Trump undercuts Democrats’ Congressional oversight safeguard on bailout stimulus package

When what would become the coronavirus $2 trillion economic stabilization package was hammered out in Congress, it contained a key provision Democrats were adamant had to be included: Congressional oversight on the stimulus and an Inspector General who would report to Congress on the kinds of loans and who was getting them. Donald Trump has now indicated a)he doesn’t have to follow that provision suggesting b)he’s daring Congress to do anything about it.

The New York Times reports:

“In a signing statement released hours after Mr. Trump signed the bill in a televised ceremony in the Oval Office, the president suggested he had the power to decide what information a newly created inspector general intended to monitor the fund could share with Congress.

“Under the law, the inspector general, when auditing loans and investments made through the fund, has the power to demand information from the Treasury Department and other executive branch agencies. The law requires reporting to Congress “without delay” if any agency balks and its refusal is unreasonable “in the judgment of the special inspector general.”

“Democrats blocked a final agreement on the package this week as they insisted on stronger oversight provisions to ensure that the president and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin could not abuse the bailout fund. They feared that Mr. Trump, who has previously stonewalled congressional oversight, would do the same when it came to the corporate aid program.

“But in his statement, which the White House made public about two hours after the president signed the bill, Mr. Trump suggested that under his own understanding of his constitutional powers as president, he can gag the special inspector general for pandemic recovery, known by the acronym S.I.G.P.R., and keep information from Congress.

“I do not understand, and my administration will not treat, this provision as permitting the S.I.G.P.R. to issue reports to the Congress without the presidential supervision required” by a clause of the Constitution that instructs the president to take care that the laws are faithfully executed, the statement said.

Mr. Trump has a history of trying to keep damaging information acquired by an inspector general from reaching Congress.”

The question then becomes: couldn’t the Democrats see this coming? Trump has ignored most norms and often treats Democrats with contempt. Indeed, when the package was signed despite the fact it got bipartisan support (a deal could not have been reached without it) Trump only admitted Republicans to the signing. And he hasn’t talked to House Majority Leader Nancy Pelosi in five months when that famous White House meeting took place.

Actually, it turns out that Democrats did see this coming and prepared for it.

““The president’s statement is indicative of the difference between Democrats and Republicans when it came to this bill,” House Speaker Nancy Pelosi told MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow on Friday about the language.

“It’s not a surprise to anyone,” she said of Trump’s signing language. “But Congress will exercise its oversight — and we will have our panel appointed by the House to, in real-time, make sure we know where those funds are being expended.”

“A Senate Democratic aide said, “We fully anticipated Trump shenanigans, so that’s why there are multiple layers of strict oversight in this bill, including a council of existing inspectors general and GAO review, in addition to the Special IG, reporting requirements and a Congressional Oversight Commission.””

Suffice to say, expect some battles between the executive and legislative branches as the bailout-stimulus is implemented.
Graphic by DonkeyHotey/Flickr

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by Peter Funt

WASHINGTON – Here is a transcript of tomorrow’s briefing by the coronavirus task force:

PRES. TRUMP: Good morning. I want to update you on our efforts to defeat the Chinese Virus. Today I have closed the border to travel by all non-U.S. citizens coming from China.

REPORTER: Mr. President, you did that on Feb. 2.

TRUMP: That’s right, and I intend to keep doing it until we defeat the invisible enemy, as I call it. It’s invisible. You can’t see it. Mike, do you want to add anything?

MIKE PENCE: Thank you Mr. President. Your bold action in stopping Chinese people from crossing our border has saved millions of lives.

TRUMP: Tony.

DR. ANTHONY FAUCI: Me? Well, yes, sure, closing the border was good. Actually, Italy banned all travel from China three days before the U.S. did. But let’s look forward. We want to flatten the curve. We want more of a mound, not a spike.

