The Smoke Eater For March 10, 2020

COVID-19, "The Dementia Campaign," and neo-Nazi terrorists.

A woman in a mask waits to cross the intersection of Wabash and Monroe in downtown Chicago during the COVID-19 outbreak.

Good afternoon, this is The Smoke Eater for Tuesday, March 10, 2020, and mother fucker's are nasty.

Quick Hit

* COVID-19 In Chicago * COVID-19 in D.C. * COVID-19 in Congress * COVID-19 on the campaign trail * The "Dementia Campaign" * The State Department wants to call neo-Nazis international terrorists *

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The Scene In Chicago

When the markets began to sink yesterday grabbed my camera and went downtown. As someone who thrives in the middle of chaos, I wanted to see Chicago's reaction to COVID-19.

Yesterday Democratic Gov. J.B. Pritzker declared a disaster proclamation after four additional cases popped up in Chicago. The city's mayor, Lori Lightfoot, has thrown a dozen city agencies at the crisis in an effort to contain the spread of the outbreak. There are only 11 confirmed cases in Illinois, but it's possible there are more that have gone unreported.

Being one of the largest transit hubs in the world, it's no surprise one of the first people infected with the virus in the U.S. traveled through O'Hare International Airport. Last week a person was discovered to have traveled through O'Hare before boarding a train to St. Louis. Today several area schools have closed over exposure concerns.

Raiding has already started happening at some area stores. A Home Depot employee told me a man had dumped an entire shelf of N95 masks into a cart. A Walgreens manager told me she’d sold of hand sanitizer Friday, and over the weekend all the aloe vera gel sold out after a DIY solution began to circulate through the neighborhood. At my local grocery store, the security guard whispered some employees had begun stashing paper towels and toilet paper in the stock room.

Walking around The Loop at lunch time I noticed the city was quiet considering it was one of the first days of Spring. Though only a few people were walking around with masks or rubber gloves, one man standing outside on the corner of Daley Plaza -- the hub of the city's government -- was shouting through a mask at a friend on the phone who was struggling to understand him. He eventually lifted the mask up and barked.

When I approached, he quickly snapped the mask back. He said it was to protect him "from that corona." When I asked where he was coming from, he glared at me from behind the mask and said, "Man, I can't afford to get sick. Besides, mother fucker's are nasty!"

A man standing in Chicago’s Daley Plaza pulls his mask away to talk to a friend on the phone struggling to understand him during the COVID-19 outbreak.

Wash Your Goddamn Hands

The only person not worried about the COVID-19 right now is Donald Trump, but that's because -- according to the White House -- Donald Trump is the fittest geriatric in the country and has no need for doctors (he also seems to be holding all the hand sanitizer in America). His speaking engagements are still on schedule, but the rest of Trumpland is staying home. The White House claims that Trump hasn't been infected, though it admits he hasn't been tested. Meanwhile, 2020 candidates are taking their own precautions to prevent contracting and spreading the highly infectious virus.

After the markets sank like a stone yesterday, the administration began to panic and consider unthinkable options, like a payroll tax cut aimed hourly workers; the idea has terrified Reaganites and Senate Republicans who would rather bail out cruise liners and airline companies. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has been leaning on a tax cut aimed at service industry workers before the legislative recess at the end of the week, but the legislation is being hampered by safety precautions on The Hill (and the lack thereof). NOTE: The administration has been mulling over a second top-down tax cut before the 2020 election since last year.

There's also rumblings about rejiggering the rules around drug manufacturing to increase the supply of some domestically made pharmaceuticals. Some legislators (with sweet government health insurance plans) seem to have realized that cheaper drugs from overseas often come from manufacturers who have consolidated pharmaceutical markets, so a broken link in the supply chain (or a trade war) can have major ramifications on the availability of inexpensive drugs. Legislators are kicking around a couple of ideas, like incentivizing the growth of domestic pharmaceutical markets, but they’re all likely to get lost in bureaucracy.

