night's marathon "briefing." It almost seemed like it might be the start of a useful question:
QUESTION (3/31/20): Can I just ask a follow up testing question, real quick, before we move on?

So the testing numbers—I understand a million tests [have been] done; it’s a big increase. But we were told there would be 27 million tests available by the end of the month.

So can you outline where
in the supply chain, where in the logistics chain, are those other 26?
The question came from Shannon Pettypiece, senior White House reporter for NBC News Digital and frequent MSNBC guest. The question looked to the past, not to the future, but it went to a significant point:

It asked about a wildly inaccurate previous statement. Our journalists have had a very hard time getting Trump to respond to such questions, in part because their questions have often been poorly formed.

This question was quite straightforward. It involved a giant gap between an earlier pledge from a Trump official and the current reality.

Where are the 26 million tests? As retrospective questions go, this one looked quite promising.

In response to this promising question, the president threw to Vice President Pence. Tomorrow morning, we'll show you where that took us.

Spoiler alert:

Simply put, our current scribes simply aren't up to this task. You confront a pandemic with the press corps you have, but daily "briefings" will always be gong-shows given our current lineup of journalistic guardians.

Many journalists went to the finest schools. It doesn't much seem to have helped. Simply put, they lack the essential chops.

In large part for that reason, it's time to throw in the towel and call this gong-show off.

BREAKING: All the president's monologues!

WEDNESDAY, APRIL 1, 2020

Plus, the press corps' walking dead:
Yesterday, our long day's journey into brain cell death lasted well over two hours.

It represents a new advance in our nation's unfolding experiment with North Korean TV. Under this model, Dear Leader will eventually be on every screen, twenty-four hours each day.

We're now up to two hours plus. This raises a basic question:

How can so much time get filled?

Simple! During yesterday's long day's journey, Commander Donald J. Trump performed all the president's monologues. Some were even performed more than once, but very few were missed:
A few of yesterday's monologues:
The president performed the monologue about his (alleged) older, heavier friend who is now in a coma. (This monologue was performed twice.)

He performed the monologue about the way he grew up near Elmhurst Hospital in Elmhurst, Queens. (Performed twice.)

He performed the monologue about the way 5th Avenue doesn't have "anybody walking on the street" and doesn't have any traffic when he sees it on TV.

He performed the monologue about the amazing decision he made concerning closing our borders to China.
Yesterday, he even performed a new variant of the monologue in which unnamed people call him up and tell him he's done an incredible job.

In yesterday's performance, three unnamed governors "that truly have disliked me over the years" were said to have done that. (Two of these unnamed governors were said to be "very respected.")

You're getting the basic idea. That said, we'll focus below on the way the press corps' walking dead handled the latest performance(s) of the president's Ventilator Monologues. But good God!

They asked so many useless questions in the course of yesterday's journey that the president even got to perform his Impeachment Monologue! At stupefying length, the performance went like this:
QUESTION (3/31/20): Mitch McConnell said that impeachment diverted the attention of the government. Do you think that in any way, this was happening in Italy at the same time. Did it divert your attention or your team’s attention or the vice president’s attention?

TRUMP: Well, I don’t like to think I did. I think I handled it very well, but I guess it probably did. I mean, I got impeached. I think I certainly devoted a little time to thinking about it, Right?

But think of it. It was a hoax. It was a total hoax.
And when you think that I got impeached only because they had a majority in the House. They didn’t get one Republican vote. 196 to nothing. Not one Republican. I don’t think it’s ever happened. The Republicans stuck together, and they stuck together in the Senate. 52 to a half. A half!

So when you say that, yeah, I think it took a lot of, I see them going and saying about speed. Well, they probably illegally impeached me in the sense that, if you look at the FBI today with what happened, the horrible things, nobody cares about that now, because all they’re thinking about is the virus. And that’s okay with me.

But you look at the report that came out from IG Horowitz, it’s disgraceful what went on. It’s disgraceful. It’s a total disgrace. They got caught in the act, but you know what? We won’t talk about that now.

