• Coronavirus Growth in Western Countries: July 12 Update

    Here’s the coronavirus death toll through July 12. It looks like Wave 1.5 is well underway.

    The raw data from Johns Hopkins is here. The Public Health Agency of Sweden is here.

  • White House Goes on the Attack Against Anthony Fauci

    Chip Somodevilla/Getty

    Whatever happened to Anthony Fauci? We don’t see much of him anymore. It turns out that President Trump got tired of Fauci’s pessimism about COVID-19 and has mostly sidelined him. In fact, it’s worse than that. When a Washington Post reporter asked about Fauci, the White House dumped their oppo file on him:

    A White House official released a statement saying that “several White House officials are concerned about the number of times Dr. Fauci has been wrong on things” and included a lengthy list of the scientist’s comments from early in the outbreak. Those included his early doubt that people with no symptoms could play a significant role in spreading the virus — a notion based on earlier outbreaks that the novel coronavirus would turn on its head. They also point to public reassurances Fauci made in late February, around the time of the first U.S. case of community transmission, that “at this moment, there is no need to change anything that you’re doing on a day-by-day basis.”

    And there’s this:

    Trump is also galled by Fauci’s approval ratings. A recent New York Times/Siena College poll showed that 67 percent of voters trusted Fauci for information on the coronavirus, compared with 26 percent who trusted Trump.

    Ladies and gentlemen, this is your president.

  • Coronavirus Growth in Western Countries: July 10 Update

    Here’s the coronavirus death toll through July 10. We are now on our fourth day of rising mortality in the US and it’s now looking like a genuine upturn. The lag time between the rise in cases and the rise in deaths appears to be four weeks this time around, as you can see in this Washington Post chart:

    If this chart is any indication, four weeks of rising cases means we’re now in for four weeks of rising deaths. And if the rise in deaths matches the rise in cases, our mortality rate won’t plateau until we hit about three times our current death rate.

    On the other hand, it’s still true that COVID-19 is now targeting younger people, who are less likely to die from it, and that our hospitals have gotten better at treating it. So even if deaths rise for the next few weeks, they may never get as high as 3x our current rate. We’ll just have to wait and see.

    The raw data from Johns Hopkins is here. The Public Health Agency of Sweden is here.

  • Why Did Trump Commute Roger Stone’s Sentence Instead of Pardoning Him?

    Lynne Sladky/AP

    President Trump has come through for his crooked pal Roger Stone:

    President Trump commuted the sentence of his longtime confidant Roger Stone on Friday, using the extensive powers of the presidency to protect a felon and political ally while also lashing out against a years-long probe into Russia’s interference in the 2016 U.S. election.

    ….While the 643-word statement recited a litany of Trump supporters’ complaints about Stone’s “unfair prosecution, arrest, and trial” — including several complaints about the media — the commutation leaves Stone’s conviction standing. Unlike a pardon, which would have absolved the GOP operative of any wrongdoing, the White House action only lifted Stone’s punishment, a 40-month prison sentence set to begin Tuesday.

    That’s kind of a drag for Stone. Why the second-class treatment of a commutation instead of a pardon? Wasn’t Stone important enough for a pardon?

    But wait. Someone who gets a pardon can no longer invoke the Fifth Amendment as a justification for refusing to testify in court. If Stone were called in some other case, he’d be required to spill any beans he had. But if I understand the law correctly, a commutation is more limited. The conviction stands, and the possibility of putting yourself in further jeopardy remains. Thus your Fifth Amendment rights stand.

    So if you wanted to help out a buddy, but you also wanted to make sure he couldn’t be forced to provide dangerous testimony in the future, commutation sure seems like the best bet, doesn’t it?

  • Why Aren’t We Extending the $600 Unemployment Benefit?

    Today is July 10th. In 21 days the extra $600 per week in unemployment benefits ends.

    COVID-19 cases are already skyrocketing, deaths are starting to rise, and states are beginning to close up again. Without the expanded UI, millions of Americans will soon be penniless and back in food lines.

    That’s three weeks away. Why are we waiting on this? Why do we keep doing things at the last second, which allows states no time to respond? Extend the benefits now. It would be nice to toss in some aid to states and cities at the same time, but the bare minimum we need to do is extend the UI benefits.

    What’s the holdup?

  • Donald Trump Says a Lot of Stuff

    Can Donald Trump ban TikTok? Can Donald Trump withhold funding from schools that don’t open up in the fall? Can Donald Trump take away the tax-exempt status of universities if he doesn’t like what they say?

    No, no, and no. Trump likes to pretend that he can, because it makes him look tough, but that’s all. So let’s stop pretending that these are genuinely open questions that require deep dive explainers. OK?

  • The COVID-19 Recession Is All on Trump

    A couple of months ago, I remember arguing that it would be fairly easy to restart the economy once we had defeated COVID-19. My reasoning was pretty simple: unlike a normal recession, which breeds a tremendous amount of uncertainty, an artificial recession can be brought to a clean end. Once COVID-19 is gone, businesses can be certain that the economy will recover immediately, especially since government aid programs ensured that consumers had plenty of money saved up to begin buying stuff again.

    Now, I’ll fess up to being a little too cavalier about this. It was probably always going to be harder than I thought. But one thing I never took into consideration—because it seemed ridiculous—was the notion that we would just give up on COVID-19 and therefore cause precisely the kind of uncertainty you get with a normal recession. I mean, that’s just crazy, right? No one would do that.

    But in the era of Trump, that’s exactly what we did. So not only do we have a deep recession, but nobody knows when it will end. And even if it looks like it’s about to end, nobody can be sure that it’s really ending. If anything, Trump has created an economic doom loop with even more uncertainty than any recession we’ve ever had. And I guess the public is finally catching on to that:

  • Notre Dame Will Remain Notre Dame

    Abaca via ZUMA

    Good news!

    Notre Dame Cathedral will be restored exactly as it was before the 2019 fire that destroyed much of the historic landmark, the French government announced Thursday evening.

    ….The concern for President Emmanuel Macron was “not to delay the construction site nor to complicate the issue” with a contemporary gesture, according to an Élysée official. But the plans will include an apparent concession to those who preferred a more modern design. The statement said there will be a contemporary dimension in the “redevelopment of the surroundings of the cathedral, in close collaboration with the city of Paris.”

    Well, it’s good news if you think Notre Dame should be restored to its former look, rather than getting a contemporary upgrade. Which is exactly what I think.

    As for the “contemporary dimension” to the surroundings, I’m all for that too even though I have no idea what it means. I just figure that if you’re going to muck around with something, better to muck around with the supporting cast than the star itself.