TRUMP: Last night I invoked the Presidential Podium Act of 1937. As you know, we’ve been using an outdated, bulky microphone left here by the Obama aAdministration. I touched it repeatedly, lowering it for Tony, then raising it for Mike, then lowering it for Deborah, then raising it for myself. The act gives me broad power to deal with this, but I didn’t have to use it. I received a call from Doug McMillon, CEO of Walmart. He said, “Mr. President, I want to help. I’m giving you two tiny podium mics.” And here they are on our podium. I call it the People’s Podium. They’re beautiful microphones. I want to thank Doug and all the great CEOs who have praised me for acting quickly to close the border to the Chinese who are responsible for this war, as I like to call it.

REPORTER: Has there been any progress in stopping the virus?

TRUMP: That’s a nasty question. Really nasty. But I will tell you, I heard Dr. Laura Ingraham say on TV that there could be dozens of miracle cures that will save us. I have a hunch she’s right.

REPORTER: Laura Ingraham is a host on Fox News Channel. She’s not a doctor.

TRUMP: I don’t know anything about that. Tony.

FAUCI: Me? Well, sure, many of us in the medical profession are skeptical of people who would mislead the public. On the other hand, the president has hope. He hopes that Ms. Ingraham is a doctor. But it’s really about the curve. Where are we on the curve?

TRUMP: Deborah.

DR. DEBORAH BIRX: Thank you Mr. President. I’d like to ask Americans to read both sides of this sheet of paper that we have deployed rapidly to all 50 states. It says the president acted quickly to close the border to travelers from China. That’s something all citizens should think about, especially millennials who will write our history. They must remember how quickly the president stopped people coming from China.

REPORTER: Mr. President, hospitals are running out of supplies…

TRUMP: That’s another nasty question. I took a call just this morning from Donnie Arnold, the CEO of Carnival Cruise Lines. He said he’s giving us dozens of big, beautiful ships to deliver masks to hospitals all over America – in Omaha, Des Moines, Kansas City – wherever we need to get supplies quickly.

REPORTER: Sir, those cities are land locked. Besides, ocean vessels are slow, right?


DR. BEN CARSON: The American spirit is under attack, but we can do anything we want if we put our minds to it. Remember, the president acted quickly to stop Chinese from coming here.

TRUMP: Tony, do you have something to add?

FAUCI: Now? Well, ok, I think the president means we will do whatever it takes to distribute supplies. Naval experts probably wouldn’t use cruise ships for supply missions to the Midwest, but I see nothing wrong with exploring all options. We’re on a curve which we must flatten and make it more of a mound. Not a curve, a mound.

REPORTER: What do you say to scared Americans?

TRUMP: I say, trust me. What the hell do you have to lose?

A list of Peter Funt’s upcoming live appearances is available at Peter Funt is a writer and speaker. His book, “Cautiously Optimistic,” is available at and © 2020 Peter Funt. Columns distributed exclusively by Cagle Cartoons, Inc., newspaper syndicate.

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$2 trillion rescue plan passes US House, heads to Trump

Washington (AFP) – The US House of Representatives passed a historic $2 trillion rescue package Friday that injects cash into the pockets of struggling Americans and fortifies an economy so ravaged by coronavirus that it is sliding toward recession.After clearing the Senate earlier this week, and as the United States became the new global epicenter of the pandemic with 92,000 confirmed cases of infection, Republicans and Democrats united to greenlight the nation’s largest-ever economic relief plan.It now goes to President Donald Trump, who has indicated he will quickly sign the measure into la…

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Curb Your Enthusiasm Has An All in the Family Syndrome by Thomas Hoffman


One of the most Politically Incorrect shows on TV returned this year. Actually, it’s not TV, it’s on HBO. Curb Your Enthusiasm just finished its tenth season. One of the creators of All in the Family once gave an interview. He lamented about how he felt the public (especially at the time All in the Family aired) identified with Archie Bunker. I often felt the same problem existed with Curb Your Enthusiasm. The public identifies with Larry David too much.There is an HBO promo that says “Deep down you know you’re him.” Unfortunately, HBO is right for too many people.

