Archives for category: Stupid

Robert Shepherd writes comments on the blog frequently, and he also writes his own blog. He is a recently retired teacher in Florida who spent decades as a writer, editor, and developer of curriculum and assessments in the education publishing industry.

Since he has often expresssed his views of the current occupant of the White House, I invited him to assemble a Trump glossary.

He did.

Some people respond to crises with focused, quiet intensity. Not our 73-year-old President in the orange clown makeup. He can’t stop tweeting and blabbering randomly and profusely. And what does he tweet and blab about? Well, he suggests holding events at his resorts, he attacks perceived enemies, and he praises himself. And then on Memorial Day, while others are laying a wreath on the grave of Uncle Javier who died in Vietnam, Trump accuses a journalist of murder and goes golfing.

This demonstrated lack of concern for others (for victims and survivors of natural disasters and war and disease, for example) shows that Donald Trump doesn’t give a microbe on a nit on a rat’s tushy about anything but Donald Trump. Obviously, he cares only about money (sorry, Evangelicals, his only God is Mammon) and about himself.

But hey, Trump’s a romantic figure, a man in love. This must be his appeal. And when he speaks, in his toddler English, about the love of his life, Donald Trump, you can be certain that he will use terms like “a winner,” “the greatest,” “the best,” and so on. He will tell you about his “great genes” and his uncle who was “a super genius [which is a lot better than an ordinary genius] at MIT.”

OK, over the years, I’ve had my disagreements with the man to whom I variously refer as Moscow’s Asset Governing America (MAGA); Don the Con; IQ 45; The Don, Cheeto “Little Fingers” Trumpbalone; Vlad’s Agent Orange; the Iota; our Child-Man in the Promised Land; our Vandal in Chief; Dog-Whistle Don; The Man with No Plan and the Tan in the Can; President Pinocchio; Trump on the Stump with His Chumps; Jabba the Trump; Don the Demented; King Con; Donnie DoLittle; the Stabul Jenius; Scrotus Potus; The Mornavirus trumpinski orangii; Ethelorange the Unready; our First Part-time President, now become, in his nonresponse to the pandemic, Donnie Death. However, I do agree with him that in descriptions of Trump, SUPERLATIVES ARE IN ORDER.

The British writer Nate White wisely observed, in a post that Diane Ravitch shared on her indispensable blog, that Donald Trump’s “faults are fractal: even his flaws have flaws.” Trump is a one-person compendium of human vices and failings. In this respect, truly, HE HAS NO EQUAL. And so I offer here an ABECEDARIUM of adjectives, each of which demonstrably describes the occupant of the now Offal Office in the now Whiter House, the fellow who has shamed us before the world, made us a laughing stock, and led the now Repugnican Party in an unprecedented Limbo Dance (“how low, how low, how low can we go?).

Trump is. . . .

abhorrent, amoral, anti-democratic, arrogant, authoritarian, autocratic, avaricious, backward, base, benighted, bloated, blubbering, blundering, bogus, bombastic, boorish, bullying, bungling, cheap, childish, clownish, clueless, common, confused, conniving, corrupt, cowardly, crass, creepy, cretinous, criminal, crowing, crude, cruel, dangerous, delusional, demagogic, depraved, devious, dim, disgraceful, dishonest, disloyal, disreputable, dissembling, dog-whistling, doltish, dull, elitist, embarrassing, erratic, fascist, foolish, gauche, gluttonous, greedy, grudging, hate-filled, hateful, haughty, heedless, homophobic, humorless, hypocritical, idiotic, ignoble, ignominious, ignorant, immature, inarticulate, indolent, inept, inferior, insane, intemperate, irresponsible, kakistocratic, kleptocratic, laughable, loathsome, loud-mouthed, low-life, lying, mendacious, meretricious, monstrous, moronic, narcissistic, needy, oafish, odious, orange, outrageous, pampered, pandering, perverse, petty, predatory, puffed-up, racist, repulsive, rude, sanctimonious, semi-literate, senile, senseless, sexist, shady, shameless, sheltered, slimy, sluglike, sniveling, squeamish, stupid, swaggering, tacky, thick, thin-skinned, thuggish, toadying, transphobic, trashy, treasonous, twisted, ugly, unappealing, uncultured, uninformed, unprincipled, unread, unrefined, vain, venal, vicious, vile, and vulgar.