Did it divert my attention? I think I’m getting A-pluses for the way I handled myself during a phony impeachment, OK? It was a hoax. But certainly, I guess I thought of it. And I think I probably acted—I don’t think I would have done any better had I not been impeached, OK? And I think that’s a great tribute to something. Maybe it’s a tribute to me. But I don’t think I would have acted any differently, or I don’t think I would have acted any faster.

But the Democrats, their whole life, their whole being, their whole existence was to try and get me out of office any way they can. Even if it was a phony deal. And it was a phony deal. And it turned out, and all you have to do is look today at the FBI reports. Take a look at what the FBI did. Take a look at the people. Take a look at Comey’s report. Seven and eight pages of total kill. Take a look at that. Take a look at the report on McCabe. Just read it. And you’ll see how horrible it was. And you know what? I don’t think this country is going to take it if you want to know the truth.
With that, plus test kits and ventilators, you could save somebody's life!

At any rate, the president is getting A-plus grades for the way he handled impeachment. His performance was a great tribute to something, quite possibly to himself.

So it went as a nation's Dear Leader staged a long march into the night. Sitting before him, arrayed in chairs, were the nation's Walking Dead.

Has there ever been a group of humans who found it harder to focus on basic questions? Who found it harder to insist on getting actual answers? Consider a remarkable part of yesterday's "briefing"—The Governors Who Didn't Bark.

Try to imagine! Late Tuesday, the audiotape of the president's phone call was laid out for all to hear. In this phone call, Governor Bullock told Dear Leader, in great detail, about the difficulty Montana is having in making testing available.

On the tape of that remarkable phone call, Dear Leader responded to Bullock's statement as shown:
TRUMP (3/30/20): Tony, you can answer if you want, but I haven’t heard about testing in weeks. We’ve tested more now than any nation in the world. We’ve got these great tests and we’re coming out with another one tomorrow, where it's almost instantaneous testing. But I haven’t heard about testing being a problem.
He hadn't heard about testing being a problem in weeks! Meanwhile, at Tuesday's briefing, he told the dead that people had been very happy with him during that phone call.

After the audiotape was released, other governors—Republicans and Democrats—stepped up to voice support for Bullock's presentation. Tuesday night, and then yesterday, this had been widely discussed on cable.

That said, the audiotape hadn't been mentioned at Tuesday's "briefing," possibly because of the timing of its release. Late yesterday afternoon, enter The Walking Dead.

During yesterday's endless performance, they put their inability to focus on full public display. During more than two hours of rambling, disjointed questions, Dear Leader's bizarre remark about testing went unmentioned again!

No one asked about the weird remark the commander had made the previous day! Instead, the commander added a crazy new wrinkle to his Testing Monologue:
QUESTION (3/31/20): We were told yesterday that your accomplishment of the U.S., at least is accomplishing 100,000 tests per day, but we’re still hearing difficult stories from the front lines, some of the first responders that you praised so appropriately a little while ago, that they can’t test all of the people that they need to test. Do you have any kind of projection as to when everyone who needs a test will be able to receive one?

TRUMP: I can only say that we’re doing more than anybody in the world by far. We are testing highly accurate tests. These are tests that work, as you know, many tests are being sent to countries that are broken.

QUESTION: But it’s still not enough.

TRUMP: Well, every day we get, and the word is exponential, we are getting more and more and more, and now we have the new tests that you saw yesterday. That’s going to be rolled out, I think, tomorrow or the next day, and that’s going to take only a few minutes, literally a few minutes to see the result and it’s a highly accurate result.

I mean, the tests were given out, not by us, by other countries, where there was a 50/50 chance that it was wrong. What kind of a test is that? These are highly accurate tests, but the new tests that are coming out are very quick and they were just developed. Abbott Labs did the one yesterday. So we’re doing more than anybody in the world by far and they’re very accurate tests, and we’re getting a lot of information from those tests.
In the president's Testing Monologue, our tests have always been best. Yesterday, though, a new hook appeared:

The tests the other countries performed were, in essence, a coin flip! There was a 50/50 chance they were wrong. What kind of testing was that?

