Sunday, March 15, 2020

Last Call For Bye Bye Bibi...Maybe

The leader of Israel's Blue and White party Benny Gantz has won recommendations from 61 members of the Knesset, paving the way for him to receive the mandate from President Reuven Rivlin to form a new government after Israel’s third elections.
Why it matters: The fact that Gantz managed to secure 61 recommendations means that Rivlin by law has to grant him the mandate. This will allow Gantz to take control of the Knesset, appoint the speaker from his party, control the main committees and start pushing legislation that could prevent Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu from forming a government due to his corruption indictments.

The big picture: The coronavirus crisis has further destabilized the Israeli political system.Netanyahu, who is heading an interim government, took several extreme measures due to the health crisis — including shutting down the courts and making it impossible for his trial to begin on Tuesday.The Jerusalem district court announced it would postpone the trial until May 24. 
In the last few days, Netanyahu has called on Gantz to join an emergency government or form a unity government in order to combat the coronavirus crisis. Netanyahu’s proposal included him staying on as prime minister for the next two years while his trial is underway. Gantz and his party claimed Netanyahu’s proposal was a nonstarter, deeming it a political trick intended to prevent Gantz from receiving the mandate from the president.

Between the lines: Gantz secured the mandate after the Arab Joint List recommended him to Rivlin. This was a historic move by the Arab Israeli party that many view as a sign that the Arab minority, which turned out to vote in high numbers in the last elections, wants to further integrate into society and have a stake in the government.

The problem is though that while Gantz will get his chance to form a government, there are at least two of the 61 Knesset members recommending Gantz who have said they will refuse to join a coalition that includes the Arab Joint List party, meaning Gantz will fail at forming a coalition.

If Gantz can't talk them into joining, then Netanyahu will remain in charge, and we'd be looking at a fourth round of elections later.  Who knows when they will be with COVID-19 as a legitimate concern?

At least Gantz isn't falling for Bibi's six-month emergency government trick, because he'll never surrender power in that case when the six months are up, I guarantee it.

We'll see what happens.

Trump Goes Viral, Con't

Trump's role as Liar-in-Chief and the viral disinformation he continues to spread about COVID-19 and the "White House response" that amounts to hoping corporate America will do Trump's job for him is now well past the point of being a national public health crisis.

In the small town of Jonesborough, Tenn., nestled in the Appalachian Mountains, the Parent Teacher Association group text chat normally lights up with news of school dances and car-pooling schedules. Its main focus now is a global pandemic.

Kerrie Aistrop, a 39-year-old mother of two, and her fellow moms exchange death-toll updates from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, thought-provoking tweets and a bit of gallows humor. “After seeing how the public panics over coronavirus, I can see why the government would never tell us about Aliens,” reads one shared post.

As people in the group have taken an all-or-nothing approach to the virus, either stocking up on toilet paper or writing the epidemic off entirely, Ms. Aistrop, a Republican and pharmaceutical sales representative, has struggled to find a middle ground for news on the ongoing crisis. And so she is relying on her go-to trusted source: President Trump.

Unlike many in the G.O.P., Ms. Aistrop doesn’t wholly subscribe to the notion of the mainstream news media being out to antagonize the president. When her town’s state House G.O.P. representative, Micah Van Huss, filed a resolution in January to officially recognize CNN and The Washington Post as “fake news,” she was “embarrassed.”

But in this moment, even she doesn’t feel that she can trust the media to present the pandemic’s full picture.

“No matter what outlet you go to about this,” she said, “somebody is always taking a side.”
Much of Mr. Trump’s success has been fueled by his supporters’ distrust of career government officials. Yet as coronavirus cases multiply, many of those same supporters find themselves placing their faith in institutions like the C.D.C. — confident for perhaps the first time in Mr. Trump’s tenure that the experts on call aren’t out to sabotage the president.

In conversations over the course of the past week, as the news and administration action on the virus moved quickly, Mr. Trump’s supporters overwhelmingly have said they trust the president and they trust whom he trusts. They are not, in large part, completely dismissive of the virus, the way some right-wing media outlets have been. But they are comforted because they see the president as a bulwark against outright panic, working with business leaders and experts from within a bureaucracy that both the president and many Republicans still distrust.

“I feel like sometimes the decisions he makes are for his voters, and now it’s about what’s best for the American people,” Ms. Aistrop said. “I think he’s really looking to our government agencies to take the lead on this, he’s listening to them on what to do, and his No. 1 goal is to keep us safe.”

While polling indicates that most Democrats take a sharply negative view of the president and his handling of the virus, and that some Republicans share concerns about Mr. Trump’s performance as well, there are no signs at this point that the epidemic has cut deeply into the bedrock support that he enjoys among his base, even in places where infection rates are high and populations are most at risk.

More after the jump, a lot to cover again this weekend.