Aside from those peccadilloes (we all have our faults, don’t we?), I have no problem with the guy.

Salvador Rizzo of the Washington Post writes about a letter sent by Trump to the World Health Organization, in which he made false claims.

Trump is poorly staffed. He is ignorant and he is surrounded by sycophants who are dumber than he is.

He is an international laughing stock.

Rizzo writes:

Any letter signed by the U.S. president and sent to an international organization would have gotten a thorough scrubbing in previous administrations: research, vetting, fact-checking, multiple layers of review, the works.

It’s fair to say President Trump’s letter this week to the head of the World Health Organization got a much lighter touch. We found several false or misleading statements to fact check. And we weren’t the only ones who noticed. The editor of the Lancet, the British medical journal, issued a response accusing Trump of being “factually inaccurate.”

Here’s a sample of fishy claims in Trump’s letter dated May 18 to WHO Director General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus:

“The World Health Organization consistently ignored credible reports of the virus spreading in Wuhan in early December 2019 or even earlier, including reports from the Lancet medical journal. The World Health Organization failed to independently investigate credible reports that conflicted directly with the Chinese government’s official accounts, even those that came from sources within Wuhan itself.”

Richard Horton, the Lancet’s editor in chief, issued a statement on Twitter pointing out no such study existed: “Please let me correct the record. The Lancet did not publish any report in early December, 2019, about a virus spreading in Wuhan. The first reports we published were from Chinese scientists on Jan 24, 2020.”

The Jan. 24 Lancet study says “the symptom onset date of the first patient identified was Dec. 1, 2019,” with patients in the study hospitalized between Dec. 16 and Jan. 2. The White House did not respond to a request for an explanation.

“On March 3, 2020, the World Health Organization cited official Chinese data to downplay the very serious risk of asymptomatic spread, telling the world that ‘COVID-19 does not transmit as efficiently as influenza’ and that unlike influenza this disease was not primarily driven by ‘people who are infected but not yet sick.’ China’s evidence, the World Health Organization told the world, ‘showed that only one percent of reported cases do not have symptoms, and most of those cases develop symptoms within two days.’”

Tedros did say this at a March 3 briefing, as part of a presentation on the ways covid-19 was different from the seasonal flu. But he also said “covid-19 causes more severe disease than seasonal influenza. … Globally, about 3.4 percent of reported covid-19 cases have died. By comparison, seasonal flu generally kills far fewer than 1 percent of those infected.” He urged governments to expand contact tracing because it would slow the spread of infections. “We can’t treat covid-19 exactly the same way we treat flu,” Tedros said, noting there would be no vaccine for some time.

For the full fact check, click here.

Michael A. Cohen is a regular columnist for the Boston Globe.

He has determined that the current era will henceforth be called “the Era of Stupid.”

President Trump’s moronic behavior is the defining feature of American life.

Americans have long divided our nearly 244-year history into eras. There was the Era of Good Feelings in the 1810s and 1820s; the Gilded Age in the late 19th century; the New Deal Era in the 1930s; the Reagan Era in the 1980s; and, more recently, the era of the War on Terror.

I have a suggestion for how we should define the Trump Years: The Era of Stupid.

Granted, “stupid” is not a highbrow word, and I’m dubious that it will catch on in the same way as the “Jazz Age.” But in its simplicity and crudeness, it vividly captures the absurdity of our times.

There are so many “stupid” examples one can choose from: Sharpie-gate; the president’s talk of buying Greenland; his musing on whether it’s possible to nuke a hurricane or inject people with disinfectants; his refusal, aped by many of his followers, to wear a mask in the midst of a global pandemic. The list goes on and on.

