Thursday, May 14, 2020

Last Call For Dangerous Cheesy Cheeseheads

Wisconsin's Supreme Court has voided Democratic Gov. Tony Evers stay-at-home order, declaring it to be a rule that has to first be passed by the state legislature before the governor can put it into effect, meaning that at this point, who knows because the decision was basically written in crayon by children.

On Wednesday evening, Republicans on the Wisconsin Supreme Court issued a broad order striking down that state’s stay-at-home order, which was issued by the head of the state’s health department to prevent the spread of coronavirus. Among other things, the court’s decision concludes that the state health department exceeded its authority by instructing people to stay at home, and by “forbidding travel and closing businesses” deemed nonessential.
The case is Wisconsin Legislature v. Palm.

The Court’s order was 4-3, with Justice Brian Hagedorn, a Republican initially appointed to a lower state court by former Gov. Scott Walker (R), writing one of three dissenting opinions. Justice Daniel Kelly, a lame duck who recently lost an election to retain his seat by nearly 11 points, cast the key fourth vote to strike down the stay-at-home order. If not for a Wisconsin law that allows Kelly to serve until August, the stay-at-home order may well have been upheld.

The decision appears to be animated by the kind of political considerations that are more at home on conservative talk radio than in a court of law. During oral arguments last week, when a lawyer defending the stay-at-home order pointed out that there was recently an outbreak of coronavirus in Brown County, Wisconsin, Chief Justice Patience Roggensack dismissed the significance of that outbreak because it primarily impacted factory workers.

“These were due to the meatpacking, though,” Roggensack said. “That’s where Brown County got the flare. It wasn’t just the regular folks in Brown County.”

At that same oral argument, Justice Rebecca Bradley compared the state’s stay-at-home order to “‘assembling together and placing under guard all those of Japanese ancestry in assembly centers’ during World War II.”

The majority opinion, by Chief Justice Roggensack, is not at all clear as to whether this decision takes effect immediately, or whether the stay-at-home order remains in effect for another week. Roggensack also concludes that Andrea Palm, the head of the state’s health department, exceeded her lawful authority. But then Roggensack’s opinion contains this extraordinary line: “We do not define the precise scope of DHS authority under Wis. Stat. § 252.02(3), (4) and (6) because clearly Order 28 went too far.”

Thus, as Hagedorn notes in dissent, the majority opinion “has failed to provide almost any guidance for what the relevant laws mean, and how our state is to govern through this crisis moving forward.” Wisconsin now has no stay-at-home order preventing the spread of coronavirus — or maybe it does have such an order for just one more week. And it is not at all clear which powers the state health department still has to fight the spread of a pandemic.

Moreover, one consequence of the Court’s decision is that if Palm does want to take additional steps to fight the spread of a deadly disease, she will likely need to jump through a series of procedural hoops that, at best, take weeks to complete. And her decisions can now be overridden by Republicans in the state legislature.

In the meantime, there is no court decision ordering coronavirus to stop spreading.

It's a complete disaster, and Wisconsin's residents are in jeopardy of a global pandemic more than ever now.

Wisconsin law gives the state Department of Health Services extraordinarily broad power — or, at least, it did until today — to confront a public health crisis.

Among other things, the department may “close schools and forbid public gatherings in schools, churches, and other places to control outbreaks and epidemics.” It may “issue orders ... for the control and suppression of communicable diseases,” and these orders “may be made applicable to the whole or any specified part of the state.” And, on top of all that, an additional provision permits the health department to “authorize and implement all emergency measures necessary to control communicable diseases.”

Yet the majority opinion in Wisconsin Legislature diminishes this power considerably by imposing procedural limits on Palm’s authority. Much of Roggensack’s majority opinion rests on a distinction between “rules” and mere “orders.”

The reason this distinction matters is that a mere “order” from a state agency can go into effect immediately, but a “rule” can take weeks or even months to promulgate. Even under an expedited process for “emergency” rules, a state agency must first draft a “statement of the scope of the proposed emergency rule.” That statement must be reviewed and approved by the governor and the state Department of Administration, and then appear in an official state publication that only publishes once a week.

