Tuesday, July 14, 2020

Epicenter

We’re it.

From Local 10 News in Miami:

MIAMI-DADE COUNTY, Fla. – A group of Miami-area medical experts joined Miami-Dade County Mayor Carlos Gimenez on a Zoom news conference Monday morning and made clear that South Florida is in a dire position when it comes to the spread of COVID-19.

“Miami is now the epicenter for the virus,” said Lilian M. Abbo, M.D., an infectious diseases specialist at the University of Miami Health System and the Chief of Infection Prevention for Jackson Health System. “What we were seeing in Wuhan [China] five months ago, we’re now seeing here.”

The experts were speaking minutes after Florida announced 12,624 new cases of COVID-19 — a day after Florida set a record for any state with 15,300 new cases.

The experts stressed the need to restrict large gatherings of people in indoor spaces, and Gimenez said the biggest thing that needs to be done is residents following the safety guidelines.

“The reason [for the spike] is us. There’s no Boogeyman. The reason is us,” he said. “We have to change our behavior. The no. 1 reason is our behavior.”

We are a little over a month away from the public school reopening day. Miami-Dade County Public Schools are bracing themselves for not reopening on August 24. So what are the authorities at the county level in Miami doing? Waiting to see if it gets worse.

Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Gimenez said Monday he wants to see if existing restaurant restrictions, an ongoing 10 p.m. curfew and a countywide mask order help stabilize the county’s alarming COVID numbers before forcing more businesses to close.

Gimenez is under pressure on both sides, with cities and restaurant groups criticizing last week’s ban on indoor dining and Miami-Dade seeing much more coronavirus spread and hospitalizations than when the county mayor ordered all nonessential businesses to close in March.

“We’re not there yet. But everything is on the table. I don’t think anyone on this call wants to take that drastic step,” Gimenez said at a Monday morning online press conference with local doctors advising him on Miami-Dade’s COVID plan. “If we simply follow the rules, and keep our masks on and keep our distance, wash our hands, that we’ve opened can be done in a relatively safe way. … Right now, I don’t have any intention of going further.”

Meanwhile, Gov. DeSantis says everything is just rosy. Others disagree.

Stay home. Stay alive.

Monday, July 13, 2020

Question of the Day

Can Trump cut funding to public schools to punish them for not going along with his Covid-19 super-spreading?

Short Answer: No.

Long(er) Answer: Neither the president nor the U.S. Department of Education can rescind funding to public schools.  There are a few reasons for this.  First, the USDOE does not directly fund local schools.  The department is prohibited by federal law from doing that.  (Nor can they directly dictate what is or isn’t taught in the classroom.)  What the USDOE does control is grant funding, but it takes an act of Congress to both send the money out for grant opportunities for such things as magnet schools, Title I education for poor children, and IDEA – the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, a part of the civil rights acts passed in 1964 — and other funding above and beyond what school districts get from their state and local tax revenues.  Those federal programs are managed by the states, and the budgets for those programs were passed in the last Congress.  It would require another act to take the money back, and in most cases, it’s already been included in the 2020-2021 fiscal year budgets at the state and local level.

In short, it’s all about the money.  That seems to be the only language both Trump and Ms. DeVos understand, and they think by threatening the flow of dollars they can somehow convince the 17,000+ local school districts into following their guidelines about dealing with Covid-19.  Except they don’t have any guidelines.

So it’s all bullshit.  It would be easy to ignore, except children are going to die.

Sunday, July 12, 2020

Sunday Reading

Robert Mueller Speaks — The former special counsel breaks his silence on the commutation of Roger Stone.

The work of the special counsel’s office — its report, indictments, guilty pleas and convictions — should speak for itself. But I feel compelled to respond both to broad claims that our investigation was illegitimate and our motives were improper, and to specific claims that Roger Stone was a victim of our office. The Russia investigation was of paramount importance. Stone was prosecuted and convicted because he committed federal crimes. He remains a convicted felon, and rightly so.

Russia’s actions were a threat to America’s democracy. It was critical that they be investigated and understood. By late 2016, the FBI had evidence that the Russians had signaled to a Trump campaign adviser that they could assist the campaign through the anonymous release of information damaging to the Democratic candidate. And the FBI knew that the Russians had done just that: Beginning in July 2016, WikiLeaks released emails stolen by Russian military intelligence officers from the Clinton campaign. Other online personas using false names — fronts for Russian military intelligence — also released Clinton campaign emails.