But the president’s latest fixation is perhaps Peak Stupid — “Obamagate.”

I should say from the outset that writing about Obamagate raises a tricky question: How does one pass judgment on something that doesn’t actually exist?

As best I can tell, Obamagate refers to a charge that former president Barack Obama and former vice president Joe Biden knew in advance about, or perhaps conspired in plotting, the FBI interview of former national security adviser Michael Flynn that led to his prosecution. It also appears to refer to efforts in late 2016 to “unmask” Flynn, which describes a routine national security process to reveal the identity of Americans mentioned in National Security Agency (NSA) intelligence reports.

The problem with these accusations is that they elide some rather pertinent facts.

For example, the FBI interview of Flynn happened after Trump took office in January 2017. And how exactly was the Obama Administration targeting Flynn for unmasking when they could not have known Flynn’s identity before the unmasking? (I feel stupid even writing this question.)

All of this is somehow connected to the Russia investigation, Trump suggests. But many of the unmasking requests from Obama administration officials appeared to revolve around Flynn’s shady dealings with the Turkish government, for whom he was lobbying. And the vast majority came before he got entangled in the Russia affair with his controversial call to Sergei Kisylak, the Russian ambassador to the United States — a call he lied about to the FBI. That lie was a crime, to which he later pleaded guilty.

Far be it from me to inject facts into the Obamagate fever swamp, but there does seem to be a simple reason Flynn was regularly being unmasked by Obama administration officials — he was engaging in behavior that merited unmasking requests.

Of course, facts don’t really matter here because trying to untangle the web of inanity at the core of Obamagate is like trying to debate molecular biology with a 2-year-old. Indeed, when pushed at a White House press conference to identify what crime former President Obama allegedly committed, Trump answered, “You know what the crime is. The crime is very obvious to everybody, all you have to do is read the newspapers, except yours.”

These are words. Any connection to reality is purely coincidental.

This is a story of staggering, incomprehensible incompetence. In the early days of the coronavirus, the nation’s only manufacturer of the high-quality N-95 face masks used by medical professionals offered to produce millions of them but was turned down by high-level federal officials.

It was Jan. 22, a day after the first case of covid-19 was detected in the United States, and orders were pouring into Michael Bowen’s company outside Fort Worth, some from as far away as Hong Kong.

Bowen’s medical supply company, Prestige Ameritech, could ramp up production to make an additional 1.7 million N95 masks a week. He viewed the shrinking domestic production of medical masks as a national security issue, though, and he wanted to give the federal government first dibs.

“We still have four like-new N95 manufacturing lines,” Bowen wrote that day in an email to top administrators in the Department of Health and Human Services. “Reactivating these machines would be very difficult and very expensive but could be achieved in a dire situation.”

But communications over several days with senior agency officials — including Robert Kadlec, the assistant secretary for preparedness and emergency response — left Bowen with the clear impression that there was little immediate interest in his offer.

“I don’t believe we as an government are anywhere near answering those questions for you yet,” Laura Wolf, director of the agency’s Division of Critical Infrastructure Protection, responded that same day.

Bowen persisted.

“We are the last major domestic mask company,” he wrote on Jan. 23. “My phones are ringing now, so I don’t ‘need’ government business. I’m just letting you know that I can help you preserve our infrastructure if things ever get really bad. I’m a patriot first, businessman second.”

In the end, the government did not take Bowen up on his offer. Even today, production lines that could be making more than 7 million masks a month sit dormant.

Bowen’s overture was described briefly in an 89-page whistleblower complaint filed this week by Rick Bright, former director of the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority.

Bright alleges he was retaliated against by Kadlec and other officials — including being reassigned to a lesser post — because he tried to “prioritize science and safety over political expediency.” HHS has disputed his allegations.