This ludicrous statement went flying by without press corps objection. Meanwhile, no one asked about Dear Leader's remarkable statement, the day before, in response to Bullock.

Of all the president's monologues, yesterday's Ventilator Monologue may have been most striking. At one point, Dr. Birx gave the dead a chance to ask an obvious question:
BIRX: I mean, I don’t know if you heard the report this morning. There’s 8,000 ventilators in the UK. If you translate that to the United states, that would be like the United states having less than 40,000 ventilators. We have five times that amount. So I mean, these are the things that everybody is having to face, and I think the United States is in an excellent position from our medical care position, but we don’t want to have to test that system. We want this to be a much smaller epidemic with much smaller mortality.
Interesting! In that statement, Dr. Birx seemed to say that the United States has 200,000 ventilators.

That may sound like a very large number. But the recitation of such numbers constitutes an obvious gong show unless you make the essential comparison:
The U.S. has 200,000 ventilators? How many ventilators are we projected to need?
None of the walking dead asked that obvious question. Instead, the president kept performing a monologue in which he said he has control of 10,000 ventilators to be distributed later.

He has a stockpile of 10,000? How many is that compared to projected need?

None of the walking dead asked! They very rarely show any ability to work with numbers, no matter how basic the context.

So it goes with our nation's Dead. They live by night, in scattershot fashion. As we've noted many times through the years, these life forms seem to possess almost no analytical skills.

Kids who are 9 years old today will have to address this remarkable history as they rebuild our culture. In our afternoon posts, we're leaving them messages in a bottle. These messages identify one direction they would be wise to pursue.

Yesterday, though, we saw the way we all got to this place:

Donald J. Trump was performing All The President's Monologues, the rambling stories he now performs every day at that time. And as he burned the hours away, The Walking Dead just sat there.

We've often wondered, in recent years, about the rise of Hollywood zombie drama. Why are people drawn to such tedious story lines, we have sometimes asked.

A speculative psychiatrist might advance a possibility. Perhaps we sense that we, as a people, have long been intellectually and morally dead. We find ourselves drawn to dramatic portrayals of this state of affairs.

At any rate, the commander floated some new ideas during yesterday's journey. Cuomo wants to run for president. Nancy Pelosi may not care about the homeless.

New York and New Jersey were being floated as the nation's scapegoats. New York and New Jersey got a very late start, but Florid's brilliant Ron DeSantis knows just what he's doing:
QUESTION: I wanted to ask you about individual states issuing stay-at-home orders. What do you think, for instance, in Florida, Ron DeSantis has resisted urges to issue one of those, but he said moments ago that if you and the rest of the task force recommended one, that would weigh on him heavily. What sort of circumstances need to be in place for you to make that call and say this is something you should consider?

TRUMP: Different kind of a state, also a great governor, knows exactly what he’s doing, has a very strong view on it, and we have spoken to Ron. Mike, you want to just to tell him a little bit about that?

PENCE: Well, let me echo our appreciation for Governor DeSantis’ leadership in Florida. He’s been taking decisive steps from early on and working closely with our team at the federal level.
New York and New Jersey were very late. Elsewhere, DeSantis has taken decisive steps from early on. He knows exactly what he's doing.

The bilge crawled past the two-hour mark. No one asked a well-formed question about the basic blocking and tackling of our dilemma while insisting on a response:

If we have 200,000 ventilators, how many are we going to need? Once again, here's what happened when someone tried to ask an obvious question about testing:
QUESTION: ...Do you have any kind of projection as to when everyone who needs a test will be able to receive one?

TRUMP: I can only say that we’re doing more than anybody in the world by far. We are testing highly accurate tests. These are tests that work, as you know, many tests are being sent to countries that are broken.

QUESTION: But it’s still not enough.

TRUMP: Well, every day we get, and the word is exponential, we are getting more and more and more, and now we have the new tests that you saw yesterday. That’s going to be rolled out, I think, tomorrow or the next day, and that’s going to take only a few minutes, literally a few minutes to see the result and it’s a highly accurate result.
The commander didn't answer the question, and no one followed up. Meanwhile, tomorrow and tomorrow and tomorrow creeps in Dear Leader's amazing testing, upon which the monologue is based.

