Friday, April 10, 2020

Last Call For The Worst-Case Scenario, Con't

As Ezra Klein explains, the plans being floated to return America to normal involve a digital surveillance state of breathtaking intrusiveness that absolutely will be used against Americans in the future, and the distrust in the US of both the Trump regime and Big Tech makes anything approaching what we need virtually impossible.

Over the past few days, I’ve been reading the major plans for what comes after social distancing. You can read them, too. There’s one from the right-leaning American Enterprise Institute, the left-leaning Center for American Progress, Harvard University’s Safra Center for Ethics, and Nobel Prize-winning economist Paul Romer.

I thought, perhaps naively, that reading them would be a comfort — at least then I’d be able to imagine the path back to normal. But it wasn’t. In different ways, all these plans say the same thing: Even if you can imagine the herculean political, social, and economic changes necessary to manage our way through this crisis effectively, there is no normal for the foreseeable future. Until there’s a vaccine, the US either needs economically ruinous levels of social distancing, a digital surveillance state of shocking size and scope, or a mass testing apparatus of even more shocking size and intrusiveness.

The AEI, CAP, and Harvard plans aren’t identical, but they’re similar. All of them feature a period of national lockdown — in which extreme social distancing is deployed to “flatten the curve” and health and testing capacity is surged to “raise the line.” That’s phase one. Phase two triggers after a set period (45 days for CAP, three months for Harvard) or, in the AEI plan, after 14 days of falling cases and a series of health supply markers.

All of them then imagine a phase two, which relaxes — but does not end — social distancing while implementing testing and surveillance on a mass scale. This is where you must begin imagining the almost unimaginable.

The CAP and Harvard plans both foresee a digital pandemic surveillance state in which virtually every American downloads an app to their phone that geotracks their movements, so if they come into contact with anyone who later is found to have Covid-19, they can be alerted and a period of social quarantine can begin. Similarly, people would scan QR codes when boarding mass transit or entering other high-risk public areas. And GPS tracking could be used to enforce quarantine on those who test positive with the disease, as is being done in Taiwan.

To state the obvious: The technological and political obstacles are massive
. While similar efforts have borne fruit in Singapore and South Korea, the US is a very different country, with a more mistrustful, individualistic culture. Already, polling shows that 70 percent of Republicans, and 46 percent of Democrats, strongly oppose using cellphone data to enforce quarantine orders.

There's just no way this works in America.  None.  Zero.  Decades of sowing mistrust in the federal government by everything from pop culture to politicians to conspiracy theories to the internet has made something like this absolutely unworkable in 2020.

That leaves massive social distancing efforts that will continue for months on end, also unworkable.

Something has to fundamentally change in the American people to accept what will be necessary to move forward and it won't happen.  We'll have armed insurrections before it does and we'll have COVID-19 dead on top of gun deaths and they might take turns outpacing each other on a daily basis.

A lot of people are going to end up dead before the country relents.

Republican governor of Texas, Greg Abbott, announced Friday afternoon that he planned to sign an executive order that would lift the coronavirus lockdown in a "safe" way, allowing businesses to reopen.

Though Gov. Abbott didn't reveal details about the executive order, he said he's looking into ways to reopen Texas businesses. He promised that details about the executive order will be available next week, but it is expected to provide businesses with a list of guidelines on how to safely reopen.

"We will focus on protecting lives while restoring livelihoods," Abbott said. "We can and we must do this. We can do both, expand and restore the livelihoods that Texans want to have by helping them return to work. One thing about Texans, they enjoy working and they want to get back into the workforce. We have to come up with strategies on how we can do this safely."

"We will operate strategically," Abbott added. "If we do it too fast without appropriate strategies, it will lead to another potential closure."

Abbott also promised testing for the coronavirus that causes the disease COVID-19 would be part of the plan. On Wednesday, the governor announced that Walgreens locations would soon offer a test that can be administered via the drive-thru window, and will provide results within 15 minutes. Abbott estimates that each Walgreens store could test as many as 3,000 people a day. The tests are developed by Abbott Labs; despite the similar name, Gov. Abbott has no connection to the company.

Three thousand tests a day in a state with 30 million people.

It will soon be three thousand deaths a day.

My fear is that Trump and the GOP will sacrifice as many of their constituents as possible to feed the "economy" and we'll still not make the right choices.

