Wednesday, July 1, 2020

Last Call For It's About Suppression, Con't

The fight over restoring voting rights to the more than 750,000 people with felony convictions in Florida who are being forced to pay court fees is far from over as the entire 11th Circuit will now take up the state's "poll tax" law stating felons must repay all court costs before they can vote, partially struck down earlier this year by a three-judge panel.  The 11th Circuit agreed to hear GOP Gov. Ron DeSantis's case en banc and ordered voter registration for felons without the fees put on hold.

A federal appeals court on Wednesday halted the voting registration of thousands of Florida felons who cannot pay fines or fees, just weeks after a lower court threw out the state law mandating payment of all legal financial obligations before voting.

The 11th Circuit decision granted Florida Republican Governor Ron DeSantis’ request to suspend voter registration until the full court hears the case.

The Atlanta-based appeals court did not signal if any decision would occur before the November elections. An initial hearing is set for Aug. 11, which is past the registration deadline for Florida’s Aug. 18 primary elections.
Last year, the Campaign Legal Center, American Civil Liberties Union and the NAACP sued Florida over SB 7066, a law requiring felons to pay all restitution, fines and fees before they are eligible to vote.

Republican lawmakers passed the controversial measure just months after Florida voters overwhelming approved Amendment 4, a constitutional amendment restoring voting rights to most felons “after they complete all terms of their sentence including parole or probation.” The amendment did not mention restitution or fines.

After an eight-day trial in May, U.S. District Judge Robert Hinkle ruled the 24th Amendment prohibits Florida from conditioning voting on payment of fines and fees. The law, Hinkle said, was a “pay-to-vote system.”

DeSantis lodged the appeal days later. The 11th Circuit had previously upheld an injunction against SB 7066 and will now rehear the case en banc.

The case, Jones v. DeSantis, could have lasting implications for politics statewide and nationally as Florida’s elections typically have razor-thin margins. In the 2016 presidential election, Donald Trump took the state with less than 120,000 votes.

More than 774,000 Florida felons have some type of legal financial obligation, according to a study submitted to the court.

It's also important to note that Trump has appointed six of the 23 judges on this circuit court now, giving it a 14 of 23 Republican lean, where before it was 9-8 Democratic with 17 judges.

There's a very good chance now that the court won't act until after the election, and when it does, it will overwhelmingly side with DeSantis, meaning the Florida GOP will be given the green light to be able to keep adding more hoops to jump through for felons or, you know, for other previously registered Floridians who will mysteriously find themselves purged from the rolls.

I called this five weeks ago.

We'll see how far this gets before the GOP finds a friendly 11th Circuit Court to stay the order ahead of November. Don't count on Hinkle's order to stand through the election at all. This is far from over. What I'm afraid of is an appellate stay order or ruling that allows Florida to continue to disenfranchise over a million felons who have served their time and then SCOTUS won't hear the case until after the election, and then a 5-4 decision siding with DeSantis.

The en banc hearing accomplishes just that without the possibility that SCOTUS will refuse to hear the case.  It's entirely possible that we could get a precedent that allows a new Jim Crow era in all the 11th Circuit states, Alabama, Georgia, and Florida.

Republicans will always find ways to continue to disenfranchise voters.  It's the only way they can win.

Black Lives Still Matter, Con't

A Suffolk University Law School undercover investigation found massive, systemic discrimination by Boston real estate agents against Black renters and Section 8 housing voucher holders. Black renters faced some sort of illegal discrimination more than 70%of the time.

