Wednesday, April 29, 2020

Last Call For Lowering The Barr, Con't

The Barr Justice Department is now working directly with conservative money groups on a concerted legal strategy to take action directly against governors to put an end to all COVID-19 health and safety restrictions.  

A network of conservative leaders, donors and organizations has launched a legal onslaught against state and local restrictions intended to slow the spread of the coronavirus, pushing to allow churches to hold services, businesses to reopen and people to be able to visit with family and friends.

They have been emboldened in recent days by increasing signs of support from a powerful ally: The Justice Department.

Justice Department officials have spoken on conference calls with leaders of conservative groups, who have flagged individual cases as worthy of the department’s review. Some cabinet officials have signaled that they back the effort by participating in private calls with conservative allies, according to multiple people involved with the calls.
This week the Justice Department delivered the clearest show of support yet when Attorney General William P. Barr issued a memorandum directing two of his department’s top lawyers to lead an effort with other federal agencies to monitor state and local policies “and, if necessary, take action to correct” those that “could be violating the constitutional rights and civil liberties of individual citizens.”

“We do not want to unduly interfere with the important efforts of state and local officials to protect the public,” Mr. Barr wrote. “But the Constitution is not suspended in times of crisis.”

Though the Justice Department has so far weighed in formally on only one case — a lawsuit by a Baptist church in Greenville, Miss. — the new directive reinforced the message that court challenges to state and local restrictions by President Trump’s allies could get a favorable viewing, and potential support, from the administration.

The guidance raises the prospect that the Trump administration could side with supportive groups in legal challenges against elected state and local leaders who enacted policies that were intended to stave off the spread of the virus, which has led to more than 53,000 deaths. Public health officials fear the virus’s spread could be accelerated by premature lifting of restrictions.

But Mr. Trump has encouraged his allies’ protests against the restrictions and has sometimes pressured state and local officials to roll them back, while expressing concern that the public health benefit of the orders might not offset the economic damage they cause, which is seen as threatening his re-election chances.

“It would not be the first time that the federal government has tried to undercut states’ rights by pushing its own agenda,” said Anthony Romero, the executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union, which has supported some challenges to coronavirus restrictions but is concerned that the federal government could take its own action against state and local rules.

At this point I have to assume that the official position of the Trump regime is mass genocide in the name of economic expediency for the rich, and that the United Nations and other countries should act accordingly to deal with this regime.

Getting Their Marching Orders

The GOP is on the move getting out talking points to state-level Republicans to convince voters to go back to the charnel house and work themselves to death in the name of The American Economy. Louisiana is of particular note:

An internal memorandum from Mandeville-based GOP political operative Jay Connaughton, addressed to Republican state Sen. Sharon Hewitt of Slidell, and privately circulated among GOP state legislators outlines a series of talking points to use in a coordinated campaign aimed at politicizing and undermining the emergency orders issued by Gov. John Bel Edwards in curtailing the Covid-19 pandemic.
Edwards’ orders are in conformance with the guidelines issued by the White House and follow the recommendations of public health experts and medical professionals. The Bayou Brief obtained a copy of the document earlier this evening.

Among other things, the memo advises legislators to avoid “trap words” like “death/die,” “politics/political,” “models,” and “hoax.” The very first “trap word” on the list: “Republican.”

It cautions lawmakers to anticipate questions about whether or not “reopening too early (will) cause the virus to rebound” and whether a “virus respects parish borders.” Taken in its totality, the document reads like a guide to subverting public health policy and reframing the efforts to curb the pandemic, which has already claimed the lives of at least 1,800 Louisianians, as an “economic shutdown.”
Covid-19 has now killed more people in Louisiana than those who perished as a consequence of the Federal Flood after Hurricane Katrina. More than one out of every 1,000 residents of New Orleans have died from the virus, which had been disproportionately affected when the novel Coronavirus was first reported in the state. Since then, the pandemic has spread to all 64 parishes.

Gov. Edwards announced Monday the extension of the state’s emergency “stay at home orders” until May 15th. “While this is not the announcement I want to make, I am hopeful, and all of Louisiana should be hopeful, that we will enter into the next phase of reopening soon, in mid-May,” he said. ”I am anxious to get all areas of our economy reopened, but if we accelerate too quickly, we may have to slam on the brakes. That will be bad for public health and for businesses, bad for our people and bad for our state.”

The GOP memorandum contains a series of factual distortions about the state’s response and falsely claims that Gov. Edwards’s order was made against the advice of the Trump White House. The White House actually recommended Edwards take the exact approach that he’s now implementing, telling governors to ensure their states have satisfied a set of criteria before ordering a “phased reopening.”

Again, the whole point is massive gaslighting on the part of the Trump regime, to sell the utter failure of the federal response to the virus, with deaths now topping 60,000 and growing, as a "success".