There are plenty of Curb Your Enthusiasm moments like The Doll, where Susie curses out Jeff and Larry after they steal the head of Jeff’s daughter’s doll that are pure genius. The episode where the Orthodox Jew jumps off the ski-lift (in order to avoid missing a religious curfew) is a genius idea because that may well be what an Orthodox Jew would do in that situation. However, those are all jokes about a religion, they are not engineered by Larry David’s attitude. Bill Maher once joked that Curb Your Enthusiasm was about glorifying selfishness.

All joking aside, Curb Your Enthusiasm is just that. This article examines times when Larry David was right, like the time when someone who does not work in a theater tells Larry he is not allowed to bring water in the theater. The situation where Larry and Jeff try to avoid donating the kidney may be something anyone can relate to.  Another occasion where Larry David is right is when he complains about assigned seating at a party that is designed to force people to talk to strangers. There are times when the Larry David character is right. Times is the key word.

Larry David takes the “criminal indifference” Seinfeld contained to a new level. One example of how Larry David has an attitude that the majority of the public identifies with (in a bad way) is Season 4 episode in New York City, where Larry David clashes with the hotel staff about how you cannot have any sort of interaction with them without it ending in money.  After one of these encounters with a room service person, David mutters how the room service waiter would have more money than him if everyone gave him a certain amount of a tip. In a recent episode, Larry David opens a coffee shop (long story) and Larry David forbids the use of a “tip can.” He compares the use of a tip can to panhandling.

Believe it or not, Mr. David, that is why people take jobs at hotels and restaurants, for money and tips. Have you ever read Nickel and Dime?

There was once a review of Curb where the writer said that the show became too unrealistic. The author points out that while we have all had fights with waiters, few of us would casually walk into a room, insult our in-laws religion, and expect to get away with it(as Larry David did). However, even this article sympathizes with David’s indifference to people like waiters.

One of the best examples of the Larry David ideology going over the top is the season one finale “The Group.” This episode contains a scene that mocks the subject of sexual harassment. This does escalate into a funny situation later on, but it makes light of the subject of sexual harassment.

In another episode, Larry David implies that a widow should be “finishing the grieving process” after just several months. Even Archie Bunker didn’t do that. In yet another episode Larry David doesn’t thank a soldier for his service. This sets the stage for a funny situation, but it poses the question how many people do in fact really have this indifference, and may not feel the need to thank soldiers for their service. Some people are disgusted by all of Larry David’s attitude, let alone some of it. The article does a good job examining Larry David’s values. If the HBO promo is right, and if deep down we are all in fact Larry David, this article teaches us how to moderate our inner Larry David.

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The Arctic was once a subtropical swamp.

The Arctic was once a subtropical swamp.

That is the gist of science reports about the period in Earth’s history called the Paleocene–Eocene Thermal Maximum (PETM).

From Palaeontology Online:

“At the time of the PETM, the world was already much warmer than it is today. The high latitudes and polar regions were more or less ice-free, and were populated by a diverse assemblage of plants and animals. Alligators, which today are found only in the warm tropics and subtropics, occurred well within the Arctic Circle during the early Eocene. The climate in southern North America (at a latitude of ~30° N) was roughly tropical, with high temperatures and lots of rainfall, and small seasonal differences between summer and winter.”


“The onset of the PETM was rapid, occurring within a few thousand years, and the ecological consequences were large, with widespread extinctions in both marine and terrestrial ecosystems. Sea surface and continental air temperatures increased by more than 5 °C (9 °F) during the transition into the PETM. Sea surface temperatures in the high-latitude Arctic may have been as warm as 23 °C (73 °F), comparable to modern subtropical and warm-temperate seas.”

From Quanta Magazine:

“In this ancient warming event, known as the Paleocene-Eocene Thermal Maximum, or PETM, land suffered intense downpours, while ocean acidification and heat drove many marine species extinct. Many land animals went extinct as well and were replaced by dwarf species. The Arctic had alligators, giant tortoises, and vegetation typical of Florida today, and sea levels were around 300 feet higher than now.

The PETM has preoccupied climate scientists since its discovery in the early 1990s because of its parallels to today’s climate change, including a temperature jump, ocean acidification, a huge shift in the atmospheric carbon level, and a profound effect on life.”