Emails show Bright pressed Kadlec and other agency leaders on the issue of mask shortages — and Bowen’s proposal specifically — to no avail. On Jan. 26, Bright wrote to a deputy that Bowen’s warnings “seem to be falling on deaf ears.”

That day, Bowen sent Bright a more direct warning.

U.S. mask supply is at imminent risk,” he wrote. “Rick, I think we’re in deep s—,” he wrote a day later.

The story of Bowen’s offer illustrates a missed opportunity in the early days of the pandemic, one laid out in Bright’s whistleblower complaint, interviews with Bowen and emails provided by both men.

Within weeks, a shortage of masks was endangering health-care workers in hard-hit areas across the country, and the Trump administration was scrambling to buy more masks — sometimes placing bulk orders with third-party distributors for many times the standard price. President Trump came under pressure to use extraordinary government powers to force private industry to ramp up production.

In a statement, White House economic adviser and coronavirus task force member Peter Navarro said: “The company was just extremely difficult to work and communicate with. This was in sharp contrast to groups like the National Council of Textile Organizations and companies like Honeywell and Parkdale Mills, which have helped America very rapidly build up cost effective domestic mask capacity measuring in the hundreds of millions.”

Carol Danko, an HHS spokeswoman, declined to comment on the offer by Bowen and other allegations raised in the whistleblower complaint. Wolf also declined to comment on the whistleblower complaint.

A senior U.S. government official with knowledge of the offer said Bowen, 62, has a “legitimate beef.”
“He was prescient, really,” the official said, speaking on the condition of anonymity to describe internal deliberations. “But the reality is [HHS] didn’t have the money to do it at that time.”

Another HHS official, also speaking on the condition of anonymity, said: “There is a process for putting out contracts. It wasn’t as fast as anyone wanted it to be.”

A voice in the wilderness

Two decades ago, the low-slung factory in Texas was part of a supply conglomerate that produced almost 9 in 10 medical and surgical masks used in the United States.

Bowen was a new product specialist at the plant back then, and he watched as industry consolidations and outsourcing shifted control of the plant from Tecnol Medical Products to Kimberly-Clark and then shuttered it altogether. In less than a decade, almost 90 percent of all U.S. mask production had moved out of the country, according to government reports at the time.

Bowen and Dan Reese, a former executive at Tecnol, went into business together in 2005 and eventually bought the plant, believing a market remained for a dedicated domestic manufacturer of protective gear.

In the wake of the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, Congress appropriated $6 billion to buy antidotes to bioweapons and the medical supplies the country would need in public health disasters. An obscure new government organization called the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority, or BARDA, was among the agencies purchasing material for what would become the Strategic National Stockpile.

Bowen began studying BARDA, attending its industry conferences and searching for a way in to press his case.

In the parlance of BARDA, Bowen was seeking a “warm base” contract. The government would pay a premium to have masks manufactured domestically, but his company would keep its extra factory lines in working order, meaning production could be ramped up in an emergency.

Bowen said he soon concluded that BARDA’s focus was trained elsewhere, on billion-dollar deals to induce manufacturing of vaccines for the most exotic disasters, such as weaponized attacks with anthrax or smallpox.

Still, as Bowen moved down the supply chain, appealing directly to hospitals to buy his domestic-made masks, his sales pitch often ended with a plea to call BARDA.

Bowen often carried PowerPoint slides from a 2007 presentation by BARDA and its parent division at HHS, the Office of the Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response. One had a table showing that, in the event of a pandemic, the country would need 5.3 billion N95 respirator masks, 50 times more than the number in the stockpile. The presentation concluded: “Industrial surge capacity of [respiratory protection devices] will not be able to meet need and supplies will be short during a pandemic.”

Bowen said he felt like a voice in the wilderness.
“The world just looked at me as a mask salesman who was saying the sky was falling,” he said, “and they would say, ‘Your competitors aren’t saying that in China.’ ”

After Trump’s election, Bowen hoped the new president’s America-first mentality might trickle down to operations like his. He wrote a letter to Trump and addressed it to 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue: “90% of the United States protective mask supply is currently FOREIGN MADE!” it began.