White House senior adviser Jared Kushner on Wednesday expressed optimism that much of the country could be "back to normal" by June as several states prepare to lift restrictions meant to slow the spread of the coronavirus.

"I think what you’ll see in May as the states are reopening now is May will be a transition month, you’ll see a lot of states starting to phase in the different reopening based on the safety guidelines that President Trump outlined on April 19," Kushner said on "Fox & Friends."

"I think you’ll see by June that a lot of the country should be back to normal, and the hope is that by July the country’s really rocking again," the president's son-in-law continued.

The ambitious timeline could be politically risky given that cases in the U.S. are still climbing and health experts have cautioned that parts of the country will have to alternate between imposing strict social distancing measures and easing them back until there's a vaccine in order to avoid new outbreaks.

"Back to normal by June" is not only a sick fantasy, it's a dangerous one.

Trump Goes Viral, Con't

Republicans continue to announce hostage negotiation conditions for tens of millions of Americans and they fully expect Democratic governors and state legislatures to bend the knee or risk losing billions in federal aid.

President Donald Trump indicated he wouldn’t allow federal aid for states facing budget deficits from the coronavirus outbreak unless they take action against “sanctuary cities” -- municipalities that prevent their police from cooperating with immigration authorities.

“We would want certain things” as part of a deal with House Democrats to aid states, he said at a White House event on Tuesday, “including sanctuary city adjustments, because we have so many people in sanctuary cities.”

“What’s happening is people are being protected that shouldn’t be protected and a lot of bad things are happening with sanctuary cities,” he added.

Trump has long complained about the cities and has previously sought to cut off their federal funding unless they end the policies.

Democrats have said the next round of federal stimulus must include aid for states. But Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, has indicating he’d be in favor of aiding states, but not helping those burden by pension obligations to bail out old debts. He said those states should be allowed to declare bankruptcy, which they can’t currently do

Industry groups have their own demands, namely full immunity from any COVID-19 lawsuits.

Business lobbyists and executives are pushing the Trump administration and Congress to shield American companies from a wide range of potential lawsuits related to reopening the economy amid the coronavirus pandemic
, opening a new legal and political fight over how the nation deals with the fallout from Covid-19.

Government officials are beginning the slow process of lifting restrictions on economic activity in states and local areas across the country. But lobbyists say retailers, manufacturers, eateries and other businesses will struggle to start back up if lawmakers do not place temporary limits on legal liability in areas including worker privacy, employment discrimination and product manufacturing.

The biggest push, business groups say, is to give companies enhanced protection against lawsuits by customers or employees who contract the virus and accuse the business of being the source of the infection.

The effort highlights a core tension for as the economy begins to reopen: how to give businesses the confidence they need to restart operations amid swirling uncertainty over the virus and its effects, while also protecting workers and customers from unsafe practices that could raise the chances of infection.

Administration officials have said they are examining how they could create some of those shields via regulation or executive order. But lobbyists and lawmakers agree that the most consequential changes would need to come from Congress — where the effort has run into partisan divisions that could complicate lawmakers’ ability to pass another stimulus package.

 And finally, GOP governors are holding their own constituents hostage: return to work immediately with no protection from the virus, or lose your unemployment checks.

"If you're an employer and you offer to bring your employee back to work and they decide not to, that's a voluntary quit," Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds (R) said Friday. "Therefore, they would not be eligible for the unemployment money."

Reynolds also said employers who have workers that refuse to return should file a report with Iowa Workforce Development.

On Monday, the governor announced that she was loosening social distancing restrictions in 77 of Iowa's 99 counties, effective May 1.

"In the 77 counties, the proclamation permits restaurants, fitness centers, malls, libraries, race tracks, and certain other retail establishments to reopen in a limited fashion with public health measures in place," the governor's office said in a statement.

Reynolds said the 77 counties have either seen a steady decline in new cases or no new cases at all for the past two weeks, one of the main benchmarks the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention set for states wanting to reopen their economies.

The only exception for workers getting unemployment after not returning to work is if they are ill with the virus or taking care of a family member who has the deadly disease.

The situation is similar for workers in Texas, where Gov. Greg Abbott (R) on Monday gave the go-ahead for retail stores, restaurants, movie theaters and malls to reopen on Friday.

According to the Texas Workforce Commission, to qualify for unemployment benefits in the state, a worker must be “willing and able to work all the days and hours required for the type of work you are seeking."

Cisco Gamez, a Texas Workforce Commission spokesman, told the Texas Tribune that employees who choose not to return to work will become ineligible for unemployment benefits.

Georgia and South Carolina are adopting similar positions.

Risk the virus or starve.  Your choice.  Tens of millions of hostages, all lined up for execution.


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