Monday, April 20, 2020

Last Call For State Of The Pandemic

Georgia GOP Sen. Brian Kemp has decided that more of his constituents need to die in the service of profit, so he's reopening businesses like gyms and tattoo parlors on Friday.

Georgia Republican Gov. Brian Kemp announced Monday that certain businesses can reopen this week in a move that breaks from the majority of state leaders and defies the warnings of many public health officials. 
Kemp said specifically that fitness centers, bowling alleys, body art studios, barbers, hair and nail salons, and massage therapy businesses can reopen as early Friday, April 24. Theaters and restaurants will be allowed to open on Monday, April 27, while bars and night clubs will remain closed for now. 
The decision follows new guidance unveiled by President Donald Trump last week meant to help states loosen their social distancing restrictions. 
According to an influential model often cited by the White House, from the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation, Georgia hit its projected "peak" for daily deaths 13 days ago, on April 7. 
But that same model predicts that dozens of people will die each day in the coming week. And to limit a resurgence of the virus, the model says that Georgia shouldn't start relaxing social distancing until after June 15 -- when the state can begin considering other measures to contain the virus, such as contact tracing and isolation. 
Notably, Kemp said Monday that no local ordinance can restrict the openings, which will be implemented statewide. "In the same way that we carefully closed businesses and urged operations to end to mitigate the virus' spread, today we're announcing plans to incrementally and safely reopen sectors of our economy," he told reporters.

So good luck to Atlanta and southwest Georgia, two of the hardest hit areas in the country, as I expect a catastrophic spike in the state's COVID-19 cases in two weeks and thousands of deaths in three.

Here in Kentucky, a week after Easter Sunday church services and protests in Frankfort at the State Capitol, we've had our biggest spike in new cases yet.

Kentucky experienced its highest single-day spike in coronavirus cases after protests broke out in the state to lift lockdowns, according to reports.
Gov. Andy Beshear announced there were 273 new cases Sunday, bringing the total to 2,960, news station WCPO reported
“We are still in the midst of this fight against a deadly and highly contagious virus,” Beshear said. “Let’s make sure, as much as we’re looking at those benchmarks and we’re looking at the future, that we are acting in the present and we are doing the things that it takes to protect one another.” 
The Bluegrass State is among the regions that have seen demonstrators take to the streets last week to call for the end of lockdown restrictions.

I'm hoping Kentucky doesn't make the same mistake Georgia has, it will be a fatal one for many.

Republicanism is a death cult, full stop.

Fun-Sized Rebellion, Con't

As I pointed out yesterday, the "major protests" against state governors in Michigan, Ohio, Minnesota, Kentucky, and a couple of other states are all the work of Trump supporting right-wing groups with lots of cash and lots of suckers to rile up.  Even the Washington Post has finally figured out they're being played.

A trio of far-right, pro-gun provocateurs is behind some of the largest Facebook groups calling for anti-quarantine protests around the country, offering the latest illustration that some seemingly organic demonstrations are being engineered by a network of conservative activists.

The Facebook groups target Wisconsin, Ohio, Pennsylvania and New York, and they appear to be the work of Ben Dorr, the political director of a group called “Minnesota Gun Rights,” and his siblings, Christopher and Aaron. By Sunday, the groups had roughly 200,000 members combined, and they continued to expand quickly, days after President Trump endorsed such protests by suggesting citizens should “liberate” their states.

The Dorr brothers manage a slew of pro-gun groups across a wide range of states, from Iowa to Minnesota to New York, and seek primarily to discredit organizations like the National Rifle Association as being too compromising on gun safety. Minnesota Gun Rights, for instance, describes itself as the state’s “no-compromise gun rights organization.”

The online activity instigated by the brothers helps cement the impression that opposition to the restrictions is more widespread than polling suggests. Nearly 70 percent of Republicans said they supported a national stay-at-home order, according to a recent Quinnipiac poll. Ninety-five percent of Democrats backed such a measure in the survey.