The law school’s Housing Discrimination Testing Program — which aims to eliminate illegal housing discrimination through testing, enforcement, education and research — undertook the study with Analysis Group, an international economics consulting firm. The study was funded by The Boston Foundation and the Racial Justice Fund. The researchers said they hope their data will help shape public policy and end discrimination in the housing market. 
“I want people to understand that this kind of discrimination is real, and it’s happening now in our community — and something needs to be done about it,” said William Berman, director of The Housing Discrimination Testing Program, who led the study. 
Greg Vasil, chief executive of Greater Boston Real Estate Board, said his organization rejects all discrimination, adding that when it comes to fair housing and preservation of the fair housing laws in the Commonwealth, “we absolutely stand firm: We will not tolerate or condone” people who violate those laws. 
“We work pretty hard to educate people to make sure they understand the law,‘' he said. “If some of these people are members, that’s something that we . . . just can’t stand for. That’s wrong.” 
Researchers at the Testing Program, which has conducted 700 undercover tests on housing discrimination over the years, set out to determine whether someone’s race or housing voucher status prevented them from getting appointments to see properties, get a rental application, and learn about financial incentives properties offer. They also tested how levels of service differed based on race or voucher. 
They selected, trained, and deployed 200 participants or “testers” to conduct 50 tests at properties across Greater Boston from August 2018 to July 2019. Four testers went to each site: One Black person and one white person would each separately tell an agent, property manager, or landlord that they could pay market rate rent. Another pair of Black and white testers, approaching the broker or landlord separately, would say they had a voucher. All of the testers had jobs and could afford the units they were seeking. They were similar in many other ways, too, including their age, income level, credit score, and family status. 
The researchers assigned the undercover testers “race-associated” names such as Aisha, Hakim, and Darnell for Black testers and Jill, Allison, and Brad for whites. (Researchers said they limited the race of the participants to only Black and white to identify the effect of race from housing vouchers more clearly. They said further research is required to understand the extent of discrimination for other people of color.) 
All testers were asked to make an appointment for a tour of 50 randomly selected apartments in Greater Boston. The properties included those that accepted vouchers from the Boston Housing Authority. 
The participants were unaware of the role they played in the study and were asked to clandestinely document their experiences in writing, which were then analyzed and assessed by the researchers. 
The results indicate that whites paying market rent were able to arrange to view apartments 80 percent of the time. Similarly situated Black market-rate testers seeking to view the same apartments were able to visit the property only 48 percent of the time, the study said. 
Whites were frequently informed about other apartments available, offered more incentives such as free parking and rent discounts, and were given more positive feedback about a unit or property they were seeking, the study says. 
Meanwhile, Black people were less likely to get appointments for site visits, an application, or financial incentives. Unlike whites, they were often told negative things about the units they were seeking.

When agents dealt with Black testers, the incidence of “ghosting” — or no follow-up calls from the agent — was much higher. White testers continued to hear back from agents 92 percent of the time. Black testers heard back only 62 percent of the time, Suffolk officials said.

Even controlling for similar employment, income and credit scores, if you are Black in Boston, you only get to see a rental property less than half of the time, and get ghosted two out of five times, and on top of that you're told how bad the place is.

If you are white, you get free parking.

That's America. The shackles on every Black person you know are invisible and come with four centuries of weight added to everything you try to do, including existing as a sentient human being.

There are millions who don't even consider us to be that.

It's not up to Black America to fix this, either.

Black Lives Still Matter.

The Country Goes Viral, Con't

It's official: "re-opening the economy safely" has utterly failed, as I have been predicting for months now, and in a brutal assessment from the deputy director of the Centers for Disease Control during testimony on Capitol Hill today,  the CDC all but declared COVID-19 is now spreading totally beyond control in the United States.

The coronavirus is spreading too rapidly and too broadly for the U.S. to bring it under control, Dr. Anne Schuchat, principal deputy director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said Monday. 
The U.S. has set records for daily new infections in recent days as outbreaks surge mostly across the South and West. The recent spike in new cases has outpaced daily infections in April when the virus rocked Washington state and the northeast, and when public officials thought the outbreak was hitting its peak in the U.S.

“We’re not in the situation of New Zealand or Singapore or Korea where a new case is rapidly identified and all the contacts are traced and people are isolated who are sick and people who are exposed are quarantined and they can keep things under control,” she said in an interview with The Journal of the American Medical Association’s Dr. Howard Bauchner. “We have way too much virus across the country for that right now, so it’s very discouraging.” 
New Zealand’s outbreak peaked in early April, when the country reported 89 new cases in a single day, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University. On June 8, officials declared that there no more active infections in the island country of almost 5 million. Since then, a handful of cases have entered the country from international travelers, but health officials have managed to contain infections so far to fewer than 10 new daily cases per day through June. 
South Korea was among the first countries outside of China to battle a coronavirus outbreak, but health officials managed to contain the epidemic through aggressive testing, contact tracing and isolating of infected people. The outbreak peaked at 851 new infections reported on March 3, according to Hopkins’ data, but the country has reported fewer than 100 new cases per day since April 1.