I didn’t think Trump would read it, but I thought someone would and take note,” Bowen said.

He also called Bright, who had been appointed to lead BARDA just before Trump took office. “In 14 years of doing this, there have been maybe four people in government who I felt like really understood this issue,” Bowen said. “Rick was one of them.”

In Trump’s first year, however, Bowen grew newly disillusioned. During a week that the White House touted its “Buy American, Hire American” initiative, Bowen lost a military contract worth up to $1 million, to a supplier that would make many of the masks in Mexico, he said.

“Shame on the Department of Defense! One of these days the US military will need America’s manufacturers to help win another war or fight another pandemic — and they will not exist,” Bowen wrote on Aug. 17, 2017, to Maj. Gen. Jeffrey Clark, a senior official with the Pentagon’s Defense Health Agency.

Clark, who retired last year, did not respond to a message seeking comment.

Proposal to produce goes nowhere

For Bowen, the first signs of trouble came in mid-January. Online orders through his company’s website, typically totaling maybe $2,000 a year and accounting for only a fraction of his business, suddenly skyrocketed to almost $700,000 in a few days.

On Jan. 20, Bowen also fielded a call from the Department of Homeland Security, urgently seeking masks for airport screeners. Bowen said he did not have masks in stock to fill the order, but the call led him to contact Bright to tell him about the surge in demand for masks. “Is this virus going to be problematic?” Bowen wrote.

Inside HHS, Bright quickly passed Bowen’s on-the-ground observations to a group that included Wolf, the director of the agency’s Division of Critical Infrastructure Protection.

Can you please reach out to Mike Bowen below? He is a great partner and a really good source for helpful information,” Bright wrote on Jan. 21.

“Thanks Rick,” she replied. “We are tracking and have begun to coordinate with fda, niosh, and manufacturers today. More to follow tomorrow. Thinking about masks, gowns (inc those in shortage), gloves, and eye protection.”

Within a day, Bowen sent an email to Wolf laying out what Prestige could do. The company’s four mothballed manufacturing lines could be restarted with large noncancelable orders, he wrote.

“This is NOT something we would ever wish to do and have NO plans to do it on our own,” he wrote. “I’m simply letting you know that in a dire situation, it could be done.”

Over the next three days, Bowen kept HHS officials informed as orders for a million masks came in from intermediaries for buyers in China and Hong Kong. On Jan. 26, he sent the email warning that the U.S. mask supply was at “imminent risk.”

Bright forwarded it that day to Kadlec and others, urging action: “We have been watching and receiving warnings on this for over a week,” he wrote.

The next day, Bright wrote to his deputy asking him to explore whether BARDA could divert money earmarked for vaccines and other biodefense measures to instead buy masks.

From his end, Bowen said his proposal seemed to be going nowhere. “No one at HHS ever did get back to me in a substantive way,” Bowen said.

The senior U.S. official said Bowen’s idea was considered, but funding could not easily be obtained without diverting it from other projects.

Bowen started talking to reporters about the mask shortage in general terms. He was soon invited to appear on former Trump adviser Stephen K. Bannon’s podcast: “War Room: Pandemic.”

On the Feb. 12 podcast, the two commiserated over the beleaguered state of U.S. manufacturing. “What I’ve been saying since 2007 is, ‘Guys, I’m warning you, here’s what is going to happen, let’s prepare,’ ” Bowen said on the program. “Because if you call me after it starts, I can’t help everybody.”

Bowen said Bannon put him in touch with Navarro, the White House economic adviser.

Navarro was quick to see the problem, Bowen said. After talking with Navarro, Bowen wrote to Bright that he should soon expect a call from the White House, “I’m pretty sure that my mask supply message will be heard by President Trump this week,” Bowen wrote. “Trump insider reading yesterday’s article, the ball is screaming toward your court.”