Following FBI Director James B. Comey’s termination in May 2017, the acting attorney general named me as special counsel and directed the special counsel’s office to investigate Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election. The order specified lines of investigation for us to pursue, including any links or coordination between the Russian government and individuals associated with the Trump campaign. One of our cases involved Stone, an official on the campaign until mid-2015 and a supporter of the campaign throughout 2016. Stone became a central figure in our investigation for two key reasons: He communicated in 2016 with individuals known to us to be Russian intelligence officers, and he claimed advance knowledge of WikiLeaks’ release of emails stolen by those Russian intelligence officers.

We now have a detailed picture of Russia’s interference in the 2016 presidential election. The special counsel’s office identified two principal operations directed at our election: hacking and dumping Clinton campaign emails, and an online social media campaign to disparage the Democratic candidate. We also identified numerous links between the Russian government and Trump campaign personnel — Stone among them. We did not establish that members of the Trump campaign conspired with the Russian government in its activities. The investigation did, however, establish that the Russian government perceived it would benefit from a Trump presidency and worked to secure that outcome. It also established that the campaign expected it would benefit electorally from information stolen and released through Russian efforts.

Uncovering and tracing Russian outreach and interference activities was a complex task. The investigation to understand these activities took two years and substantial effort. Based on our work, eight individuals pleaded guilty or were convicted at trial, and more than two dozen Russian individuals and entities, including senior Russian intelligence officers, were charged with federal crimes.

Congress also investigated and sought information from Stone. A jury later determined he lied repeatedly to members of Congress. He lied about the identity of his intermediary to WikiLeaks. He lied about the existence of written communications with his intermediary. He lied by denying he had communicated with the Trump campaign about the timing of WikiLeaks’ releases. He in fact updated senior campaign officials repeatedly about WikiLeaks. And he tampered with a witness, imploring him to stonewall Congress.

The jury ultimately convicted Stone of obstruction of a congressional investigation, five counts of making false statements to Congress and tampering with a witness. Because his sentence has been commuted, he will not go to prison. But his conviction stands.

Russian efforts to interfere in our political system, and the essential question of whether those efforts involved the Trump campaign, required investigation. In that investigation, it was critical for us (and, before us, the FBI) to obtain full and accurate information. Likewise, it was critical for Congress to obtain accurate information from its witnesses. When a subject lies to investigators, it strikes at the core of the government’s efforts to find the truth and hold wrongdoers accountable. It may ultimately impede those efforts.

We made every decision in Stone’s case, as in all our cases, based solely on the facts and the law and in accordance with the rule of law. The women and men who conducted these investigations and prosecutions acted with the highest integrity. Claims to the contrary are false.

Suckers — Peter Wehner in The Atlantic on how evangelicals were betrayed by Trump.

The closest thing social conservatives and evangelical supporters of President Donald Trump had to a conversation stopper, when pressed about their support for a president who is so manifestly corrupt, cruel, mendacious, and psychologically unwell, was a simple phrase: “But Gorsuch.”

Those two words were shorthand for their belief that their reverential devotion to Trump would result in great advances for their priorities and their policy agenda, and no priority was more important than the Supreme Court.

Donald Trump may be a flawed character, they argued, but at least he appointed Neil Gorsuch to the Supreme Court.

And then came Bostock v. Clayton County, Georgia.

That is the case decided in mid-June in which the majority opinion, written by Justice Gorsuch, protected gay and transgender individuals from workplace discrimination, handing the LGBTQ movement a historic victory.

“An employer who fires an individual merely for being gay or transgender defies the law,” Gorsuch wrote for the majority in the 6–3 ruling.

It was a crushing blow for the religious right, and it must have dawned on more than a few of Trump’s evangelical supporters that if Hillary Clinton had won the presidency, the outcome of the case would have been the same; the only difference is that the margin probably would have been 7–2.

The Bostock case was not the only major legal setback for social conservatives and evangelical Christians. By a 5–4 margin, the Court—in June Medical Services v. Russo—delivered a significant defeat to the pro-life movement, striking down as unconstitutional a Louisiana law that could have left the state with only a single abortion clinic. This dashed the hopes of those who were counting on Trump’s appointees to lead the Court in overturning Roe v. Wade. (Both of Trump’s Supreme Court choices were in the minority.)

Social conservatives can point to some important religious-liberty victories. But overall, this term was a judicial gut punch for the president’s evangelical supporters. The “but Gorsuch” argument has not been destroyed, but it has been substantially weakened.

“The GOP gives social conservatives little or nothing legislatively, and hasn’t for a very long time,” the conservative blogger Rod Dreher told Vox’s Jane Coaston. “True, they have blocked some bad things over the years. That’s not nothing. But I think we’ve always known that judges are the real deal here.”