As the journey crept past the two-hour mark, we were deeper in North Korea than we've ever been. But if Dear Leader was a key player, so were the Walking Dead, arrayed in chairs before him.

The exchange with Bullock went unmentioned. There was no attempt to drive basic questions about the availability of testing and equipment.

By the end, Trump and Acosta droned on and on. They're a fairly perfect matched set, dating back to the days when Acosta was grandstanding and showboating at Obama's expense.

In future years, today's 9-year-old kids are going to have to address this cultural breakdown. Unfortunately, our species may just be wired this way, no matter what Wittgenstein found.

A very large number of tests: In the current context, it makes no sense to cite large numbers of available ventilators or test kits without comparing those numbers to the projected volume of need.

We're now doing 100,000 tests a day, the commander said. This morning, on Morning Joe, Ezekiel Emanuel said we probably need to be doing a million.

Is that right? We don't know. Yesterday, with Fauci and Birx right there, none of the walking dead asked!

Our journalists have almost no analytical skills. They've performed this way for a very long time, leaving us as the walking wounded.

Epistle touching on Wittgenstein's Preface!

TUESDAY, MARCH 31, 2020

Not a good book, he said:
As we explained in our first epistle, we're writing to today's 9-year-old kids with messages to be read later.

It will fall to these 9-year-olds to rebuild our failing culture. We've suggested that a meditation developed in Wittgenstein's Philosophical Investigations might help direct us to a day when we'll receive our daily bread, but also our daily logic.

Let's review some of the relevant history:

In the decades which led us to our own Trump, our logicians had walked away from their posts. They addressed highly esoteric concerns, hidden away in their aeries.

In the realm of daily logic, we badly needed assistance. We needed help with the logic of sensible paraphrase. We very badly needed help with the logic of generalization.

We needed help with the logic of "race." We needed help with the logic of same and different.

Did any logician step forward to help? We can't think of any such effort, and our journalists were utterly helpless.

When we started The Daily Howler, several years had just passed in which we were repeatedly told only two parts of a three-number story.

Our journalists couldn't figure it out. Our logicians were off in the ether.

Philosophical Investigations was published in 1953, two years after Wittgenstein's death (at age 62). Is it possible that this very jumbled book could contain a relatively simple diagnosis explaining where a great deal of reasoning goes astray?

Is it possible that this puzzling book could suggest a relatively simple way to recognize and address incoherence, even including incoherence on the highest academic levels?

Eventually, we expect to say yes! But first, we offer some good sound advice:

Do not read this book!

The woods were lovely, dark and deep, but Wittgenstein's book was impenetrable. If you try to read it, you'll fail.

Wittgenstein almost said as much in his preface to the book, a preface he wrote all the way back in 1945. The preface ended like this:
I make [my remarks] public with misgivings. It is not impossible that it should fall to the lot of this work, in its poverty and in the darkness of this time, to bring light into one brain or another—but, of course, it is not likely.

I should not like my writing to spare other people the trouble of thinking. But if possible, to stimulate someone to thoughts of his own.

I should have liked to produce a good book. It has not turned out that way, but the time is past in which I could improve it.

Cambridge, January 1945
In our next epistle, we'll review the preface in a bit more detail. We'll even give you a look at what you would encounter if you were ever foolish enough to try to read the actual book.

You shouldn't try to read Wittgenstein's book. But a river runs through it.

BREAKING: Governor Bullock's plea for supplies!

TUESDAY, MARCH 31, 2020

The commander's recollection:
The cable networks all seemed to know that we should see it live.

Soon after the start of yesterday's "briefing." Donald J. Trump introduced Mike Lindell, founder of TV's MyPillow empire.
Ron Popeil is no longer active, so Lindell appeared in his stead.

(Popeil's ventilator would also have diced and pureed.)