According to Bright’s complaint, he soon began attending White House meetings and helping Navarro write memos describing the supply of masks as a top issue. Emails and memos attached to the complaint show Bright reporting back to Kadlec and others about his work with Navarro.

None of it turned the tide for Bowen.

Nearly a month after his emailed offer, Bowen received his first formal communication about possibly helping to bolster the U.S. supply. The five-page form letter from the Food and Drug Administration — one Bowen said he suspected was sent to many manufacturers — asked how his company could help with what was by then a “national emergency response” to the shortage of protective gear.

Bowen responded on Feb. 16, by firing off a terse email to FDA and HHS officials. He directed the agencies to a U.S. government website listing approved foreign manufacturers of medical masks. “There you’ll find a long list of . . . approved Chinese respirator companies,” he wrote. “Please send your long list of questions to them.”

In March, Bowen submitted a bid to supply masks to the Federal Emergency Management Agency, which by then had taken over purchasing.

The government soon spent over $600 million on contracts involving masks. Big companies like Honeywell and 3M were each awarded contracts totaling for over $170 million for protective gear. One distributor of tactical gear — a company with no history of procuring medical equipment — was awarded a $55 million deal to provide masks for as much as $5.50 a piece, eight times what the government was paying months earlier.

On April 7, FEMA awarded Prestige a $9.5 million contract to provide a million N95 masks a month for one year, an order the company could fulfill without activating its dormant manufacturing lines. For the masks, Prestige charged the government 79 cents a piece.

Jon Swaine, Robert O’Harrow Jr. and Rachel Siegel contributed to this report.

Parodist and entertainer Randy Rainbow is at his best up iF this video, explaining how a disinfectant will kill the coronavirus, and kill you too!

Trump, who is not a medical doctor, suggested at his daily campaign rally yesterday, that his experts should study the effects of ingesting disinfectants, since they are known to kill coronavirus. Or inserting ultraviolet light inside the body or staying in bright sunshine.

The manufacturer of Lysol, a leading disinfectant, released a warning to the public: Do not ingest Lysol.

Anderson Cooper asked two doctors on CNN, including Dr. Sanjay Gupta, about Trump’s recommendations, and they said no responsible doctor would consider Trump’s recommendations. COVID affects people in hot and sunny climates. Disinfectants should not be ingested.

Perhaps his cabinet or Mitch McConnell should offer themselves as subjects for a trial recommended by the man they adore.

The New York Times reported that Alex Azar, the head of Health and Human Services, had chosen a former labradoodle breeder to lead the federal government’s response to the coronavirus pandemic. No, this is not a story from the Onion.

This one takes the cake. Lincoln, said historian Doris Kearns, was surrounded by a “team of rivals.” Trump has surrounded himself with a team of incompetents.

WASHINGTON — On January 21, the day the first U.S. case of coronavirus was reported, the secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services appeared on Fox News to report the latest on the disease as it ravaged China. Alex Azar, a 52-year-old lawyer and former drug industry executive, assured Americans the U.S. government was prepared.

“We developed a diagnostic test at the CDC, so we can confirm if somebody has this,” Azar said. “We will be spreading that diagnostic around the country so that we are able to do rapid testing on site.”

While coronavirus in Wuhan, China, was “potentially serious,” Azar assured viewers in America, it “was one for which we have a playbook.”
Azar’s initial comments misfired on two fronts. Like many U.S. officials, from President Donald Trump on down, he underestimated the pandemic’s severity. He also overestimated his agency’s preparedness.

As is now widely known, two agencies Azar oversaw as HHS secretary, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Food and Drug Administration, wouldn’t come up with viable tests for five and half weeks, even as other countries and the World Health Organization had already prepared their own.

Shortly after his televised comments, Azar tapped a trusted aide with minimal public health experience to lead the agency’s day-to-day response to COVID-19. The aide, Brian Harrison, had joined the department after running a dog-breeding business for six years. Five sources say some officials in the White House derisively called him “the dog breeder.”