“Every institution—the media, academia, corporations, and others—are against us on gay and transgender rights, and GOP lawmakers are gutless. The only hope we had was that federal judges would protect the status quo. Now that’s gone.”

Legislatively, Trump, compared with other presidents, has not achieved all that much for the pro-life cause and religious-liberties protection. For example, George W. Bush’s pro-life record is stronger and Bill Clinton achieved more in the area of religious liberties, signing into law the Religious Freedom Restoration Act and the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act. (Trump has done a fair amount administratively for the pro-life cause.) Trump has also achieved next to nothing in terms of enacting education reforms.

Elsewhere, Trump has engaged in a bromance with North Korea’s Kim Jong Un, the worst persecutor of Christians in the world, and established more intimate and admiring relationships with many of the world’s despots than with leaders of America’s traditional allies. And on issues that have traditionally concerned conservative evangelicals, such as fiscal responsibility and limited government, Trump has been awful: The deficit and the debt exploded under his watch, even pre-pandemic.

Based strictly on the standard of advancing causes that conservative evangelicals most care about, a fair-minded assessment of the Trump record is that some important things were achieved, especially in appointing federal judges. That clearly would not have happened in a Hillary Clinton presidency. But in virtually every other area, including the outcome of several key Supreme Court decisions, Trump has fallen short of the promises and expectations.

Now think about what the cost has been of the uncritical support given to Trump by evangelical Christians. For now, focus just on this: Christians who are supporters of the president have braided themselves to a man who in just the past few days and weeks tweeted a video of a supporter shouting “white power” (he later deleted it but has yet to denounce it); attacked NASCAR’s only Black driver, Bubba Wallace, while also criticizing the decision by NASCAR to ban Confederate flags from its races; threatened to veto this year’s annual defense bill if an amendment is included that would require the Pentagon to change the names of bases honoring Confederate military leaders; referred to COVID-19 as “kung flu” during a speech at a church in Phoenix; and blasted two sports teams, the Washington Redskins and the Cleveland Indians, for considering name changes because of concerns by supporters of those franchises that those team names give undue offense.

These provocations by the president aren’t anomalous; he’s a man who vaulted to political prominence by peddling a racist conspiracy theory that Barack Obama wasn’t born in the United States—he later implied that Obama was a secret Muslim and dubbed him the “founder of ISIS”—and whose remarks about an Indiana-born judge with Mexican heritage were described by former House Speaker Paul Ryan as “the textbook definition of a racist comment.”

The white supremacist Richard Spencer, describing the neo-Nazi and white-supremacist march in Charlottesville, Virginia, told The Atlantic, “There is no question that Charlottesville wouldn’t have occurred without Trump. It really was because of his campaign and this new potential for a nationalist candidate who was resonating with the public in a very intense way. The alt-right found something in Trump. He changed the paradigm and made this kind of public presence of the alt-right possible.” And David Duke, the former Ku Klux Klan leader, called the march a “turning point” for his own movement, which seeks to “fulfill the promises of Donald Trump.”

For his whole life, before and since becoming president, Trump has exploited racial divisions and appealed to racial resentments. The president is now doing so more, not less, than in the past, despite the fact—and probably because of the fact—that America is in the grips of a pandemic that he and his administration have badly bungled and that has claimed more than 130,000 American lives.

As The New York Times’ Maggie Haberman pointed out on July 6, “Almost every day in the last two weeks, Mr. Trump has sought to stoke white fear and resentment.”

White evangelicals are the core of Trump’s political support, and while the overwhelming number of the president’s evangelical supporters may not be racist, they are willing to back a man who openly attempts to divide people by race. That would be enough of an indictment, but the situation is actually a good deal worse than that, since Trump’s eagerness to inflame ugly passions is only one thread in his depraved moral tapestry.

My hunch is that at the beginning of this Faustian bargain, most evangelicals didn’t imagine it would come to this, with them defending the indefensible, tarnishing their reputations, and doing incalculable damage to their causes.

This is the worst year for America in more than a half century; a stunning 87 percent of Americans are dissatisfied with the way things are going and only 17 percent feel proud when thinking about the state of the nation, while 71 percent feel angry and 66 percent are fearful. Donald Trump’s presidency is so polarizing and such a catastrophe that a plurality or outright majority of Americans now oppose much of whatever he supports. The mood of the public is the most progressive it’s been in nearly 70 years. During the Trump era, the nation has moved to the left on a whole series of issues, including those that matter most to evangelical Trump supporters.