The president asked "The MyPillow Guy" to speak. The cable nets all knew that you should see this:
TRUMP (3/30/20): Mike, come on up. Come on up, fellas, please. Come on up. You have to say what you’re doing because it’s been really incredible.

Go ahead, Mike.

LINDELL: Okay. Well, MyPillow is a U.S. vertically integrated company, which has been forced to adjust to the changing business environment as a result of the pandemic. MyPillow’s unique position as a U.S. company functions as a manufacturer, logistics management distributor, and direct-to-consumer. Given our current business lines, we are experiencing the effects of this pandemic firsthand.

What MyPillow has done—we’ve established an internal task force, which is monitoring future needs of companies across the country as a result of this pandemic. And given our position, we’ve begun to research and develop new protocols to address the current and future needs of U.S. businesses across multiple sectors, how companies are going to prepare themselves when they once again open up, and changes to their current operations in order to adjust to future threats and pandemics.

MyPillow has designated some of its call centers to help U.S. companies navigate the many issues that resulted from this pandemic. We’ve dedicated 75 percent of my manufacturing to produce cotton face masks. In three days, I was up to 10,000 a day. By Friday, I want to be up to 50,000 a day.

I'm proud to manufacture our products in the United States, and I’m even more proud to be able to serve our nation in this great time of need. Thank you, Mr. President, for your call to action when—which has empowered companies like MyPillow to help our nation win this invisible war.
Briefly, let's pause at this point, noting that MyPillow has been "experiencing the effects of this pandemic firsthand."

We can't vouch for the accuracy of Lindell's claims. But he said that MyPillow may soon be producing 50,000 cotton face masks per day.

That might seem to be a large number. Recalling a basic principle, there is no point discussing any such numbers unless we're given some idea of the overall level of need.

With that, we return to the material the cable networks knew you should see. In fairness, CNN quickly cut away from this bilge. MSNBC and Fox did not:
LINDELL (continuing directly): Now, I wrote something off the cuff, if I can read this.

TRUMP: Okay.

LINDELL: God gave us grace on November 8th, 2016, to change the course we were on. God had been taken out of our schools and lives. A nation had turned its back on God. And I encourage you: Use this time at home to get—home to get back in the Word, read our Bibles, and spend time with our families.

Our president gave us so much hope where, just a few short months ago, we had the best economy, the lowest unemployment, and wages going up. It was amazing. With our great president, vice president, and this administration and all the great people in this country praying daily, we will get through this and get back to a place that’s stronger and safer than ever.

TRUMP: That’s very nice. Thank you very much. Thank you, Mike. Appreciate it.

Please come on up. I did not know he was going to do that, but he’s a friend of mine, and I do appreciate it.
MSNBC aired that foolishness live. These "briefings" have been a parody of public discussion from the start. They've now descended further.

Last night, Chris Hayes edged toward saying or suggesting that these absurd propaganda swarms shouldn't be broadcast live. This gives us two measures of the degree to which our discourse is an extremely bad joke:

One measure is the virtual insanity of the commander. The other measure is the way our corporate-chosen "liberal" leaders can barely bring themselves to discuss issues involving the people who pay them.

Hayes inched toward a public critique of the company's policy. One day earlier, Joy Reid and a gaggle of stooges hadn't been willing to go there.

How crazy is our public discourse? Beyond that, what is the actual mental state of our current commander?

Assuming the reporting is accurate; assuming the exchange occurred as the audiotape indicates; the commander's response to Governor Bullock creates a point of reference.

Earlier yesterday, the commander spoke on the phone to the nation's governors. Bullock, who seems visibly sane, reported on the problems Montana is having getting access to coronavirus test kits which would allow "contact tracing."

Bullock responded to a question from Dr. Fauci. We've transcribed his remarks because no one else has yet bothered to do so:
BULLOCK (3/30/20): Dr. Fauci, we are trying to do contact tracing. But literally, we are one day away, if we don’t get test kits from the CDC, that we wouldn’t be able to be testing in Montana.

We have gone time and time again to the private side of this, the private market, and where the private market is telling us is that it's a national resource that are then taking our orders apart. Basically, we're getting our orders jammed, and that's for PPE, that's for testing supplies, that's for testing equipment.

