Saturday, July 11, 2020

Indepen-Dunce Week: The Country Goes Super-Viral

New COVID-19 cases in the US have tripled in the last month from 20,000 to 60,000 and rising as outbreaks in Florida, Arizona, Texas and South Carolina are raging uncontrolled. We're rapidly headed for the sort-case scenario, where illness becomes so widespread that the sheer number of casualties begins to affect the daily functioning of the country as a whole.

With rising Covid-19 cases and hospitalizations sending many states backward in their reopening plans, one health expert warns that if the US continues on its current path it will reach "one of the most unstable times in the history of our country." 
"We will have hospitals overwhelmed and not only in terms of ICU beds and hospitals -- and that's bad -- but exhausted hospital staff and hospital staff that's getting ill themselves," Dr. Peter Hotez, the dean of tropical medicine at Baylor College of Medicine, told CNN Friday night. "So, we won't have enough manpower, human power, to manage all of this." 
Only five states saw a decrease of at least 10% in average new daily cases over the past week. And the US set a record for the highest single day of new cases for the second time this week with 66,627 cases on Friday, according to data from Johns Hopkins University.

The problem remains Republicans.

The resurgence has many local leaders returning to actions taken in March and April to slow the spread of the virus. 
At least 26 states have paused or rolled back their plans to reopen. 
Atlanta's mayor and Georgia's governor are at odds over the mayor's order Friday to send her city back to Phase 1 of its reopening plan. Citing an "alarming" increase in cases, Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms said residents under this phase should leave the house only for essential trips, and restaurants and retailers must offer only to-go or curbside pickup service. 
Gov. Brian Kemp's office said the mayor's plan is not "legally enforceable" because Kemp signed an order prohibiting local action from being more prohibitive than the state's requirements. To free the capacity for more testing and hospital care in a surge, Kemp reactivated a makeshift hospital Friday at the Georgia World Congress Center in Atlanta. 
In Texas, Gov. Greg Abbott renewed a disaster declaration first issued March 13 to mitigate spread in his state, while Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer requested the extension of National Guard use through December for humanitarian missions such as running mobile screenings, distributing food and medical supplies and disinfecting public spaces. 
"All people who study these viruses think that the summer is the quiet time. Think about that. This is the quiet time for coronavirus," Dr. William Haseltine, a former professor at Harvard Medical School, told CNN on Friday. "If this is the quiet time, I hate to think what winter is going to be like this year."

Even here in Kentucky.

The top two leaders of Kentucky’s General Assembly and Attorney General Daniel Cameron are criticizing Gov. Andy Beshear for mandating the wearing of masks to curb COVID-19 without consulting them, and Cameron on Friday asked a state judge if the order is legally proper.

“As usual, you have put forth this order by edict rather than through collaboration,” said Senate President Robert Stivers, House Speaker David Osborne and Cameron —all Republicans — in a two-page letter sent to Beshear, a Democrat, Thursday night.

They noted in their letter to the governor that earlier Thursday a judge in Scott County “issued a statewide temporary restraining order against your executive orders and guidance.“

They were referring to an order by Scott Circuit Judge Brian Privett in response to a lawsuit filed by Agriculture Commissioner Ryan Quarles, a Republican, and Evans Orchard and Cider Mill in Georgetown, challenging Beshear’s restrictions on certain businesses. Cameron joined the plaintiffs in the lawsuit.

Besides issuing a restraining order on Beshear’s restrictions for 548 agritourism businesses registered with the state Department of Agriculture, the judge said before Beshear could issue or enforce any executive order related to the COVID-19 emergency that he declared March 6, “the governor or other person authorized by the governor shall specifically state the emergency that requires the order, the location of the emergency, and the name of the local emergency management agency that has determined that the emergency is beyond its capabilities.”

The mask effect that was supposed to go into effect Friday afternoon is now in legal limbo and could be for a long time.  Meanwhile, several county sheriffs say they will not enforce Beshear's mask ordnance anyway.

So the pandemic will continue, and people will continue to suffer life-long organ damage or die until enough people get the point and wear masks when they go outside.


Indepen-Dunce Week: Stone Cold Commutation

And as expected, we got the Friday Night News Dump for the ages last night as Donald Trump eliminated Roger Stone's prison sentence just hours after Stone publicly asked Trump to do so, with Stone saying he was writing a book "and the ending wasn't finished yet."