The Trump presidency, which has produced few significant legislative or governing achievements, has inflicted gaping wounds on the Republican Party, conservative causes, and the evangelical movement.

IN HIS MARVELOUS book The Narnian: The Life and Imagination of C. S. Lewis, Alan Jacobs tells about the theater critic and essayist Kenneth Tynan, who, after reading Lewis’s That Hideous Strength, said, “How thrilling he makes goodness seem—how tangible and radiant!” (At Oxford, Lewis was a tutor to Tynan, who was not himself a believer.)

Tynan perceived something essential about Lewis. One of his most impressive qualities was his ability to present the good life—and his Christian faith, which shaped his understanding of the good—as tangible and radiant, a thrilling and captivating journey, a way to find joy and fulfillment.

That was hardly the whole story. Lewis faced a crisis in faith late in his life, when he was overwhelmed by grief after his wife, Joy Davidman, died of cancer—a crisis he recovered from, but that left its mark. Still, because of his faith, Lewis’s life was more alluring, more captivating, more vivifying. It was said of Lewis and J. R. R. Tolkien that they never lost their enchantment with the world.

The greatest cost of the Trump years to evangelical Christianity isn’t in the political sphere, but rather in what Christians refer to as bearing witness—showing how their lives have been transformed by their faith.

Much of the evangelical movement, in aligning itself with Donald Trump, has shown itself to be graceless and joyless, seized by fear, hypocritical, censorious, and filled with grievances. That is not true of all evangelicals, of course, and it’s not true of all evangelicals who are Trump supporters. But it’s true of enough of them, and certainly of the political leadership of the white evangelical movement, to have done deep injury to their public witness.

I know this firsthand, from pastors around the country who have talked about the catastrophic effects of the unholy alliance between evangelicals and Donald Trump. One pastor of a large church on the Pacific Coast told me: “There are many reasons why young people are turning away from the Church, but my observation is, Trump has vastly accelerated that trend. He’s put it into hyperdrive.”

This pastor, a lifelong Republican who declined to be quoted by name because of the position he occupies, wrote that “for decades Hollywood has portrayed conservative Christians as cruel, ignorant, greedy, and hypocritical. For 20 years I have worked, led, and sacrificed to put the lie to that stereotype, and have done so successfully here … Because of how we have served the least of the least, city officials, school officials, and many atheists have formed a respect for Jesus and his church. And I’m watching all that get washed away.”

He added, “Yes, Hollywood and the media created a decidedly unattractive stereotype of Christians. And Donald Trump fits it perfectly. Made it all seem true. And sadly, I now realize that stereotype is more true than I ever knew. It breaks my heart. In volleyball terms, Hollywood did the set, but Trump was the spike that drove the ball home. He’s everything I’ve been trying to say isn’t what the church is all about. But sadly, maybe it is.”

In the midst of the wreckage, Trump’s evangelical supporters will undoubtedly comfort themselves with this thought: They got Gorsuch.

Doonesbury — Tolls for polls.

Saturday, July 11, 2020

Friday, July 10, 2020

Happy Friday

According to Charles P. Pierce, yesterday was a pretty good day.

“And, on fourth-and-15, here comes veteran John Roberts, back to kick. Takes the snap, and it’s a long one. Waaayyy down the field. It takes a huge Camp Runamuck bounce and it goes out of bounds, pinning the Republic back on its own three-yard line. Roberts really outkicked his coverage…”

I’m sorry about that. God, I’ve got to get another sportswriting gig.

The Supreme Court on Thursday did what most people expected it to do on the matter of El Caudillo del Mar-a-Lago’s financial records. It denied Congress’s attempt to subpoena the material, but it did rule that New York County DA Cyrus Vance, Jr. one day could go gamboling through the vast vista of scams and grifts and frauds likely contained therein. Indeed, in ruling in Vance’s favor, Chief Justice Roberts wrote in the Court’s unanimous opinion on that point:

No citizen, not even the president, is categorically above the common duty to produce evidence when called upon in a criminal proceeding.

This is a major statement on presidential power and, in that regard, it can rank with US v. Nixon and Jones v. Clinton. And hooray for that. (As far as the congressional subpoenas go, there is at least an arguable separation-of-powers claim to be made. Clearly, Roberts swung the entire Court onto the institutionalist side of his conscience. I wouldn’t make it, but it’s at least worth piling up the billable hours on.)