So while we're trying to do all the contact tracing, we don't have adequate tests to necessarily do it, we don't have the PPE along the way, and we're not finding markets to be able to do that.

So we do have to rely on a national chain of distribution or we’re not going to get it. But we are doing our best to try to do exactly that. And like Gallatin County would be an example where we have almost half our overall state [inaudible].

So we're trying to shift the supplies to really isolate that and do the contact tracing, but we just don't have enough supplies to even to do the testing.
So went the report from Big Sky Country. Assuming the audiotape is accurate, the commander jumped in to say this:
TRUMP (continuing directly): Tony, you can answer if you want, but I haven’t heard about testing in weeks. We’ve tested more now than any nation in the world. We’ve got these great tests and we’re coming out with another one tomorrow, where it's almost instantaneous testing. But I haven’t heard about testing being a problem.
So the commander responded during yesterday's phone call.

People can assess that response as they see appropriate. Was the commander "lying," as Joe and Mika have now said? Was the commander informing Fauci of the preferred response to such comments as this?

Might the commander simply be completely divorced from reality? There is no way to answer these questions. But during yesterday afternoon's gong show, this is what the public was told about that earlier telephone call:
QUESTION: So do you believe, as we approach this peak in a couple of weeks, that there will be enough [testing] for the American populace?

TRUMP: I do think so. Yes, I do think so. I think we’re going to be in very good shape. And we had a great call today with the governors. And they were—I actually said, I hope that the media is listening to this call because it was a really good call. And that was randomly selected—largely Democrats and Republicans in there. I think, for the most part, they were saying. "Thank you for doing a great job." And we discussed that at the end of the call. So it really—people are very happy with what we’re doing.
Thus spake President Carsale.

According to subsequent reporting,
other governors seconded Bullock's concerns during the telephone call. But if you watched yesterday's "briefing," you were told that it had been a great call. You were told that people are very happy with the great job the commander is doing.

At MSNBC, the suits still insist on broadcasting these daily assaults on the public. The stars have been slow to say what a gong show this is.

This is the way our flailing nation conducts its public discourse. That said, it's been like this for decades now. The lunacies of the earlier discourse eventually gave us our Trump.

The MyPillow guy was blathering on. The commander offered a strange recollection of an important phone all.

After that, he yelled at several reporters as people were dying around the country. At The One True Liberal Channel, the overpaid corporate suits still think we should see it all live.

This is North Korean TV. The craziest person in the whole country is sent into our homes live.

Epistles to today's 9-year-old kids!

MONDAY, MARCH 30, 2020

Don't read until the future:
Did the Irish really save civilization? We have no idea.

We can tell you this. Based on what we've been told by credentialed future anthropologists, today's 9-year-old kids will have to restart our failed civilization at some point in the future.

They will be called to this task in the wake of the global conflagration these despondent future scholars refer to as Mister Trump's War. They'll have to address the decades of intellectual squalor which led our failing society to this current place.

As we've noted in the past, our logicians have abandoned their posts over the course of a great many years. That's been true in the western world as a whole, not just here in this country.

It will fall to today's 9-year-old kids to restore our daily logic.

Give us this day our daily bread? It may be our species' most basic prayer. But our species can't live by bread alone. We also need daily logic.

We plan to leave these daily epistles for today's kids to find. They'll focus on a particular type of meditation which emerges from the later Wittgenstein's seminal book, Philosophical Investigations.

The book itself is an unholy mess, a point Wittgenstein himself acknowledged in his mournful Preface. We won't advise today's kids to (attempt to) read the book, unless they want a Finnegan's Wake-level interpretive challenge.

In our next epistle, we'll look at what Wittgenstein said about his own jumbled book. On the whole, we won't be attempting to tell the kids what Wittgenstein "thought" or "said."