The Blue Wave Runs Into Red Rocks

California's special election next month for CA-25, vacated by Katie Hill over her affair scandal, is a 100% vote-by-mail prospect in the age of COVID-19, and Dems are now in serious trouble of losing the seat as angry Republicans in the LA suburbs are treating the election as a golden opportunity to  pick up a seat in the state that has rejected the party for 20 years now. Republican Mike Garcia is now in a close race with Democrat Christy Smith in a race that should not be competitive at all. Dave Wasserman at Cook:

Garcia, whose father emigrated from Mexico (this district is 38 percent Latino), was nominated to the Naval Academy by longtime former GOP Rep. Buck McKeon, who chaired the House Armed Services Committee and remains popular in the 25th CD. As a Super Hornet Strike Fighter pilot, he flew 30 combat missions in Iraq and later served ten years back home as an executive at Raytheon. 
Smith also has an ideal profile for these swing suburbs: the Santa Clarita resident, former Department of Education analyst and PTA mom rose to president of the Newhall School District before raising $2 million in 2018 to flip a GOP-held Assembly seat. Smith strikes a pragmatic tone, emphasizing her work on charter school accountability and public safety, and entered the race with Hill's strong backing. 
However, unlike Hill in 2018 or Garcia now, Smith isn't a first-time candidate and has a Sacramento record to attack. And unlike Hill, who outspent Knight $8.4 million to $2.5 million in 2018, Smith won't have a massive spending advantage. As of mid-February, as most GOP House candidates badly lagged in fundraising, Garcia narrowly led Smith $1.2 million to $1.1 million raised, owing to a much earlier start. 
Besides Garcia's uniquely strong biography and financial competitiveness, there are three reasons both the DCCC and NRCC are spending heavily, and the race is up for grabs despite California's leftward drift and Trump's low approval. 
First, the March 3 all-party primary was a wake-up call. Even with a competitive Democratic presidential primary driving turnout, the five Democrats on the special election ballot only combined for 51 percent of the vote, while five Republicans accounted for 49 percent. In the 25th CD primary for the November race for the full term, six Republicans actually outpolled six Democrats 50 percent to 49 percent. 
There's reason to believe a lower-turnout, stand-alone special election could further add to Garcia's opportunity on May 12. The district only cast about 157,000 primary votes on March 3, compared to 245,000 when Hill won in 2018 and 274,000 in 2016, when Clinton carried the 25th CD. Lower-propensity voters in these fast-growing suburbs tend to skew non-white and friendlier to Democrats. 
Second, the COVID-19 outbreak adds a lot of uncertainty. On the one hand, all 420,928 voters will automatically receive ballots in the mail, and voters stuck at home may have little else to do but fill them out and send them in. Smith's campaign points to recent mayoral elections as evidence all vote-by-mail elections could actually boost turnout, producing a more diverse, Democratic electorate. 
On the other hand, the mandatory stay-at-home order quashes campaign field organizers' ability to "harvest" ballots at doors and turn them in, a practice made legal by a state law change after 2016 and that some Republicans blamed for close losses in 2018. It's impossible to quantify the impact that had in the midterms, but a smaller turnout that skews towards white and longtime voters would help Garcia. 
Third, Republicans believe they have an effective attack on Smith, who chairs the Joint Legislative Committee on Emergency Management. They contend that Smith skipped a committee hearing scheduled for March 4, the day after the primary and the same day Gov. Gavin Newsom declared a state of emergency. The most recent meeting's agenda discussed wildfires, with no mention of Coronavirus. 
Smith calls the attack frivolous and maintains that she's been urgently focused on getting PPE to frontline workers and helping small businesses acquire bridge loans instead of holding lengthy hearings. But simultaneously playing up her emergency management credentials and explaining that her committee's role is only to look at crises retroactively might seem curious to voters at a time the virus is all-consuming.

It'll depend entirely on how many residents mail in their ballots.  I'm hoping this is Wasserman admitting that there are so many variables right now that the race is impossible to call right now, but Democrats need to be working to save this seat and maybe this will snap them out of it.

Lowering The Barr, Con't

US Attorney General Bill Barr strongly suggests in a FOX News State TV interview that states don't have the right to shut down businesses and schools during a public health emergency, and hints that the Trump regime may take action against states that don't rescind shelter-at-home orders next month.

Attorney General William P. Barr said Wednesday that some of the government-imposed restrictions meant to control the spread of covid-19 were “draconian” and suggested that they should be eased next month.

In an interview with Fox News’s Laura Ingraham, Barr, long a proponent of executive power, said the government — and in particular state officials — had broad authority to impose restrictions on people in cases of emergency.

But, he said, the federal government would be “keeping a careful eye on” the situation, and stressed that officials should be “very careful to make sure that the draconian measures that are being adopted are fully justified.”

“When this period of time, at the end of April, expires, I think we have to allow people to adapt more than we have, and not just tell people to go home and hide under their bed, but allow them to use other ways — social distancing and other means — to protect themselves,” Barr said.

The White House has advised people to limit the size of social gatherings and practice other social distancing measures through April amid the outbreak of the novel coronavirus that causes the disease covid-19. Most states have imposed even more aggressive measures, ordering residents to gather only in small groups and venture outdoors for only essential trips or possibly face fines or other penalties.

Although Barr has appeared twice at White House coronavirus briefings, his comments to Fox News were the most extensive yet that he has made on the public health crisis and the steps the government has taken to stem it. Repeatedly, Ingraham pressed the country’s top law enforcement official on how the government’s actions comport with Americans constitutional rights to gather and worship freely. Churches, like other businesses, have been essentially closed in the crisis.