Still, the Facebook groups have become digital hubs for the same sort of misinformation spouted in recent days at state capitol buildings — from comparing the virus to the flu to questioning the intentions of scientists working on a vaccine.

Public health experts say stay-at-home orders are necessary to slow the spread of the new coronavirus, which has already killed more than 40,000 in the United States. The Trump administration last week outlined three phases for states to reopen safely — guidelines contradicted by the president when he urged citizens to rise up against the rules that heed the recommendations of his own public health advisers. 
“If people feel that way, you’re allowed to protest,” Trump said Sunday. “Some governors have gone too far, some of the things that happened are maybe not so appropriate.”

Facebook won't lift a finger to stop dangerous misinformation like this from spreading, because they are paid handsomely to spread dangerous misinformation.  The right absolutely learned the correct lessons from 2016.

Facebook said Sunday it did not remove the groups or events partly because states have not outlawed the activity. Organizers also have called for “drive-in” protests, in keeping with recommendations that people keep a short distance between each other. In other cases, involving protests planned for states like New Jersey and California, the company has removed that content, Facebook said.

“Unless government prohibits the event during this time, we allow it to be organized on Facebook. For this same reason, events that defy government’s guidance on social distancing aren’t allowed on Facebook,” said Andy Stone, a spokesman for the company.

Like Trump, they are blaming the states.  It's their fault that protest events aren't being specifically outlawed, you see.  I don't see many governors willing to go that far, either.  It's exactly what these groups want, too, and state governors are smart enough not to create martyrs for the cause.

And of course, these right-wing groups are happily in bed with our white supremacist domestic terrorist friends, because they are all one big incest fest. Will Bunch makes this clear (he's literally written an entire book on the Tea Party phenomenon, The Backlash):

These right-wing groups certainly want to reelect Trump (and keep the wretched DeVos in her Education Department post) but what they’re really afraid of is that both the public-health catastrophe and the growing economic meltdown will lead to a political, economic or even social revolution in the United States that will threaten the status quo — i.e., them. The coronavirus has exposed the everyday disaster that is America’s employer-based health-care system and the broader fragility where millions were just one lost paycheck away from a miles-long line at a food bank. The conservative movement in America, therefore, will die a deserved and overdue death unless the oligarchs can change the political conversation around to your God-given right to buy plant seeds and Baskin-Robbins — and fast.

It’s also worth noting (and probably worthy of a separate column) that these billionaires and millionaires have zero moral qualms about working with some of the worst white-supremacists or neo-fascists in order to make sure a crowd turns out, which would explain how swastikas and the like turned up at the DeVos-sponsored protest in Lansing. Here in Pennsylvania, the protest planned for Monday in Harrisburg by a rapidly growing Facebook group called Pennsylvanians Against Excessive Quarantine is led, curiously, by (ahem) a gun activist from (double ahem) Ohio. And just last August, that so-called gun activist, Chris Dorr, was investigated in Ohio after a Facebook rant in which he vowed that, after any effort to restrict the right to bear firearms, “there will be political bodies laying all over the ground ... we gun owners will pull the trigger, and leave the corpses for the buzzards."
Dorr’s alarming words speak to one of the real risks here — the kind that experts call stochastic terrorism, in which a movement leader’s incitements, such as the president of the United States urging gun activists to “LIBERATE” Virginia, are translated into specific acts of violence by low-level and possible unhinged followers. If it sounds familiar, we’ve already seen it play out from El Paso to Germany, and now the danger in this time of coronavirus is very, very real. 
Trump, of course, is a vainglorious narcissist incapable of understanding how his hateful words affect other humans, but the fact that so many other conservatives are willing to amplify this dangerous message should give you some insight into what’s really happening here. The right-wing movement is so used to what it now feels is its entitlement to wield power in America that it is willing to risk many lives — both among its political friends and foes, either from the suffocation of COVID-19 or even from a hail of bullets — in its pathetic need to hold on by its fingernails.