We will be doing this, however—eventually, we'll be outlining Wittgenstein's theory concerning a basic way human reason tends to go astray. Writing for the New York Times, Professor Horwich put it like this:
HORWICH (3/3/13): Wittgenstein claims that there are no realms of phenomena whose study is the special business of a philosopher, and about which he or she should devise profound a priori theories and sophisticated supporting arguments. There are no startling discoveries to be made of facts, not open to the methods of science, yet accessible “from the armchair” through some blend of intuition, pure reason and conceptual analysis. Indeed the whole idea of a subject that could yield such results is based on confusion and wishful thinking.

This attitude is in stark opposition to the traditional view, which continues to prevail.
Philosophy is respected, even exalted, for its promise to provide fundamental insights into the human condition and the ultimate character of the universe, leading to vital conclusions about how we are to arrange our lives. It’s taken for granted that there is deep understanding to be obtained of the nature of consciousness, of how knowledge of the external world is possible, of whether our decisions can be truly free, of the structure of any just society, and so on—and that philosophy’s job is to provide such understanding. Isn’t that why we are so fascinated by it?

If so, then we are duped and bound to be disappointed, says Wittgenstein.
For these are mere pseudo-problems, the misbegotten products of linguistic illusion and muddled thinking...
In his later work, Wittgenstein threw much of traditional "philosophy" under the bus. In Horwich's formulation, Wittgenstein said that traditional philosophy's alleged findings were, on the whole, "the misbegotten products of linguistic illusion and muddled thinking."

Could such a counterintuitive claim possibly be true? In fact, college freshmen have suspected such things for centuries. In an otherwise muddled book, Wittgenstein conjures a meditation which lets us start to see that this counterintuitive view actually may be true.

His meditation leads to clarity in a wide range of undertakings. Our society has been dying on the vine from the lack of daily logic. In the future, will today's 9-year-olds peruse the epistles we leave for them and create a more competent world?

BREAKING: Quick observations, plus pet peeves!

MONDAY, MARCH 30, 2020

Rational animals flounder:
Later today, we expect to start a series of afternoon posts, "Epistles to the 9-year-olds."

As the Irish saved civilization, it will fall to the 9-year-olds, in future decades, to rebuild our crumbling culture. Hopefully, these epistles will still be floating around, providing one way they can start.

For now, we'll list a few quick observations and peeves. We'll start with yesterday's daily briefing, which accidentally bled over into prime time.

Here at THE HOWLER, we appreciate the kinds of people who voice appreciation. So it went late yesterday as corporate leaders kowtowed to President Carsale right there in the Rose Garden:
MR. KAUFMANN (3/29/20): Thank you, Mr. President, and thanks for your leadership on this. Because of that leadership, we have really seen the government agencies working with industry like no time before...

MR. PESICKA: Thank you, Mr. President. Let me first start by thanking the administration for all the support you have provided to the industry...

MS. LANE: Thank you, Mr President, for the incredible leadership. I will share with you that UPS is really proud to be part of this effort...

MR. TYLER: Well, thank you, Mr. President. I would certainly like to echo my colleagues’ comments that the collaboration amongst many of the government agencies and the private market and the distributors represented here today has been incredible. It has been increasing and ramping up over the past weeks.

MR. MILLS: Thank you. Thank you, Mr. President. And thanks to FEMA and HHS. I think great leadership, and it’s really working well...

MR. CONNETT: Thank you. Thank you, Mr. President. We appreciate the opportunity to work with your administration on a lot of collaborative fronts...
The president's incredible leadership is really working well. It's working like no time before. Everybody seemed to agree on these basic points!

You can't necessarily blame these people for kowtowing to President Sell-A-Wreck. People have to treat him this way, due to his condition.

His condition might be a "mental illness." It might be a "personality disorder."

As far as we know, sociopathy isn't a formal technical term, but a certain percentage of people qualify for the nearest diagnosis. Presumably, they didn't choose to be sociopathic, but many people are.

We can't tell you that President Junker isn't so afflicted. With that, a few observations and peeves:

Shocked, shocked: Kevin Drum has done fantastic work down through the years, That's especially true concerning his work on lead exposure. In that area, he tried to open an important discussion. His work was, of course, ignored and disappeared.