But the two rulings also ensure that he country will not get to see this information any time before the November election. The case of the congressional subpoenas will go back into the maelstrom of the lower courts. Vance was clearly luckier than Congress was but, after Vance’s own fandango in the lower courts, all of the documents under subpoena will go to a grand jury, the proceedings of which will be secret and, therefore, the information in the documents will remain inaccessible, at least for the foreseeable future. Nonetheless, the president* responded on the electric Twitter machine by going utterly bananas.

PRESIDENTIAL HARASSMENT!

“We know what took place. We have already seen criminality. What is happening? Biggest political scandal of our time.” @MariaBartiromo You are 100% correct, Maria, it is a disgrace that nothing happens. Obama and Biden spied on my campaign, AND GOT CAUGHT…BUT NOTHING!

PROSECUTORIAL MISCONDUCT!

We have a totally corrupt previous Administration, including a President and Vice President who spied on my campaign, AND GOT CAIGHT…and nothing happens to them. This crime was taking place even before my election, everyone knows it, and yet all are frozen stiff with fear….

No Republican Senate Judiciary response, NO “JUSTICE”, NO FBI, NO NOTHING. Major horror show REPORTS on Comey & McCabe, guilty as hell, nothing happens. Catch Obama & Biden cold, nothing. A 3 year, $45,000,000 Mueller HOAX, failed – investigated everything…

.for another President. This is about PROSECUTORIAL MISCONDUCT. We catch the other side SPYING on my campaign, the biggest political crime and scandal in U.S. history, and NOTHING HAPPENS. But despite this, I have done more than any President in history in first 3 1/2 years!

This certainly sounds like the reasoned rebuttal of an innocent man.

(For the historical record, here’s how the Nixon White House, through attorney James St. Clair, responded to the 8-0 decision demanding that he hand over the subpoenaed White House tapes: “[The president] has always been a firm believer in the rule of law.”)

All in all, it was a pretty good day for the Republic, although it’s still got a long way to go before it hits pay dirt. And hope does spring eternal. After all, in the other decision by the Court on Thursday, almost half of the state of Oklahoma was determined to belong to Native Americans. Wrote Justice Neil Gorsuch (!):

On the far end of the Trail of Tears was a promise. Forced to leave their ancestral lands in Georgia and Alabama, the Creek Nation received assurances that their new lands in the West would be secure forever. In exchange for ceding “all their land, East of the Mississippi river,” the U. S. government agreed by treaty that “[t]he Creek country west of the Mississippi shall be solemnly guarantied to the Creek Indians.” The government further promised that “[no] State or Territory [shall] ever have a right to pass laws for the government of such Indians, but they shall be allowed to govern themselves.” Today we are asked whether the land these treaties promised remains an Indian reservation for purposes of federal criminal law. Because Congress has not said otherwise, we hold the government to its word.

The “government” to which Gorsuch is referring was sitting in 1832. Andrew Jackson was president. John C. Calhoun was vice president. Henry Clay and Daniel Webster were in the Senate. John Quincy Adams and James K. Polk were in the House. John Fcking Marshall was still Chief Justice of the Supreme Court. Of course, shortly thereafter, the Jackson Administration began the genocidal campaign that ended with the Trail of Tears that brought the tribes. including the Creek people, from their ancestral lands in the southeastern United States to Oklahoma where, on Thursday, the Supreme Court ordered the United States to live up to the deal it cut with those folks lucky enough to have survived.

Mills of the gods. Arc of the moral universe, and all that. If the Creek people can wait this long to settle a land case, we can be patient about a bunch of paperwork from Deutsche Bank.

In other news, I am happy to announce that “All Together Again,” the long-awaited sequel to my award-winning play “All Together Now,” has now been published by Smith Scripts. Check it out, or better yet, order a copy.

Happy Friday!

Thursday, July 9, 2020

POTUS Tantrum

Via TPM:

Trump blew up on Twitter after the Supreme Court ruled that his tax returns must be handed over to Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance on Thursday morning.

Trump complained that he will “have to keep fighting in a politically corrupt New York” thanks to the ruling.

“Not fair to this Presidency or Administration!” the President tweeted.

“Courts in the past have given ‘broad deference.’ BUT NOT ME!” he wrote in a second tweet approximately a minute later.

The tantrum continued in the form of a barely coherent Twitter thread in which Trump raved on about his bogus conspiracy theory that President Barack Obama’s administration was supposedly “spying” on his 2016 campaign.