Mother Nature created the Paleocene–Eocene Thermal Maximum in only a few thousand years. If you anger her by fooling her, then she might act more quickly.

Featured Image in Public Domain.

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A New Birth of Fiefdom

A new batch of psychological profiles of Donald Trump, future ex-president of the United States, has been circulating. They cover familiar territory: amoral, narcissistic, misogynistic, a sociopath and pathological liar. It’s very likely that these are all correct, but it will not get him removed from office, as we have seen. They offer some new ones, such as the lack of an interior narrative.

It doesn’t matter why he is a miserable son of a bitch. The most obvious problems are all that anyone needs to know. He thinks he has absolute power, and he exercises it to intimidate and injure those who challenge or criticize him. He fawns over those who flatter him. He worships money and power, and the fact that one can give him the other. It doesn’t matter where this fits in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, or if it appears there at all.

He’s destroying America, and he keeps finding new ways to do it. We are in the middle of the worst scourge in human memory, more than one hundred years from the Spanish Influenza of 1918. He is the chief executive of the nation, and yet he has favored some states and punished others because their governors, not their citizens, have sued him or criticized him.

California, New York, and Washington have been particularly aggressive in trying to fight unfair or illegal policies, as it has a right to do. He had slow-walked meeting the needs of these places in the pandemic, much as he gave Puerto Rico the back of his hand when Hurricane Maria leveled Puerto Rico in 2017.

As Michigan is beginning to experience surging cases, Governor Gretchen Witmer has called on the federal government to step up to meet national needs. “What I’ve gotten back is that vendors with whom we’ve procured contracts — they’re being told not to send stuff to Michigan,” Whitmer said in an interview.

In his defense of withholding aid to Michiganders, he blamed Whitmer for not being “appreciative” of his efforts. “I say, ‘Mike, don’t call the governor in Washington, you’re wasting your time with him. Don’t call the woman in Michigan,’ ” Trump said. “You know what I say. If they don’t treat you right, I don’t call.”

Trump does not consider himself  a public servant. Instead, he views himself as a monarch, treating criticism as a personal insult, which he equates with treason. In response to pleas from governors for perosnal protection equipment and ventilators, he has told the states to get them themselves, at the same time telling vendors not to sell to them. His conduct is inhumane. He passed vengeful a couple of exits back.

New York has reported a little under 40,000 cases. Andrew Cuomo, its governor, called for 30,000 ventilators. To date, it has gotten 4,000. Trump said on Fox this past Friday, “I don’t believe you need 40,000 or 30,000 ventilators.”

Cuomo, who has won praise for stalwart leadership during this crisis, responded, “I hope no one needs a ventilator. But — I don’t operate on what I hope or what I would like to see or what my expectation is. I operate on the data and on the numbers and on the science. And every projection I have, from multiple sources, and these are worldwide health experts, say that we have to be prepared for an apex of 140,000 hospital beds and 40,000 ICU beds with ventilators.”

If it’s Trump’s belief against Cuomo’s data, the choice would be clear. Actually, Trump is giving Cuomo the back of the hand.  Whether he is exacting personal or flaunting his power, it is an indifference to human suffering. He may believe that New Yorkers will turn on Cuomo and blame the Democratic party for Trump’s high-handed treatment. We don’t, and we won’t.

His truculence extends to critics in red states as well. Red Louisiana is crashing. According to the Center for Disease Control, the virus is widespread in Purple Arizona, Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Iowa, Massachusetts, Michigan, and in Red North Carolina and Utah. Red Texas is undetermined because it refuses to test. Three Republican governors, Baker of Massachusetts, DeWine of Ohio, and Hogan of Maryland, took action in conflict with White House policy against shutdowns. Voters won’t forget.

Until now, Trump’s followers have ignored his unprofessional behavior. Texas Lt. Governor Dan Patrick said that he was willing to die to save the economy, a thought explained and apparently seconded by former journalist Britt Hume. Patrick and other true believers may soon have an awakening when the daily dispatch of death notices hits closer to home.