Besides, locking up a couple of hundred protesters kind of assures a new COVID-19 hotspot.

I am glad to see the Post calling these groups out, however, instead of playing the both sides game for once.  These assholes aren't wasting time to try to create deadly distractions to try to help Trump, no matter how many of us die in the process.

The Great Escape (Clause)

A minimum-security prisoner in North Carolina named Richard Cephas escaped from the federal prison camp in Butner, and contacted Raleigh News and Observer reporter Dan Kane to make arrangements to turn himself in if he can serve out his sentence in home confinement, as the Butner prison camp is overrun with COVID-19.

An inmate who fled a federal prison camp in Butner and remains on the loose told The News & Observer on Thursday that he escaped because he feared death from coronavirus. 
“I take ownership of having to serve my time,” said Richard R. Cephas, 54, who had been at the Federal Correctional Complex serving time on a drug conviction. “I signed up for a jail sentence, not a death sentence.” 
Cephas contacted the N&O on Thursday morning, leading to interviews by phone and FaceTime. He didn’t reveal where he was — but he said he wants to turn himself in. He contacted the N&O, he said, to tell the public about the issues he saw at Butner and why he needed to flee. 
Cephas fled Butner two weeks ago after the prison complex reported nine inmates and one employee had tested positive for the virus. Since then, those numbers have surged dramatically. The Federal Bureau of Prisons on Thursday reported 66 inmates and 25 staff had tested positive at Butner, one of the worst outbreaks in the federal system. 
The bureau reported Butner’s first inmate death tied to the virus on Sunday, and has announced three other deaths since then. All had other health issues contributing to their deaths.

Cephas said he has neutropenia, a medical condition that makes him high risk for contracting the virus because his body struggles to make enough white blood cells that combat infections. His attorney, Bill Rhodunda of Wilmington, Del., confirmed in a phone interview that Cephas has the condition. 
Prison officials first reported a positive test at Butner on March 26. Since then, as the numbers grew, Cephas said he grew more fearful for his life. He said he sought early release but said the staff at Butner had not responded to his requests. 
Making matters worse, he said, was the way the prison handled the outbreak. He said he works as an orderly at the prison camp, so he was acutely aware of a lack of soap. A staffer told him there wasn’t enough to go around, he said, and inmates were urged to use soap they had purchased. 
Masks and gloves also hadn’t been issued, he said, and inmates couldn’t socially distance themselves in the confined space. A directive issuing masks for inmates and requiring staff to wear masks didn’t come until five days after he fled the prison, according to an email sent by the facility’s warden and provided to the N&O by an employee. The employee asked not to be identified for fear it could affect their employment.

Families of other inmates have also contacted the N&O in recent days to complain about a lack of soap and other unsanitary conditions. 
Bureau of Prisons officials could not be reached after four phone calls by The N&O on Thursday afternoon. 
Cephas was one of nine people from Delaware arrested as part of an investigation prosecutors called “Operation Bear Trap.” Prosecutors said in a news release at the time that it involved two different drug conspiracies with overlapping participants, one to sell methamphetamine brought in from Mexico and one to traffic cocaine.

This is a man willing to trade additional time as a federal prisoner in order to save his life.  I don't see how prosecutors don't tack on years for the escape, but if he's willing to turn himself in safely and serve home confinement, I think as a federal prosecutor I'd be willing to take the deal.

Of course, this is the Barr "Justice" Department, which means they'll probably pick up the reporter and stick him in a room for a day or two in order to get him to talk, pushing charges of aiding and abetting an escaped federal inmate.

Oh, and I'm sure the cops will kill Cephas on sight, that goes without saying, as he's black and an escaped inmate.

I hope that Cephas's escape will bring attention and help to the inmates still in Butner.  Sadly, with this administration, I don't think anything will change, and a whole lot of people are going to die as a result.


And we're back to a normal schedule this week.

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