After the statement is published, the agency must complete a 10-day waiting period before it is allowed to move forward, with no apparent way to waive this requirement. And then the rule can be delayed even longer if certain legislative leaders require the agency to hold a public hearing on the new rule. Then the new rule can potentially be suspended by a legislative committee — which may require the agency to start this process all over again.

In other words, the state's Public Health legislative committee can suspend any public health emergency orders, and any orders that are issued will now take at least ten days to go into effect at a minimum.  The state is now handcuffed in dealing with the virus by politics.

And Wisconsin's residents will pay a brutal price almost immediately.

On Wednesday night in the heart of downtown Platteville, Wis., just hours after the Wisconsin Supreme Court threw out the state’s stay-at-home order, Nick’s on 2nd was packed wall to wall, standing room only.

It was sometime after 10 p.m. when “Long Cool Woman in a Black Dress” by the Hollies came over the sound system and a bartender took out his camera. In a Twitter broadcast, he surveyed the room of maskless patrons crammed together, partying like it was 2019. A few were pounding on the bar to the beat. Some were clapping their hands in the air and some were fist-pumping, a scene so joyous they could have been celebrating the end of the worst pandemic in a century.

Instead, as Wisconsin Gov. Tony Evers (D) knew, they were just celebrating the apparent end of his power over them — at least for now.

“We’re the Wild West,” Evers told MSNBC’s Ali Velshi on Wednesday night, reacting to the state Supreme Court’s ruling and the scenes of people partying in bars all across Wisconsin. “There are no restrictions at all across the state of Wisconsin. … So at this point in time … there is nothing that’s compelling people to do anything other than having chaos here.”

Chaos it was.

Right after the Supreme Court’s conservative majority issued a 4-to-3 ruling, invalidating the extension of the stay-at-home order issued by Evers’s appointed state health chief, the Tavern League of Wisconsin instructed its members to feel free to “OPEN IMMEDIATELY!”

With Evers’s statewide orders kaput, local health authorities scrambled to issue or extend citywide or countywide stay-at-home orders, creating a hodgepodge of rules and regulations all across the state that are bound to cause confusion, not to mention some traffic across county lines. It’s a situation unlike any in the United States as the pandemic rages on. But most of all, Evers feared that the court’s order would cause the one thing he was trying to prevent: more death.

As cases grow and spread and deaths mount in the weeks ahead, understand that Republicans have now firmly come down on that portion of the American public have to die in order to preserve "freedoms".

Most of all, the person deciding that is Donald Trump.

Lowering The Barr, Con't

GOP senators Richard Burr and Kelly Loeffler have both been caught up in insider trading scandals related to dumping stocks after COVID-19 briefings.  Trump hates both of them, Burr for being Senate Intel chair and subpoenaing Republicans on occasion (and even Trump's son Donald Jr.) and refusing to spike the investigation into Trump's Russia and Ukraine criminality, and Loeffler for buying her way into the Senate through Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp over Trump's preferred choice to fill Sen, Johnny Isakson's seat, Rep. Doug Collins.

Loeffler is now facing a brutal primary challenge ahead of the special election for Isakson's seat and is almost certainly doomed, but she's still stinking rich, so putting her in prison isn't going to help Trump in the long run.  She'll be gone from the Senate by January.

But putting Burr in jail for that insider trading scandal is a win-win for Trump and everyone knows it.

Sen. Richard Burr, R-N.C., on Thursday temporarily stepped down as chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee after the FBI seized his cellphone and questioned Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., as part of a possible insider trading investigation.

Burr faced pressure to step aside as head of the powerful committee after the FBI seized his cellphone as part of a search warrant, senior law enforcement official confirmed to NBC News.

"This is a distraction to the hard work of the committee, and the members and I think that the security of the country is too important to have a distraction," Burr told reporters Thursday. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said Burr would step aside "during the pendency of the investigation" effective at the end of the day on Friday.

Feinstein also answered questions from the FBI about stock trades that her husband made and she provided documents to the FBI, her spokesman said Thursday.