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In battling the coronavirus, will ‘optimistic bias’ be our undoing?

Unless danger is flashing before us, we view risks through rose-colored glasses.
slavemotion/iStock via Getty Images

Marie Helweg-Larsen, Dickinson College

As the coronavirus has fanned across the globe, some people have been more complacent about the risk of contracting the virus than others.

On March 21, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo was apoplectic after photographs emerged of New Yorkers congregating in parks, apparently ignoring mandates for social distancing.

“It’s insensitive, it’s arrogant, it’s self-destructive, it’s disrespectful and it has to stop now,” Cuomo said. “This is not a joke, and I am not kidding.”

Where does this complacency come from? Why are so many refusing to change their habits and going about their day as if everything were normal?

It could have to do with a well-documented phenomenon called the “optimistic bias,” which I’ve researched extensively as a social psychological scientist. Essentially, it refers to when people see themselves as less susceptible to risk than others. We think, for example, that we’re less at risk than other people of having a stroke, getting injured in a car accident or getting divorced. Smokers know that smoking is dangerous but still think they’re less at risk than other smokers of getting lung cancer.

We’re seeing this same phenomenon play out with the coronavirus.

A recent study of more than 4,000 Europeans in France, Italy, the U.K. and Switzerland showed that about half of the participants thought they were less likely than other people of getting infected. And only 5% of respondents thought they’d be more likely to become infected.

Is that because people are delusional? Hardly. Earlier this month, a study of nearly 1,600 Americans found that people thought their own personal risk was increasing, but they saw everyone else’s risk also increasing. Therefore, people still thought they were personally less at risk than other people.

Why do people tend to downplay risks to themselves?

Personal experiences play a big role. For now, coronavirus can seem distant and far away. Without viscerally experiencing it – either through contracting it yourself or seeing a close friend or family member become infected – risk of infection can be hard to grasp. In fact, my research found that people who had experienced an earthquake up close – as residents of Los Angeles did in 1994 – weren’t optimistically biased that they would avoid injury from a future one. However they were optimistically biased about emerging unscathed from natural disasters they hadn’t experienced, such as a flood.

For this reason, I’d expect the optimistic bias for the coronavirus to be smaller or absent in areas with high casualties where the virus has hit “close to home.”

In general, optimism is a good coping mechanism. It gives us a sense of control and reduces our anxiety when we think that bad stuff happens to other people, but not to us.

But in the case of a pandemic like the coronavirus, if you don’t think something bad is going to happen to you, you might not bother changing your behaviors. That’s exactly what a U.S. study on the coronavirus found: Personal risk perception was the best predictor of whether people washed their hands or engaged in social distancing. Similarly, research on the H1N1 virus showed that personally believing you were at risk predicted engaging in more avoidance behaviors.

Risk perceptions can be hard to change, but one strategy is to consider socially distancing and staying at home as moral choices. Causing harm to others is typically viewed as immoral especially if the victims are seen as vulnerable and in need of protection, like the elderly.

In my own research on smoking, the more smokers agreed it was immoral to smoke because it could harm others, the greater they saw their own personal risk. These participants were the most interested in quitting.

What’s difficult with all risks – including the coronavirus – is that you don’t necessarily know or see the potential harm to other people from your own behavior. If you don’t think you’re infected, you might not think it matters to avoid interacting with your grandmother. So the uncertainty of infection leaves you open to risk minimization and rationalization. But turning the action from one of personal risk to one of moral choice might interrupt the risk minimization process and boost preventative behaviors.

It’s possible to adopt an optimistic “we’ll get through this” attitude while still taking all the recommended precautions.

[Get facts about coronavirus and the latest research. Sign up for our newsletter.]The Conversation

Marie Helweg-Larsen, Professor of Psychology, the Glenn E. & Mary Line Todd Chair in the Social Sciences, Dickinson College

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

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The Storied History of U.S. Navy Hospital Ships

USS Comfort serving as ambulance ship, ca. 1918 (BUMED Archives, 14-0058-003)

As the USNS Mercy and USNS Comfort are deploying to Los Angeles and New York, respectively, to assist the people in both cities in the fight against the coronavirus, the ships and their crews are capturing the nation’s attention and gratitude.