Sunday Long Read: A Table For Zero

Seattle's restaurant scene is in meltdown, with dozens of restaurants closing their doors as COVID-19 spreads, and nobody's really sure if any of them will open again.

Faced with the coronavirus pandemic and resultant restrictions against large gatherings, restaurant owners across the Seattle area are closing earlier or shutting down, laying off cooks and servers as they negotiate with landlords and vendors to delay payments while their dining rooms and bars sit empty.

Since Feb. 29, when a Washington resident became the first American to die from COVID-19, the novel coronavirus has spread through the Greater Seattle area and the fallout has been swift. Servers and managers say they were hustling during a lunch rush one afternoon then coming to work the next day to nearly empty dining rooms where, in some cases, staffers outnumbered diners. By The Seattle Times’ informal count, at least 50 restaurants and bars have closed their doors in the past two weeks, though many hope to reopen when the crisis passes.

Across the Seattle area, many bars and restaurants are facing a reality that eerily resembles the Great Recession, only on hyperdrive, with lunch crowds disappearing and a flood of dinner-reservation cancellations and catering events wiped off the books overnight, forcing many companies to slash staff and pivot to takeouts and deliveries to make up for lost revenue, several restaurant owners and investors said.

Breweries and corner pubs that are entrenched in neighborhoods appear to do better, still drawing patrons during happy hour and running close to their usual capacity. But many businesses around downtown, South Lake Union and Capitol Hill haven’t fared as well.

On Wednesday, Tom Douglas, the city’s most celebrated chef, closed a dozen restaurants for at least two months after his management team told him business was down by as much as 90%, informing Douglas that he could not afford to pay his employees beyond March 15. Also, management told Douglas, every single catering event they had booked had been canceled.

Douglas’ announcement underscored just how tough the climate is getting for many restaurant owners. Shawn O’Donnell Jr., who owns four namesake Irish pubs (Pioneer Square, Fremont, Everett and Spokane), has asked family members, from his wife to his 60-year-old dad, to help “tend bar and wash dishes.” 

One one side, supporting these small businesses is exactly what we should be doing.  On the other hand, these eateries and bars remaining open is exactly the wrong thing to do if there's any hope to flatten the curve of the virus spread, which increasingly is looking like won't happen.

Here's hoping Congress is able to come up with help for these businesses instead of funneling all the money to Trump's rich cronies.  It won't happen, of course.  Local small businesses will be wiped out, and the big chains will move in.  It happened in 2002, it happened again in 2008, it'll happen again in 2020.

Orange Meltdown, Con't

What could Trump do with the national emergency he just declared?  Essentially anything he wants to.

President Donald Trump has declared a national emergency to combat the coronavirus — but he could go much further if he wanted.

Federal law gives Trump vast emergency powers in times of pandemic. He could direct the quarantine of people arriving in the United States who exhibit certain symptoms or even if they’re just suspected of having the virus. He could have the federal government detain individuals if their illness might wind up crossing state lines.

And under regulations revised and reissued just before Trump entered office, the government can stop and seize any plane, train or automobile to stymie the spread of contagious disease. Some even interpret the statute as meaning a president could deploy the military to cordon off a city or state.

“The federal public health power is pretty awesome … awe-inspiring in its breadth,” said Wendy Parmet, a law professor at Northeastern University. “But there’s also obviously a lot of danger.”

Indeed, it’s an extraordinary palette of options for a president often mocked as enamored of dictatorial authority and who has claimed, “I have the right to do whatever I want, as president.” And many of these powers remain largely undefined, as they have rarely — if ever — been widely used. It’s a troubling concept for those who are pressing Trump to take more urgent action to combat the coronavirus as it infiltrates American cities, but are wary that he will go too far.

“We can’t divorce this from the context of a president who has shown a willingness to abuse emergency power,” said Elizabeth Goitein of the Brennan Center for Justice at New York University.
The conflict was on display Friday as Trump declared a national emergency to unlock funding and bypass regulations to accelerate the lagging development of coronavirus testing options. While even some of Trump’s most ardent opponents praised the move, they were anxious about what might come next.

“As other steps are considered, the president must not overstep his authority or indulge his autocratic tendencies for purposes not truly related to this public health crisis,” Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) said in a statement.

Fresh discussion of Trump’s power to isolate regions of the U.S. was spurred Thursday by his comments in response to a question about whether he was considering travel restrictions to the states experiencing some of the most widespread infections, such as Washington and California.

“We haven’t discussed that yet. Is it a possibility? Yes. If somebody gets a little bit out of control, if an area gets too hot,” the president said during an Oval Office photo-op with the Irish prime minister.

As I've said multiple times, Trump will not relinquish these emergency powers until he is forced to do so.  The odds of that happening peacefully are about the same as me going to Mars on a rocketship I built myself.

We shouldn't be asking "Will Trump do this?" but "What do we do when he does do it?"
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