The Los Angeles Times first reported Wednesday night that federal agents had obtained Burr's phone, indicating a major escalation of the Justice Department investigation.

A senior Department of Justice official confirms that the search warrant for Burr's phone was actually served on his attorney. But the official says the phone itself needed to be picked up by FBI agents at Burr’s home but that there was not a “raid” on the senator’s residence. Agents took possession of the cell phone and then left Burr’s home.

That same official says the search warrant was approved at the highest levels of the Justice Department, meaning Attorney General William Barr signed off on executing the warrant.

Now, regardless of the outcome of the investigation, Burr is now sidelined as Senate Intel chair. I'm not defending Barr on the trading, it's clear he and his wife dumped stocks, called his brother-in-law, and told him to dump stocks too.  But he's not being investigated for the insider trading, not in a regime where Trump regularly profits off his political knowledge. He's being removed from a position of power and oversight over this regime for a reason.

Just as the Trump regime is trying to warm up the OBAMAGATE!!!! machine.  Lindsey Graham doesn't want to dig too deep, he's trying to save his senate seat right now. Somebody is needed to spearhead the senate's efforts.  Graham is loyal for his own reasons, but Burr was not. It doesn't take a genius, guys.  Burr will be replaced by someone loyal to Trump. Or by someone who needs to prove their loyalty to Trump.

It's not immediately clear who will take over as chairman of the committee. Committee members Sens. Jim Risch of Idaho, Marco Rubio of Florida and Susan Collins of Maine are next in line in seniority, though all currently lead other committees. 
Senate Republicans reacted cautiously to the news of Burr's search warrant on Thursday, saying that the matter of his chairmanship was between Burr and McConnell. 
"There's due process he deserves like everybody else that he'll be going through, but I think ultimately that's a conversation probably between him and the leader," said Sen. John Thune of South Dakota, the Senate's No. 2 Republican. 
McConnell did not respond to questions about Burr in the Capitol on Thursday. Sen. Chuck Schumer, the Senate's top Democrat, also declined to weigh in ahead of the news Burr would step aside.

Can you imagine Rubio or Collins or as chairs?  Whoever it is will get the key into the big vault of secrets.  Collins is facing the fight of her political life right now, and Rubio's penchant for stupid grandstanding has gotten him into real trouble before. Risch might actually be the safest choice, but there's no doubt he serves Trump.

I've got zero doubts that Burr is being pushed aside for a reason related to Barr and Trump weaponizing the intelligence community against Joe Biden and Barack Obama. I don't know exactly what it is, but given the voluminous evidence we have of Barr's serving Trump instead of justice, I can't imagine it's going to be a good thing.

Burr may have been the last obstacle to whatever's coming. If Trump wanted Burr to stay, this FBI investigation would not be happening as it is right now. It sure as hell wouldn't involve Burr being issued an FBI warrant for his cell phone and a public shaming signed off on by the Attorney General against the Chair of the Senate Intelligence Committee.

The final chapter of the Senate Intelligence Committee's report on Trump/Russia is due soon too.  The more I think about it, the more this looks like Burr is being cashiered because some major shit is coming.

It's going to get much worse from here.

Our Little Domestic Terrorism Problem, Con't

Armed white supremacist terrorist militias in the Trump Depression era are something that is going to get demonstrably and catastrophically worse in the months ahead.

Armed members of the Michigan Home Guard stood outside Karl Manke's barber shop, ready to blockade the door if police arrived. They were determined to help Manke, 77, reopen his shop Monday, in defiance of state orders, and dozens joined them, wearing Trump sweatshirts and Trump cowboy hats and waving Trump flags.

They gathered not because they desperately needed haircuts but to rail against Democratic Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s approach to fighting the coronavirus outbreak in Michigan, one of the nation’s worst hot spots. They were channeling President Trump’s support of such protests, but some also were taking aim at the state’s Republicans, who they say have not done enough to “liberate” the state from safety measures that have ground life to a halt.