Sailors prepare surgical equipment to be sterilized aboard the USNS Mercy. DoD photo by Navy Seaman Luke Cunningham

While, their stateside deployment during a global pandemic takes these ships onto “uncharted waters,”* civilian “humanitarian assistance and disaster response operations have long been the clarion call for hospital ships,” along with their traditional mission of supporting the troops during naval operations.

The following is the majority of a great article by André B. Sobocinski, Historian, US Navy Bureau of Medicine and Surgery that appeared in a DoD feature, “Know Your Military,” March 27.

Hospital ships have played pivotal roles in naval operations since the early days of the republic. During the Barbary Wars, Commodore Edward Preble ordered that the USS Intrepid be used as a hospital ship. The reconfiguration of this former bomb-ketch — a type of wooden ship that carried mortars as its primary armament — in 1803 marks the standard for almost all hospital ships used thereafter. To date, only the USS Relief was built from the keel up to serve as a hospital ship. All other ships — including the Mercy and the Comfort — were converted from other uses, whether as super tankers, troop transports or passenger liners.

Whether it was the USS Red Rover transporting patients up the Mississippi to Mound Island, Missouri, during the Civil War or the USS Solace taking wounded Marines from Iwo Jima to a Guam hospital, ships have long served in the capacity of ambulance ships.

Throughout the 19th and early 20th centuries, a host of Navy ships was sent around the country to serve as “station hospitals” for burgeoning naval bases.

From the 1850s until the early 1860s, the supply ships USS Warren and USS Independence operated at Mare Island, California, until shore facilities were constructed. Decades later, the Navy employed the former gunboat USS Nipsic at the Puget Sound Navy Yard, Washington, to serve as a predecessor to Naval Hospital Bremerton (Puget Sound). And from 1953 until 1957, the hospital ship USS Haven served as a station hospital at Long Beach, California, supporting medical activities in the 11th Naval District.

Humanitarian assistance and disaster response operations have long been the clarion call for hospital ships. In March 1933 — following the devastating earthquake that hit Long Beach — the USS Relief sent teams of physicians and hospital corpsmen ashore to help treat casualties. Following the Loma Prieta earthquake in October 1989, the USNS Mercy — then moored in Oakland, California — provided food and shelter for hundreds of disaster victims.

Since 2001, USNS Comfort and USNS Mercy have taken part in some 19 humanitarian assistance and disaster response missions — such as U.S. Southern Command’s Continuing Promise medical exercise series and Operation Unified Assistance, the military response to a 2004 earthquake and tsunami in the Indian Ocean — and treated more than 550,000 patients. But of these missions, only two were stateside deployments.

The Comfort was sent to New York City following the attacks on Sept. 11, 2001.

The USNS Comfort passes the Statue of Liberty enroute to Manhattan to aid victims of the Sept. 11 terrorist attack on the World Trade Center. U.S. Navy Photo by Journalist 1st Class Preston Keres.

Originally envisioned as a floating trauma hospital for the victims of the twin towers’ collapse after the 9/11 attacks, the ship’s mission changed when it became clear there were not the large numbers of injured expected. Vice Adm. (Dr.) Michael Cowan, Navy surgeon general in 2001, recalled that New York’s Emergency Management Office stated the city was being overwhelmed by the needs of the displaced and relief workers.

“The island didn’t have facilities to support the firemen and rescuers and police digging through the rubble and sleeping on the hood of their engines,” Cowan said. “They were becoming dirty, going without water as they worked in harsh environments.” The city requested that the Comfort provide humanitarian services while docked close to the site.

From Sept. 14 to Oct. 1, the Comfort provided hot meals, showers, beds and clean clothes to about 1,000 relief workers a day from its temporary home at Pier 92 in Manhattan.

Following Hurricane Katrina in 2005, the Comfort deployed to the Gulf Coast, where it treated 1,258 patients at Pascagoula, Mississippi and New Orleans.