That said, it seemed to us that Drum entered the realm of newly discovered casino gambling in yesterday's post. Like so many others, he continues to be "shocked, shocked" by the latest manifestations of Trump's fairly obvious mental illness.

Now we know why Trump holds those briefings? On what planet was that comment hatched?

Donald Trump seems to be mentally ill. We're amazed by the lengths to which people will go to avoid making this obvious statement and advancing the discussion from there.

Seeing no evil:
Yesterday, at 11 AM Eastern, we watched a 20-minute panel discussion hosted by MSNBC's Joy Reid. One chyron said this:
HOW NEWS OUTLETS ARE COVERING TRUMP'S RESPONSE TO CORONAVIRUS OUTBREAK
Reid and her pals talked about Fox, but no one mentioned the elephant in the room. The major news outlet which sends them their checks is airing a maniac's daily briefings live.

They're airing his "briefings" live in prime time! None of the overpaid cable stars mentioned this unfortunate fact. These people are paid for their silence.

Hearing the very loud voices: Way back in 1988, Candidate George H. W. Bush defined himself thusly: "I may be a quiet man, but I hear the quiet voices others do not."

Maybe so, possibly not! This morning, it seemed to us that Charles Blow had been hearing a very loud voice which is basically no longer there:
BLOW (3/30/20): Donald Trump has tried in every way to make fighting the pandemic feel like fighting a war. As he tried to frame it: “We’re at war, in a true sense we’re at war, and we are fighting an invisible enemy.” But an invisible enemy doesn’t work as well as a visible one, so Trump now regularly refers to the virus as the “Chinese virus.”

[...]

Calling the virus “the Chinese virus” is the closest Trump can get to a target, to racist, cultural scapegoating.
Regardless of where the first case of this virus was identified, the United States now has more confirmed cases than any country in the world.
Does Trump "now regularly refer to the virus as the 'Chinese virus?'" We'd have to say he pretty much doesn't.

We searched all his daily briefings from last Monday on. We also searched his virtual town hall performance on Fox.

He used the term "Chinese virus" at one point in his Thursday, March 26 briefing. But that was the only usage we found.

Make no mistake! This blatantly disordered man is running a wide assortment of distractions, misdirections and scams. It would be helpful to see high-profile journalists like Blow trying to list them out.

That said, our tribe loves the "racist" narrative, so Blow has been hearing something regularly said. It's a preconceived tribal narrative, and our journalism is based on little else.

This is the way our press has worked all the way back to the Whitewater pseudo-scandals, followed by all the claims about all the crazy things Candidate Gore was imagined to have said. The novelized sliming of Hillary Clinton continued through November 2016.

That's the way rational animals actually work! This is one of the obvious ways Trump ended up where he is.

A certain lack of focus: In his daily televised briefings, Trump has been luxuriating in the gong-show of large numbers. In this way, he is convincing many people that his incredible leadership has resulted in the shipping of incredible amounts of supplies to our beleaguered hospitals.

Yesterday, he actually began suggesting that medical workers have been stealing and selling the mountains of material they've been sent thanks to his own incredible leadership. Because of his obvious but undiscussed condition, this sort of thing is never going to end.

No one has ever seen anything like it! In the last week, this has been the commander's play, much more than any racist attack on the Chinese. (Also, the endless claim that things were a mess when he got there.)

To what extent is testing now available? To what extent are necessary materials—masks, gowns, ventilators—being supplied to hospitals?

This is the basic blocking and tackling of our nation's attempt to respond to the worldwide virus. We're surprised by the lack of dedicated pages to these basic topics in our most famous newspapers. Also on cable, where human interest and interviews tend to prevail.

Masks, gowns, ventilators, tests? These are the basic building blocks of our nation's response. We need to know 1) how many have been provided, but also 2) how many will be needed.

Those items also constitute the basic building blocks of a certain maniac's relentless attempts at widespread public deception. Each topic should have a dedicated page in our daily papers.

The basic facts about these topics should be updated daily in a highly visible way. Would that require a type of focus our "journalists" tend to lack?