Other Legislative Stuff

Last night House Democratic leaders said there were no plans to shutter the House (yet), though the situation is fluid. Roll Call reports that the virus happens to fall in the middle of a very busy legislative week. For one thing: Uncle Sam's spy powers are about to run out, and House leaders have forced their underlings to the negotiating table. Intel agencies are begging legislators to get their shit together, but Senate Republicans and the administration could still hinder efforts to extend or modify the FISA provisions, Politico reports.

Also on the schedule: House Democrats are trying to overhaul Trump's travel bans on "shithole countries." An increasingly bloated energy bill peddled by senators Joe Manchin and Lisa Murkowski was knocked off the fast track after a number of Republicans complained an amendment meant to curb highly toxic hydrofluorocarbons might let states set stricter regulations than the federal government.

Complicating the herculean task of basic governance is news that a number of key Republican legislators have placed themselves in self-quarantine after potential exposure during CPAC last week, including Georgia Republican Rep. Doug Collins and self-described "Florida Man," Republican Rep. Matt Gaetz. Ever the the patriotic pariah, Texas Republican Rep. Louis Ghomert says that even though he's been exposed, he's still going to return to the Hill. One presumes Rep. Ghomert believes his presence would otherwise be missed.

ICYMI: Republicans are still hoping to change what kids eat in public schools if they get subsidized lunches. The commenting period for the FDA's nutritional standards is still open through March 23. If (like me) you'll concede that pizza is not a food group, you should probably sit down and write a letter here.

Later today members of Congress will get a classified briefing on election security, but Acting Director of National Intelligence Richard Grenell decided to blow it off, and will instead send Bill Evanina, the director of the National Counterintelligence and Security Center in his place. CNN notes that Shelby Pierson, the ODNI lead on election security threats who last month briefed members of Congress about the Russian hard-on for Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump, is also not expected to appear.

"The Dementia Campaign"

Trumplandia is bragging about feeding the belief that Joe Biden is senile into the mainstream consciousness, Politico reports. Biden has mostly brushed off these attacks, and nerds old enough to live through 2016 are pointing at the obvious parallels to the attacks on Hillary Clinton. Tom Kludt writes in Vanity Fair that the scheme has already been adopted by the Bernie-Or-Bust babies waging a meme war that nobody else is even playing. Russian bots have latched onto this crap and created a bunch of garbage for the Bernie Bots who think every shitpost is equal to one vote. Over the weekend, Politico co-founder John Harris wrote that this was now the "Dementia Campaign" as Americans are forced to choose between bitchy old men in their late 70s with a ton of baggage and a vast video archive full of them saying stupid shit.

NOTE: The phrase, "#BernieSurge" began trending on social media at early o'clock this morning. A number of night owls, foreign policy nerds, and early risers thought it curious that this appeared while the majority of US users were asleep. Whether or not this is evidence of Russian mind fuckery is inconclusive at this time.

Joe Biden sat down with MSNBC's Lawrence O'Donnell last night ramble about a potential VEEP pick, and what he would do to stop the spread of COVID-19. He also bullshitted an answer about his vote for the war in Iraq. CNN's Andrew Kaczynski notes that Biden's statement last night is in contrast to his old rationale for voting to beat up an Iraqi dictator, and similar to his recent defense during a January debate. Clearly his position is evolving.

Joe Biden has been giving shorter speeches in an effort to avoid saying more dumb shit. Bernie Bots have seized on this as evidence that Biden has a tiny old man penis, and that only Bernie has a dick big enough for a pissing contest with Donald Trump. The shorter speeches haven't stopped Biden from fucking up as this morning he told an auto worker in Detroit that he was, "full of shit," after the worker said he saw an internet video that claimed Biden wants to take his guns.

One More Thing...

The US State Department wants to add the white supremacist and neo-Nazi groups its list of foreign terrorist organizations, but some members of the administration aren't keen on being mean some of the "very fine people" in Trump's base, Politico reports. Recent international expansion efforts by these groups would allow US law enforcement officials the ability to pursue members on US soil while simultaneously skirting the messy debate over domestic terrorism law (or the lack thereof).

OK, now here's a warm and fuzzy critter video: TRUCKER CATS!

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