When commissioned on Dec. 28, 1920, the USS Relief [below] could boast the same amenities as the most modern hospitals at the time: large corridors and elevators for transporting patients and fully equipped surgical operating rooms, wards, galleys, pantries, wash rooms, laboratories and dispensaries, as well as a sterilizing/disinfecting room, all with tiled flooring.

Hospital ward aboard USS Relief in the 1920s. (BUMED Archives, 09-5066-183)

The Mercy and the Comfort are no different in this regard and are comparable to some of the largest trauma hospitals in the United States. Each ship has 12 fully equipped operating rooms, a bed capacity of 1,000, and digital radiological services, medical laboratories, full-serve pharmacies, blood banks, medical equipment repair shops, prosthetics and physical therapy.

DoD information graphic depicting the general capabilities of the USNS Mercy and USNS Comfort.

Each emblazoned with nine red crosses and stretching 894 feet in length — the size of three football fields — the Mercy and Comfort remain powerful symbols of medical care and hope during the darkest times.

* During the great influenza pandemic of 1918, the Comfort and the Mercy [predecessors of today’s Comfort and Mercy] were each briefly stationed in New York, where they took care of overflow patients from the 3rd Naval District before returning to the fleet and sailing across the Atlantic Ocean. Along with the USS Solace, these ships ferried thousands of wounded and sick — including some with virulent cases of the flu — back to stateside facilities.

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MIND Mastery and COVID19

by Michael Mantell, Ph.D

In this time of uncertainty about our health, our finances, our freedom, our future, many are filled with emotional turmoil, angst, worry, fear and some level of anxiety. Clients say, “I’m losing my mind,” “I feel like my mind is spinning,” “My mind has lost control.”

The global virus is everywhere. We can’t be vigilant enough. It’s just what we’re being asked to deal with now in our lives…for a good, albeit, hidden reason.

My mindset takes me to the following beliefs:

**We’ll get through this. Fight is in our DNA and we just don’t lose. We always learn.
**When we get through this, we’ll be stronger than ever. Wiser too.
**We are finding common ground with each other that we haven’t had before. What a wonderful side-effect of CV19.
**We are getting closer to our humanity and to our respective faith, reflecting, examining more, and will emerge more faithful.

Mindset perspective is such an enlightening experience. When processed properly, the current seeming decline we are living through may not be a setback at all, but rather just the lens, the momentum, we need to better understand our falls, bring us into more fruitful encounters with each other, and help refine the nature of our collective humanity. This takes mental mastery. After all, master your mind and you are in charge of your life.

Mental mastery, whether it’s for the current coronapocalypse, a business meeting, a physical workout, academic success or mindful meditation, requires that you fully engage your mind. Our brains are capable of continued growth throughout life, especially when we are engaged in frequent intellectual stimulation. With the right nourishment, engagement, social connections and physical activity, the right dietary nourishment, we do quite well in maintaining brain health. These are anchored in lifestyle choices we make daily.

Many are writing now about the need for all sorts of ways to gain mental mastery to calm down, “fight stress,” and emerge through the COVID19 scare, emotionally unscathed. Unless your mind is right, you won’t be able to do any of these things. Never tell someone who’s anxious to relax. It doesn’t work. Until s/he tells himself that, and understands how to calm his/her own mind, nothing will work. Think well to live well. How?

Catch your thoughts that aren’t leading you to living more calmly. What are you getting out of holding on to a thought that the world will end? Only the end of the world is the end of the world. Then dispute, challenge and question them. Once you identify how you disturb yourself with irrational, erroneous beliefs, thoughts that have no evidence behind them, you’re in a good spot to change your thinking to more evidence-based, rational, and quite likely positive ones. Clearly, eliminating rigid, extreme beliefs and predictions of horror, are essential to moving forward through this COVID19 time of life.

I believe that, just like a rigorous physical exercise plan, upper body one day, lower body the next, push exercises, pull exercises, cardio routines, body weight programs, the brain similarly requires a “workout” to reach calm.

I call this the M.I.N.D. workout, and this includes Motivational goal setting, Imagery, Natural relaxation and Directed concentration.