Michelle Gregoire, a 29-year-old school bus driver from Battle Creek who is running as a Republican for a seat in the state House, waved a yellow “Don’t tread on me” flag at passing traffic. She derided Whitmer as “a tyrant.” But she also urged Republicans “to get in line and get it together.”

The protest and others like it — including two last month that included demonstrators with swastikas, Confederate flags and some with long guns inside the capitol — have alarmed lawmakers on both sides of the aisle. But after Trump appeared to urge the militia members on, tweeting that they are “very good people” who “want their lives back again,” they have forced Michigan’s Republican lawmakers to strike a delicate balance, managing a deadly virus while also being careful not to contradict Trump or alienate their conservative supporters.

Though the coronavirus has infected more than 48,000 people in Michigan and has killed 4,674 as of Tuesday — the fourth-highest total in the nation — many of the protesters live in areas that have barely been touched by the virus but have been struggling with economic collapse because of it. GOP state lawmakers, who hold narrow margins in both the state House and Senate, have tried distancing themselves from the most vocal protesters while being careful not to appear to hew too closely to Whitmer’s shutdown policies.

“The less partisan we can be through this entire process, the sooner we’ll get out of it,” said Lee Chatfield (R), the 31-year-old speaker of the House who was working on the floor to adopt some of the governor’s restrictions when armed militiamen entered the capitol building. “There are people who want to take covid-19 seriously but believe the governor’s approach is the wrong call for our state,” he said, referring to the disease caused by the virus.

Generally, residents of Michigan agree with Whitmer’s approach, according to a Washington Post-Ipsos poll released Tuesday, in which 72 percent approve of her handling of the outbreak, and 25 percent disapprove. Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine (R) got the highest marks — 86 percent approval — but in general, Republican governors did not fare well in the poll, with Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp, who moved to open the state early, getting an approval rating of just 39 percent.

Whitmer said in an interview Tuesday that she worries Republican state lawmakers, who have said she does not have the authority to continue her coronavirus executive order, are pushing people to violate it.

“They are feeding a lot into the behavior,” Whitmer said. “We would be so much better off if everyone with a platform focused on the science and less about politics.”

Protesters in Michigan have sought a radical turnabout in the state’s response to the pandemic, with some demanding that Whitmer lift all restrictions. Many come from fringe movements and harbor deep suspicion of health officials and their warnings; the activists insist that the government has inflated the death toll and blown the dangers out of proportion. The event’s main organizer, Ryan Kelley, a real estate agent from outside Grand Rapids, said he invited members of a local militia to the protests in Lansing as “security.”

Chatfield, who appeared onstage with Trump at a rally in Battle Creek in December, said he disagrees with protesters who believe the death toll reported by the state is inflated. He worries that the activists are making it difficult for Republicans pitching more pragmatic reopening plans to be heard.

“Those voices are getting drowned by those who are being over the line and derogatory,” Chatfield said.

Mike Shirkey (R), the state Senate’s majority leader, was more direct, condemning protesters who “used threats of violence to stir up fear and rancor.” Some lawmakers, frightened by the heavily armed demonstrators, wore bulletproof vests during the protests April 30.

“They do not represent Senate Republicans,” Shirkey said in a statement. “At best, those so-called protesters are a bunch of jackasses.”

Kelley, the organizer of the protest, said he was disappointed that many Republican lawmakers did not want to lift all restrictions immediately.

“You’re elected to serve the people,” he said. “You’re not elected to serve yourself.”

So far the militias are limited to preening demonstrations of toxic rage and impotent foolishness, but with white supremacist domestic terrorist groups actively recruiting exactly these "very good people" the capacity for both a serious miscalculation in a confrontation with law enforcement as well as a purposeful terrorist attack remains ludicrously high and will for a very long time.

The Trump Depression will absolutely be accompanied by armed and deadly unrest, especially as rural areas are hit hard by COVID-19 and economic depression. All this would be bad enough without an actively racist autocrat facing crushing defeat in November and growing more desperate by the day, egging on groups like this in order to maintain his power.

It would be a miracle for that to not be the case, and if you haven't looked around lately, we're fresh out of goddamn miracles these days.


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