Like South Korea, Singapore found early success in preventing the spread of the virus through aggressive testing and tracing. However, in April the virus began to circulate among the island country’s migrant worker community, ballooning into an outbreak that peaked on April 20, when the country reported about 1,400 new cases, according to Hopkins’ data. Daily new cases have steadily dropped since then and on Sunday, the country reported 213 new cases, according to Hopkins’ data. 
While the outbreaks in New Zealand, South Korea and Singapore have been of different magnitudes and followed different trajectories, officials in all three countries now quickly respond to every new infection in order to stamp out what remains of the outbreak, Schuchat said. The U.S. stands in stark contrast as it continues to report over 30,000 new infections per day.

“This is really the beginning,” Schuchat said of the U.S.’s recent surge in new cases. “I think there was a lot of wishful thinking around the country that, hey it’s summer. Everything’s going to be fine, we’re over this and we are not even beginning to be over this. There are a lot of worrisome factors about the last week or so.”

Containment failed, "re-opening the economy" failed, it all failed. What we needed was a lockdown and then months and months of strict social distancing.  Instead, we half-assed everything because the Trump regime didn't want to deal with it, and the 130,000 dead we have now will be just the start of the catastrophic butcher's bill that will come in the next several months.

We are in the middle of the worst-case scenario right now.

You and your loved ones need to plan accordingly. Wear masks if out and about, stay isolated otherwise.  Better yet, don't go out. Stay home, stay safe.

Because Republican governors and the Trump regime will do nothing to protect you.

South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem says the thousands of people who attend the July 3 celebration for Independence Day at Mount Rushmore with President Donald Trump will not be required to practice social distancing despite an increase in coronavirus cases across the country.
"We will have a large event at July 3rd. We told those folks that have concerns that they can stay home, but those who want to come and join us, we'll be giving out free face masks, if they choose to wear one. But we will not be social distancing," Noem, a Republican, said in an interview Monday night on Fox News' "The Ingraham Angle."

State officials have told the people of South Dakota "to focus on personal responsibility," said Noem, adding, "Every one of them has the opportunity to make a decision that they're comfortable with."

Trump is expected to attend the celebration and deliver remarks at the event, a day before the July Fourth holiday. Mount Rushmore is located within a national park in Keystone, S.D. The event will happen amid a surge in coronavirus infections across the U.S., which has caused some states including Texas to pull back on their plans to further reopen.

I repeat: GOP governors will do nothing, nothing at all, to protect you. You are on your own if you live in a red state.

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis told reporters on Tuesday that the state will not reinstate restrictions or close businesses to mitigate the spread of the novel coronavirus.

Why it matters: More than 50% of coronavirus infections in the U.S. are from states like Florida, Texas, California and Arizona, Axios' Marisa Fernandez reports
NIAID director Anthony Fauci warned at a Senate committee hearing earlier on Tuesday that states "skipping over" checkpoints in federal reopening guidelines are contributing to hot spots in states including Florida, Texas and Arizona.

Driving the news: Texas Gov. Greg Abbott (R) urged people to stay home last week to fight the "rampant" spread of COVID-19, as the state paused its reopening. Abbott said in a Friday interview that he regretted how quickly bars were allowed to reopen in the state.

What he's saying: When asked by reporters on Tuesday if he would tell people to stay home as Abbott did, DeSantis explained that social distancing has been recommended throughout the state's reopening and that protecting the elderly and vulnerable are the state's priorities. 
"We're not going back, closing things. I don't think that that's really what's driving it, people going to a business is not what's driving it," DeSantis said. "I think when you see the younger folks, I think a lot of it is more just social interactions, so that's natural." 
"We're open, we know who we need to protect, most of the folks in those younger demographics, although we want them to be mindful of what's going on, are just simply much much less at risk than the folks who are in those older age groups."

Where it stands: Florida's current phase of reopening does not put a limit on how many visitors can be in stores or gyms and allows bars to serve half as many guests as they normally would, although the state has suspended on-premises consumption of alcohol at bars. Social distancing is encouraged at all businesses.

I fully expect another round of viral spread at July 4th activities across the country, and just as with Memorial Day activities causing the situation we're in right now. We're going to make everything worse and by the beginning of August we're going to be looking at more than a half-million new cases per week unless closures, social distancing, and mask mandates start immediately.

It's going to take hospitals becoming morgues and people dying on gurneys in hallways because of triage procedures before people pay attention now.  Even staring down close to 50,000 new cases a day, Republicans are still making a deadly pandemic a matter of political opinion rather than scientific fact.

And all of it could have been prevented.


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