I’ll break down these four ingredients as follows:

Motivational goal setting

Yogi Berra once said, “If you don’t know where you’re going, you might not get there.” So it is with goal setting, the first set in the mental workout. Rule #1 is to be sure you set process or performance, “how I will perform along the way” goals, not outcome or “win or lose” goals. Calm is not an end goal. It’s a step by step process. Set goals that are SMARTER than the next guy and you’ll likely come with the gold. These goals are specific, measureable, attainable, realistic, time-focused, and finish with goals that enthusiastically set and revisable when necessary (since nobody is perfect).

These process goals are the ones you control. You can’t control outcome goals, only the process and your performance along the way. Process is primary. Outcome goals will keep you focused on the wrong things. Ask yourself, “What are you doing really well?” “What can you get better at?” “What changes should you make to become your best?” Additionally, ask yourself, “What fires you up?” “What do you truly value in your life?” and “What’s the one thing you’re here to do?” Use these goals to move you to a more assured, confident, accepting lifestyle.


Imagery is more than visualization in the way I coach my clients. It involves all of the senses, not just “seeing” a specific performance. Walt Disney called it “Imagineering.” It involves sensory rich seeing ourselves doing the things we want to do. Take a few minutes before speaking with your children, going for a walk, getting on a work related call, and sit quietly with your eyes closed, doing “imbalanced breathing” in to a count of, let’s say 5 and out to a count of 10. If you breath in to the count of 4, breath out to the count of 8. That’s imbalanced. Begin imagining you’re calm very specifically as you’d like to it to be, only see it not as a future event but rather as an event that has already happened. See yourself already in the position you’d like to be in, controlling your emotions —but in the past tense, not in the future. “I’ve already accomplished a feeling of calm.”

Imagine having been distracted in an event and that you handled it easily by refocusing. When it happens in reality, you’ve already been there and handled it. Heidi Grant Halvorson tells us: “Don’t visualize success. Instead, visualize the steps you will take in order to succeed. Just picturing yourself crossing the finish line doesn’t actually help you get there— but visualizing how you run the race (the strategies you will use, the choices you will make, the obstacles you will face) not only will give you greater confidence, but also leave you better prepared for the task ahead. And that is definitely realistic optimism.”

Natural relaxation

Anxiety management is the key to performing well under the self-created pressure many are living with. Self-control of emotion, not labeling or thinking about outside events in a way that adds invented pressures, such as “I MUST get through this with no anxiety or I’ll just die!”) is essential. Techniques such as meditation, breathing techniques, and relaxation training are all excellent additions to the mental workout. “Box breathing” is another super breathing concentration technique that involves inhaling to the count of 4, holding it for 4, exhaling to 4, holding it for 4 and repeating it.

Relaxation training involves a simple method of tensing a group of muscles and then relaxing them, breathing in calming thoughts and letting go of worrisome, anxious thoughts, while tensing and relaxing. Can you focus your attention on one thing, and only one thing? The hallmark of winners is the ability to have unbroken concentration, deep, long and inspired focus. That’s where meditation comes in. Staying present, accepting, aware, not judging…feel the relaxation already?

Directed concentration

Those of us who do mental performance coaching, teach concentration that is based on width and direction. Both broad and narrow concentration, and external and internal concentration, play a role in your performance and in a calmer approach to any challenge. Think of it as, “rehearsal.” Direct your thinking to concentrating only on what you want to happen, not on what you don’t want to happen. Concentrate on being the kind of person who makes happen what you want to happen. Use your “Imagineering” to help fuel your focused concentration and vice versa. See yourself calm and tell yourself, “That’s like me.”

And it will be you…calmer, more accepting, less expecting, more flexible, less rigid. And that’s a key road to immunity and wellbeing.

Dr. Mantell, earned his Ph.D. at the University of Pennsylvania and is a sought-after speaker on behavior science. He can be contacted at His website is This article is reprinted from San Diego Jewish World which, along with The Moderate Voice, is a member of the San Diego Online News Association.

Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay

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