Barr said that governments had a right to put restrictions on churches, so long as they were treated no differently than other institutions, but added he was “very concerned” about possible encroachments on Americans’ freedom of religion. Barr said he was also concerned about the “tracking of people” that some experts have advised might be necessary to quickly identify and quarantine those infected.

This is the regime all but promising that states that do not lift orders next month closing down businesses and schools and churches will find themselves facing legal action from the federal government, reduced federal resources, or both.

Barr also attacked the Mueller probe, calling it a step "to sabotage the presidency".

Let me be frank here, this is the clearest sign yet that while Barr is willing to allow states to do what they are doing now, that patience expires at the end of the month. Barr is going to bring the hammer down on states in three weeks unless reined in, and there seems little chance of that.

It's going to take tens of thousands of deaths to get the regime to listen, and even then I expect Trump to cut off states or even send in National Guard before allowing states to continue with stay-at-home orders.  Trump gave the game away yesterday.

It will get lethal very quickly if that happens.  The death toll will skyrocket, and public order will be severely tested.  And trust me, your FOX News State TV-watching relatives absolutely believe they'll be back at Golden Corral and the ball park the first weekend in May.

We may not even make it until May before Trump has Barr go after states.

The Trump administration is pushing to reopen much of the country next month, raising concerns among health experts and economists of a possible covid-19 resurgence if Americans return to their normal lives before the virus is truly stamped out.

Behind closed doors, President Trump — concerned with the sagging economy — has sought a strategy for resuming business activity by May 1, according to people familiar with the discussions.

In phone calls with outside advisers, Trump has even floated trying to reopen much of the country before the end of this month, when the current federal recommendations to avoid social gatherings and work from home expire, the people said. Trump regularly looks at unemployment and stock market numbers, complaining that they are hurting his presidency and reelection prospects, the people said.

Like others, they spoke on the condition of anonymity to reveal internal discussions.

Trump said at his daily briefing Thursday that the United States was at the “top of the hill” and added, “Hopefully, we’re going to be opening up — you could call it opening — very, very, very, very soon, I hope.”

Multiple Cabinet secretaries in recent days have publicly expressed hope that the various government orders directing residents to stay at home and forcing nonessential businesses to close could at least be partially eased next month.

Nancy Pelosi, for her part, is warning Trump to back off but the House isn't returning to session anytime soon, meaning the fate of any future aid for Americans is questionable at best.

Speaker Nancy Pelosi signaled Thursday that the House is unlikely to return to session later this month, her clearest indication yet that Congress — like the rest of the country — could remain shuttered for weeks or even longer as the coronavirus crisis continues. 
In a half-hour interview, Pelosi issued a stark warning to President Donald Trump, urging him not to prematurely rush to reopen major segments of the country before the coronavirus is under control, which she said could further send the U.S. economy into a tailspin.

“Nobody can really tell you that and I would never venture a guess. I certainly don’t think we should do it sooner than we should,” Pelosi said when asked if she still planned to bring the House back on April 20, which is the current target date.

“This has taken an acceleration from when we started this…Little did we know then that at this point, we’d be further confined.”

If House Democrats fail to act, then Trump will, and it will be a slaughterhouse. Because what's happening in NYC is coming to cities across the country, especially if we let up on social distancing.  And in any other country, what's happening in NYC right now would be called "mass graves".

New York City officials have hired contract laborers to bury the dead in its potter’s field on Hart Island as the city’s daily death rate from the coronavirus epidemic has reached grim new records in each of the last three days.

The city has used Hart Island to bury New Yorkers with no known next of kin or whose family are unable to arrange a funeral since the 19th century.

Typically, some 25 bodies are interred each week by low-paid jail inmates working on the island, which sits off the east shore of the city’s Bronx borough and is accessible only by boat.

That number began increasing in March as the new coronavirus spread rapidly, making New York the epicenter of the pandemic. They are now burying about two dozen bodies a day, five days a week, said Jason Kersten, a spokesman for the Department of Correction, which oversees the burials.

For burial on the island, the dead are wrapped in body bags and placed inside pine caskets. The deceased’s name is scrawled in large letters on each casket, which helps should any body need to be disinterred later, and they are buried in long narrow trenches excavated by digging machines.

“They added two new trenches in case we need them,” Kersten said. To help with the surge, and amid an outbreak of the COVID-19 respiratory illness caused by the virus at the city’s main jail, contract laborers have been hired, he said.

We're only in the opening stanzas of this disaster. If Trump uses the federal government to pressure states into reopening businesses and schools in May or even late April, the death toll will skyrocket.

And that's where we are headed. He's betting millions of lives on "saving" his re-election prospects from a Biden win.  Bill Barr is helping him.

Our lives are all on the line.


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