Azar’s optimistic public pronouncement and choice of an inexperienced manager are emblematic of his agency’s oft-troubled response to the crisis. His HHS is a behemoth department, overseeing almost every federal public health agency in the country, with a $1.3 trillion budget that exceeds the gross national product of most countries.

Azar and his top deputies oversaw health agencies that were slow to alert the public to the magnitude of the crisis, to produce a test to tell patients if they were sick, and to provide protective masks to hospitals even as physicians pleaded for them.

The first test created by the CDC, meant to be used by other labs, was plagued by a glitch that rendered it useless and wasn’t fixed for weeks. It wasn’t until March that tests by other labs went into production. The lack of tests “limited hospitals’ ability to monitor the health of patients.

A promised virus surveillance program failed to take root, despite assurances Azar gave to Congress. Rather than share information, three current and three former government officials told Reuters, Azar and top staff sidelined key agencies that could have played a higher-profile role in addressing the pandemic. “It was a mess,” said a White House official who worked with HHS.
Officials across the government, from President Trump on down, have been blasted for America’s halting response to the pandemic. Critics inside and outside the administration say a meaningful share of the responsibility lies with HHS and Trump appointee Azar.
“You have to blame the problem on the virus, but it’s Azar’s operation,” said Lynn Goldman, the dean of the public health school at George Washington University, who has served on advisory boards of the FDA and CDC. “And the buck stops there.”
HHS declined to make Azar available for an interview. Michael Caputo, the new chief HHS spokesman, declined to answer Reuters questions about Azar’s stewardship, saying in a statement: “We are communicating to the American public during a deadly pandemic.”

Azar is a Republican lawyer who once clerked for the late conservative Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia and counts current Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh as a friend. Under George W. Bush, Azar worked for HHS as general counsel and deputy secretary. During the Obama years, he cycled through the private sector as a pharmaceutical company lobbyist and executive for Eli Lilly. After Trump’s first HHS secretary was forced out in a travel corruption scandal, Azar stepped in, in January 2018.

Two years later, at the dawn of the coronavirus crisis, Azar appointed his most trusted aide and chief of staff, Harrison, as HHS’s main coordinator for the government’s response to the virus.

Harrison, 37, was an unusual choice, with no formal education in public health, management, or medicine and with only limited experience in the fields. In 2006, he joined HHS in a one-year stint as a “Confidential Assistant” to Azar, who was then deputy secretary. He also had posts working for Vice President Dick Cheney, the Department of Defense and a Washington public relations company.

Before joining the Trump Administration in January 2018, Harrison’s official HHS biography says, he “ran a small business in Texas.” The biography does not disclose the name or nature of that business, but his personal financial disclosure forms show that from 2012 until 2018 he ran a company called Dallas Labradoodles.

The company sells Australian Labradoodles, a breed that is a cross between a Labrador Retriever and a Poodle. He sold it in April 2018, his financial disclosure form said. HHS emailed Reuters that the sales price was $225,000.

At HHS, Harrison was initially deputy chief of staff before being promoted, in the summer of 2019, to replace Azar’s first chief of staff, Peter Urbanowicz, an experienced hospital executive with decades of experience in public health.

This January, Harrison became a key manager of the HHS virus response. “Everyone had to report up through him,” said one HHS official.
One questionable decision, three sources say, came that month, after the White House announced it was convening a coronavirus task force. The HHS role was to muster resources from key public health agencies: the CDC, FDA, National Institutes of Health, Office of Global Affairs and the Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response.

Harrison decided, the sources say, to exclude FDA Commissioner Stephen Hahn from the task force. “He said he didn’t need to be included,” said one official with knowledge of the matter.

When task force members were announced January 29, neither Hahn nor the FDA were included. Hahn wasn’t put on the task force until Vice President Mike Pence took over in February. Two of Hahn’s high-profile counterparts were on it from the start: CDC director Robert Redfield and Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases.