President Trump commuted the sentence of his longtime friend Roger J. Stone Jr. on seven felony crimes on Friday, using the power of his office to spare a former campaign adviser days before Mr. Stone was to report to a federal prison to serve a 40-month term.

In a lengthy written statement punctuated by the sort of inflammatory language and angry grievances characteristic of the president’s Twitter feed, the White House denounced the “overzealous prosecutors” who convicted Mr. Stone on “process-based charges” stemming from the “witch hunts” and “Russia hoax” investigation.

The statement did not assert that Mr. Stone was innocent of the false statements and obstruction counts, only that he should not have been pursued because prosecutors ultimately filed no charges of an underlying conspiracy between Mr. Trump’s campaign and Russia. “Roger Stone has already suffered greatly,” it said. “He was treated very unfairly, as were many others in this case. Roger Stone is now a free man!”

The commutation, announced late on a Friday when potentially damaging news is often released, was the latest action by the Trump administration upending the justice system to help the president’s convicted friends. The Justice Department moved in May to dismiss its own criminal case against Mr. Trump’s former national security adviser Michael T. Flynn, who had pleaded guilty to lying to the F.B.I. And last month, Mr. Trump fired Geoffrey S. Berman, the United States attorney whose office prosecuted Michael D. Cohen, the president’s former personal lawyer, and has been investigating Rudolph W. Giuliani, another of his lawyers.

Democrats quickly condemned the president’s decision, characterizing it as an abuse of the rule of law. “With this commutation, Trump makes clear that there are two systems of justice in America: one for his criminal friends, and one for everyone else,” said Representative Adam B. Schiff, Democrat of California and a leader of the drive to impeach Mr. Trump last year for pressuring Ukraine to incriminate his domestic rivals.

Two House committee chairmen quickly announced that they would investigate the circumstances of the commutation, suggesting that it was a reward for Mr. Stone’s silence protecting the president. “No other president has exercised the clemency power for such a patently personal and self-serving purpose,” said a statement issued by Representatives Jerrold Nadler and Carolyn B. Maloney, both New York Democrats.
Mr. Stone, 67, a longtime Republican operative, was convicted of obstructing a congressional investigation into Mr. Trump’s 2016 campaign and possible ties to Russia. Prosecutors convinced jurors that he lied under oath, withheld a trove of documents and threatened an associate with harm if he cooperated with congressional investigators. Mr. Stone maintained his innocence and claimed prosecutors wanted him to offer information about Mr. Trump that he said did not exist.

As his time to report to prison neared, Mr. Stone openly lobbied for clemency, maintaining that he could die in prison and emphasizing that he had stayed loyal to the president rather than help investigators.

“He knows I was under enormous pressure to turn on him,” Mr. Stone told the journalist Howard Fineman on Friday shortly before the announcement. “It would have eased my situation considerably. But I didn’t.”

In an interview with Fox News this week, he characterized himself as collateral damage in the quest to target Mr. Trump. “The president, who I’ve known for 40 years, has an incredible sense of fairness,” Mr. Stone said. “He is aware that the people trying to destroy Michael Flynn, now trying to destroy me, are the people trying to destroy him.”

While it was not clear when the two last spoke before the decision, Mr. Trump called Mr. Stone on Friday to deliver the news of his clemency personally, according to an official briefed on the conversation.

The president has used his power to issue pardons or commutations to a variety of political allies, supporters or people with connections to his own circle, like the former New York police commissioner Bernard B. Kerik, the financier Michael R. Milken and former Gov. Rod R. Blagojevich of Illinois.

But Mr. Stone is the first figure directly connected to the president’s campaign to benefit from his clemency power. While Mr. Trump has publicly dangled pardons for associates targeted by investigators, that was a line he had been wary of crossing until now amid warnings from advisers concerned about the possible political damage.

Barr is grouchy of course, and is threatening to resign for the 957th time, but nothing will happen because nothing ever does.  Barr has run roughshod this week over rule of law, with revelations that he bullied US attorney Geoffrey Berman out of his job because he was investigating Trump, revelations that came from Berman's own mouth as he testified under oath to Congress this week, but again, nothing ever happens.

So Stone is a free man as of this point, and Republicans in the Senate are already congratulating Dear Leader for his courage.

Barr should be impeached a dozen times over but of course, nobody's got time for that in the era of the Trump Depression and the COVID-19 pandemic.

So on we go with rule of law only applying to Trump's enemies.  Friends get off.

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