“We have a totally corrupt previous Administration, including a President and Vice President who spied on my campaign, AND GOT CAUGHT…and nothing happens to them,” Trump tweeted. “This crime was taking place even before my election, everyone knows it, and yet all are frozen stiff with fear….No Republican Senate Judiciary response, NO ‘JUSTICE,’ NO FBI, NO NOTHING.”

The President also ranted that the Supreme Court had made a ruling that they “would never have given for another President.”

Trump’s own appointed justices, Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh, were part of the seven-person majority in the decision.

The President was still furiously sounding off on Twitter by noontime, tweeting “POLITICAL WITCH HUNT!”

The UNFAIR! rant doesn’t work unless you’re five and told to clean up your room THIS MINUTE.  And even then.

For the adults in the room, the opinion written by Chief Justice John Roberts cited precedent as far back as Aaron Burr’s trial for treason in 1807 for successfully subpoenaing a president for his records. (And you don’t have to watch “Hamilton” to know that.) Two other presidents tried unsuccessfully to quash subpoenas — Nixon and Clinton — and they both lost.

It’s unlikely that the records will become public before he leaves office in January, but then he’ll be just an ordinary citizen again and the SDNY can indict him.

Harsh Reality

Trump is threatening to cut off funding to schools that do not fully re-open, virus or not.

Trump on Wednesday intensified his demand that schools fully reopen this fall, slamming the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, pressuring it to loosen guidance and threatening to cut funding for schools that do not open.

The CDC was already planning to issue new guidelines for schools in the coming days. But Vice President Pence on Wednesday explicitly tied the effort to Trump’s ire.

“The president said today we just don’t want the guidance to be too tough,” Pence told reporters. “And that’s the reason next week the CDC is going to be issuing a new set of tools.”

Pence, speaking at a briefing of the White House coronavirus task force, was replying to a question about the CDC’s recommendation that students be kept six feet apart to prevent the spread of the novel coronavirus.

School officials across the country have concluded they cannot fully reopen while following that guidance, because classrooms are too small to accommodate all students with the recommended distancing.

Just so you know, the president — whoever he/she is — cannot just “cut off funding.”  Neither the Department of Education nor the OMB can do that.  The only power the USDOE holds over local public schools is the ability to not reimburse school districts for the expenditures they have made on behalf of federal grants that were already funded by Congress.  So what Trump said — surprise! — is bullshit.

But doesn’t mean that it won’t have an impact on the school systems. From a teacher here in Miami via Facebook:

So apparently the federal government wants us all back in the classroom no matter what, so the guidelines that the CDC has put out (having students and teachers being six feet apart) will likely be watered down to fit an election agenda. There is not enough data on how much transmission can occur from kids (although due to increased lung capacity, kids in middle school and up likely have a higher ability to do so than smaller kids) but until we have a 14 day period where there isn’t an increase in cases locally, I do NOT feel safe going back in a brick and mortar setting. While distance learning is not the same and has its notable cons, my health and those of my colleagues are not being adequately considered by this administration. Please,if you don’t work in a classroom…don’t post here. You want to insert yourself into the convo? Then get a teaching certificate.

Ironically, the Florida Department of Education is pouring money into grant programs to provide schools with funds to do remote learning and to provide for infrastructure support to make the schools safe.

There’s another harsh reality: the toll on the mental state of people who have been isolated by the necessary precautions taken to prevent the spread of the virus. I’m thinking of people in retirement facilities who cannot be visited by relatives or who have been left behind by the toll.  Via my sister on Facebook:

The other group suffering from Covid are the grieving and depressed survivors of the covid death of a loved one who is then left in loneliness and isolation. Giving up on life. “Nothing to live for. Can’t see my family. The isolation is so painful and so depressing!”

But the harshest reality of all of this could have been prevented or allayed or brought swiftly under control were this country not being run by a sociopath and his fawning minions who care more about their political future or fear a midnight tweet from him. When it’s all over, they have to be held accountable.

Wednesday, July 8, 2020

Family Business

It may sound strange coming from a playwright who has written a lot of family dramas (take your pick from among them here at Smith Scripts), but I don’t plan on reading or really caring about Mary Trump’s tell-all book about life in her family.  It reveals embarrassing things about her uncle and her relatives, and the only reason the stories are newsworthy is because her uncle is currently occupying government housing in Washington and his actions — and inactions — have an impact on the lives of people who are not related to her.