The HHS denied it was Harrison’s decision to leave out Hahn and the FDA, but declined to say who made the call. The agency lauded Harrison’s work on the task force.

In a statement, Hahn said the FDA was focused on the coronavirus epidemic, “not on when we were added to the task force,” and that the agency was not “excluded.”

Fauci, who has become a public face of the Trump Administration’s COVID-19 effort, said he wasn’t sure including the FDA was necessary at the start. Initially, the Chinese government was saying the virus spread through animals, not human to human, he said. “You would include the FDA when you want to expedite drugs or devices,” Fauci said.

Others said the lack of a strong FDA role early on had direct consequences. Two sources familiar with events say the White House wasn’t getting information from the FDA about the state of the testing effort, a crucial element of the coronavirus response.

Reached by phone, Harrison declined to answer Reuters’ questions. In a later statement, he did not address questions about the task force but said he was proud of his work history. “Americans would be well served by having more government officials who have started and worked in small family businesses and fewer trying to use that experience to attack them and distort the record,” he wrote.

In a statement to Reuters, Azar said Harrison has been an asset. “From day one, Brian has demonstrated remarkable leadership and managerial talents,” Azar wrote.

Did you know that the Trump Cabinet has its own Bible teacher?

His name is Ralph Drollinger, and he is bigoted and hard of hearts.

He wrote recently that the COVID-19 pandemic is an expression of God’s wrath.

Why is a God angry? Gays, environmentalists, and other groups that Drollinger doesn’t like.

He obviously thinks he knows what God thinks.

And he thinks he is God’s spokesman on earth.

This is a combination of bigotry and stupidity.

Trump’s choice to lead the Centers for Disease Control disagreed with Trump’s absurd claim that building the wall at the Mexican border will slow the spread of the coronavirus.

Robert Redfield, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said Tuesday he was unaware of any indication from his agency that physical barriers along America’s borders would help halt the spread of the coronavirus in the U.S. — contradicting an assertion President Donald Trump made earlier in the day.

Appearing before House lawmakers to testify about the public health crisis and the White House’s budget request for his agency, Redfield was asked by Rep. Katherine Clark (D-Mass.) whether the CDC’s recommendations for combating the coronavirus addressed whether “structural barriers” at the borders “would be of any use in mitigating” the growing outbreak.

“Not that I’ve seen,” Redfield replied.

As the federal government has struggled to mount a cohesive response to the coronavirus threat over the past few weeks, Trump has repeatedly promoted the administration’s move in late January to bar entry from foreign nationals who had recently been in China and institute a mandatory two-week quarantine for U.S. citizens returning from the epicenter of the outbreak.

On Tuesday morning, Trump claimed his campaign trail pledge to build a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border would also aid in containing the coronavirus, tweeting the structure is “Going up fast” and “We need the Wall more than ever!”

Nancy Bailey features a post about an absurdly inappropriate reading program, citing work by Betty Casey in Tulsa. 

Casey interviewed experienced reading teachers, who gave her examples of age-inappropriate questions in the Core Knowledge Amplify scripted program.

Casey writes:

Do you think primogeniture is fair? Justify your answer with three supporting reasons.

You may think this is from a high school test, but it’s a question from a Common Knowledge Language Arts (CKLA) workbook for third-graders.

Why is the War of 1812 often referred to as America’s second war for independence? In your response, describe what caused the war and Great Britain’s three-part plan for defeating the United States. This is a writing task for second-grade students.

A first-grade Tulsa Public Schools teacher described this reading lesson: “You say, ‘I’m going to say one of the vocabulary words, and I’m going to use it in a sentence. If I use it correctly in a sentence, I want you to circle a happy face. If I use it incorrectly, I want you to circle a sad face. The sentence is Personification is when animals act like a person.’”

That lesson is given 10 days after the start of school. “I had kids who wouldn’t circle either one,” the teacher said. “Some cried. I have sped (special education) kids in my room, and they had no idea. That’s wrong. Good grief! These are 6-year-olds!”