The fact that he was an abused child and has been craving attention and adulation ever since is not news either in real life or on stage; every family has that history.  The fact that we are feeling the aftershocks means that we have to deal with the present; we can’t go back and change how he and we got there.  If this was a play, it would have to be laid out very carefully so as not to deflect the audience’s attention from the rising action on stage.  And it would have to mean something later on in the story — Chekhov’s famous imprecation that if you show a gun in Act I, it must go off in Act III — which means that beyond being just a foundation element of the character, his childhood antics and grudges have to be a part of the dramatic climax, and most importantly, there would have to be a profound change in the lead character as a result.  That’s not going to happen here.

The only thing that the book seems to reveal is that the Trump family financial empire is built on fraud and malfeasance, something we’ve always suspected.  The Supreme Court is set to rule in some fashion on the lawsuit regarding Trump’s taxes this week; maybe as soon as today.  That may be the big reveal in Act III and the gun goes off.  But this isn’t a play.

More’s the pity.  If all of this was just a play, we’d get to the merciful end, the curtain would come down, and we could all go out into the night with our biggest concern being whether or not we can find a place for a late-night snack.

Tuesday, July 7, 2020

Damn The Virus, Full Speed Ahead

Cases of Covid-19 are soaring in Florida, but that’s not going to stop Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis and his minions from doing his piety to Trump by demanding that public schools reopen in the fall.

Florida’s top school official issued a sweeping executive order Monday requiring all schools in the state to reopen their buildings for in-person instruction for the coming school year, even as coronavirus cases in the state continued to rise.

Education Commissioner Richard Corcoran, a Republican and former speaker of the Florida House of Representatives, issued the order, which states that “school districts and charter school governing boards must provide the full array of services that are required by law so that families who wish to educate their children in a brick and mortar school full time have the opportunity to do so.”

Many districts, including the Miami-Dade school system, have proposed offering multiple options for schooling, including hybrid models that would incorporate online and in-person learning. The order requires schools to offer full-time instruction “at least” five days a week for families who desire it.

The order leaves room for local health officials to override it. Miami-Dade Superintendent Alberto M. Carvalho called the order “fair and measured.”

The announcement comes the same day President Trump tweeted, “SCHOOLS MUST OPEN IN THE FALL!!!” In a later tweet, he said those hesitating to reopen schools amid a global pandemic were politically motivated: “Corrupt Joe Biden and the Democrats don’t want to open schools in the Fall for political reasons, not for health reasons! They think it will help them in November. Wrong, the people get it!”

So basically Mr. Corcoran made a lot of noise and then basically said go ahead and do what you want. For the record, we will. Despite the talk from Tallahassee, the Florida Department of Education is making millions of dollars available to public and charter schools to provide for remote learning and, if the schools choose to re-open for face-to-face learning, money to purchase personal protective equipment (PPE) and all the accoutrements that go along with enforcing CDC guidelines for social distancing.

What it all comes down to is that the Republican governors are realizing that against all prudent advice they re-opened bars, restaurants, and other businesses only to have the infection rate soar and they have to deal with it all over again.

The pandemic map of the United States burned bright red Monday, with the number of new coronavirus infections during the first six days of July nearing 300,000 as more states and cities moved to reimpose shutdown orders.

After an Independence Day weekend that attracted large crowds to fireworks displays and produced scenes of Americans drinking and partying without masks, health officials warned of hospitals running out of space and infection spreading rampantly. The United States is “still knee deep in the first wave” of the pandemic, Anthony S. Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said Monday

Fauci noted that while Europe managed to drive infections down — and now is dealing with little blips as it reopens — U.S. communities “never came down to baseline and now are surging back up,” he said in an interview conducted on Twitter and Facebook with his boss, National Institutes of Health Director Francis Collins.

Despite President Trump’s claim that 99 percent of covid-19 cases are “harmless,” Arizona and Nevada have reported their highest numbers of coronavirus-related hospitalizations in recent days. The seven-day averages in 12 states hit new highs, with the biggest increases in West Virginia, Tennessee and Montana. The country’s rolling seven-day average of daily new cases hit a record high Monday — the 28th record-setting day in a row.

But we were told it would all “disappear.”

Monday, July 6, 2020

Enablers

From the Washington Post:

Trump’s unyielding push to preserve Confederate symbols and the legacy of white domination, crystallized by his harsh denunciation of the racial justice movement Friday night at Mount Rushmore, has unnerved Republicans who have long enabled him but now fear losing power and forever associating their party with his racial animus.

Although amplifying racism and stoking culture wars have been mainstays of Trump’s public identity for decades, they have been particularly pronounced this summer as the president has reacted to the national reckoning over systemic discrimination by seeking to weaponize the anger and resentment of some white Americans for his own political gain.

Trump has left little doubt through his utterances the past few weeks that he sees himself not only as the Republican standard-bearer but as leader of a modern grievance movement animated by civic strife and marked by calls for “white power,” the phrase chanted by one of his supporters in a video the president shared last weekend on Twitter. He later deleted the video but did not disavow its message.

So what do the Republicans do? They shake their heads in private and keep their mouth shut, at least in public.

On Capitol Hill, some Republicans fret — mostly privately, to avoid his wrath — that Trump’s fixation on racial and other cultural issues leaves their party running against the currents of change. Coupled with the coronavirus pandemic and related economic crisis, these Republicans fear he is not only seriously impairing his reelection chances but also jeopardizing the GOP Senate majority and its strength in the House.

“The Senate incumbent candidates are not taking the bait and are staying as far away from this as they can,” said Scott Reed, a veteran Republican operative and chief strategist at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, which has invested heavily in keeping GOP control of the Senate. “The problem is this is no longer just Trump’s Twitter feed. It’s expanded to the podium, and that makes it more and more difficult for these campaigns.”

Trump has all but ignored the outcry and remains convinced that following his own instincts on race and channeling the grievances of his core base of white voters will carry him to victory against former vice president Joe Biden, the presumptive Democratic nominee, according to a White House official and an outside Trump adviser who spoke on the condition of anonymity to comment candidly.

To quote Digby: These are cowardly, opportunistic, Vichy collaborators. And they must never be allowed to forget what they have done.

How Was Your Weekend?

Better than Trump’s.

With the coronavirus pandemic raging and his campaign faltering in the polls, his appearance amounted to a fiery reboot of his re-election effort, using the holiday and an official presidential address to mount a full-on culture war against a straw-man version of the left that he portrayed as inciting mayhem and moving the country toward totalitarianism…

The scene at Mount Rushmore was the latest sign of how Mr. Trump appears, by design or default, increasingly disconnected from the intense concern among Americans about the health crisis gripping the country. More than just a partisan rally, it underscored the extent to which Mr. Trump is appealing to a subset of Americans to carry him to a second term by changing the subject and appealing to fear and division…

[…]

Throughout his presidency, Mr. Trump has tried to bend events to his will, often using social media to drive home his alternate version of reality and, thanks to the power of repetition and the loyal support of his base, sometimes succeeding. But the president’s attempt to drive deeper into the culture wars around a national holiday, during an intensifying health crisis that will not yield to his tactics, risked coming across as out of sync with the concerned mood of the country at a moment when his re-election campaign is struggling and unfocused.

This is from the New York Times, which heretofore has been basically a weaselly template for bothsiderism: “Sun rises in the East; some disagree.” But it’s getting to the point where even the most objective observers have to acknowledge that whatever Trump is selling isn’t being bought by the people he needs to win another term, and those who do buy it could be sick or dead by the time November comes around.

Meanwhile, the plague rampages on. Texas and Florida had exponential growth in Covid-19 infections.

At least two counties in South Texas say they have hospitals already at full capacity. This comes after officials in Texas, California and Arizona rolled back their reopening plans. In Florida, however, Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis said last week that the state was “not going back” on reopening, saying younger people were driving the spike but that they were at lesser risk than older people.

Republican Miami Mayor Francis X. Suarez called the growth “extremely worrisome,” and said the growth was partially due to the early reopening of the state.

Gov. DeSantis is echoing his hero and not taking responsibility for the surge in infections.

Gov. Ron DeSantis would not take any responsibility for Florida’s skyrocketing coronavirus numbers Thursday, just hours after the state recorded its highest single day of new cases with more than 10,000.

“Well, do you give credit for Florida for having much lower fatalities per 100,000 than all the states you just praised?” DeSantis told a reporter who asked about Florida and other Southern states’ case numbers compared with the Northeast.

“We have fewer fatalities than some of those states have just in nursing homes,‘’ he said. “And we’re more populated than all of those. So we’ve worked very hard to protect the most vulnerable … and I think that the numbers bear that out.”

Florida reported a record-setting 10,109 coronavirus cases Thursday for a total of 169,106, and 67 new fatalities to bring the death toll to 3,617.

“I don’t think anyone predicted a Sun Belt resurgence in mid-June, but we had the infrastructure in place,‘’ DeSantis said. “And we’re in a much better place to be able to deal with this as a result of it.”

Yes, a lot of people predicted a Sun Belt resurgence in mid-June, which is two weeks after the state virtually threw caution to the winds and opened the beaches for Memorial Day. So, yes, those are on you. Maybe you’ll choke on it, if you’re lucky.