Friday, January 8, 2021

Last Call For Back To Bevinstan

With Republicans in Kentucky now holding a three-fourths majority in both the state House and state Senate, it will be trivial for them to pass anything they want and override any possible veto that Democratic Gov. Andy Beshear may engage in. Beshear's state of the commonwealth address on Thursday was all but him resorting to begging Republicans not to cripple his office as Kentucky's Covid-19 pandemic rages, but Republicans of course will keep schools and businesses open fully, even if it kills us.

Gov. Andy Beshear defended how he has battled the coronavirus pandemic in Thursday night's State of the Commonwealth speech and urged the Republican-run Kentucky legislature to support his plan to help the commonwealth finish and recover from that fight.

"Over the past 10 months, we have been at war," he said. "This evil virus has taken more than 2,700 of our fellow Kentuckians. That toll is heartbreaking; it is greater than the number of Kentuckians lost in Vietnam, Korea, even World War I. And these aren't numbers ... We have lost doctors, teachers, bus drivers, a police chief, pastors and a 15-year-old student."

"Now we are called to look ahead, not with fear, but with courage. To do so, we must move past any remaining denial or rationalizations," he said in his address, which was done through a video because of the pandemic.

"Failure to take this virus seriously at this late date disrespects the memory of those we have lost, disrespects the pain of those who are grieving and disrespects the deep sacrifices so many have made in this war. It also threatens to create much more pain, more death and more disruption, all of which can be avoided."

The state legislature kicked off its annual lawmaking session this week, and leading GOP lawmakers quickly signaled their intention to pass legislation that limits the emergency powers Beshear has used to institute a wide range of restrictions aimed at limiting the spread of the coronavirus.

For months, key Republican lawmakers have criticized the governor for, among other things, how the capacity limits and temporary closures he required for restaurants and many other businesses have affected the state's economy and workforce.

In Thursday's speech, Beshear said his approach has been based on public health experts' advice and has been effective, with the help of countless Kentuckians who complied with his administration's orders and recommendations.

"My actions have been targeted to have the greatest impact, and they have been limited in both time and scope to avoid undue and unnecessary damage," he said. "You can look at the devastating experiences in states that failed to take the same aggressive actions we did to stop the coronavirus. Adjusted for population, we have suffered less than half the number of deaths as the people of Tennessee and less than one-fourth the number of deaths as the citizens of North and South Dakota."

Beshear stressed that he and state lawmakers should "put aside squabbling and petty partisanship."

"So, let me be clear: Every moment in this short session we spend fighting is a loss for our Kentucky families," he said. "Such fighting will leave us empty-handed and further behind those states that recognize this moment and this opportunity. Our goal should be to act swiftly and with wisdom on behalf of the people of the commonwealth.
Republicans don't care and will have bills on Beshear's desk by this weekend, with promises to overrule all vetoes.

With a new 3-to-1 supermajority over Democrats in each chamber of the Kentucky General Assembly, Republicans are wasting no time sprinting eight of their priority bills through the legislature in the first days of the 2021 session.

These bills — several of which target abortion and scale back Gov. Andy Beshear's emergency powers to enact COVID-19 rules — could pass through both chambers and be sent to the governor's desk as early as Saturday, assuming they face no hiccups and legislative leaders add that day to the session's calendar.

The House easily passed all five of its priority bills by a mostly party-line vote in just over two hours Thursday afternoon, while the Senate passed four priority bills later that evening.

The first bill to pass Thursday was House Bill 1, sponsored by Rep. Bart Rowland, R-Tompkinsville, one of the bills reacting to criticism of Beshear's many executive orders restricting businesses and public gatherings to stop the spread of COVID-19.

Rowland's bill seeks to allow a businesses, schools, nonprofits, churches and local governments to remain open as long as long as their policies meet or exceed U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines, in order to protect them in case the governor orders a "third shutdown."

Background:Kentucky General Assembly kicks off 2021 session

Rep. Angie Hatton, D-Whitesburg, countered that doing away with specific COVID-19 regulations of the administration for ambiguous and conflicting CDC guidelines could backfire and worsen the pandemic, as "the way to reopen our economy is to defeat COVID-19."

Rep. Steven Rudy, R-Paducah, said businesses have suffered enough through Beshear's orders, saying he has refused to share data to justify his restrictions.

House Bill 2, giving Republican Attorney General Daniel Cameron new power to regulate Kentucky abortion clinics, also passed easily, just as it did in last year's session before being vetoed by Beshear.

House Bill 3 — seeking to move legal cases involving the constitution and state government out of Franklin Circuit Court by creating new randomly selected panels of three judges from across the state — passed over the objections of Democrats that it violated the Kentucky Constitution and would be quickly blocked and defeated in the court system.

Also passing easily was House Bill 4, a proposed constitutional amendment to allow the General Assembly to extend the end of legislation session beyond the set days in the spring.

Osborne said the need for HB 4 was shown by Beshear's refusal to consult with the legislature and call it back into session so it could address what Republicans felt were his overreaching and burdensome COVID-19 policies, as they had to wait until the new session in January.

If passed, voters would not be able to vote on the amendment until November 2022.

The chamber also overwhelmingly passed House Bill 5, which would take away a governor's ability to temporarily reorganize state boards and replace its members, as former Gov. Matt Bevin did with the University of Louisville board of trustees and Beshear did with the Kentucky Board of Education just after taking office.

Later Thursday evening, Senate Bill 1, which would limit Beshear's executive orders under a state of emergency to 30 days unless the legislature extended that order, passed through the other chamber after a heated debate.

Republican members continued slamming Beshear's COVID-19 orders as arbitrary and not based on data, while Sen. Morgan McGarvey, D-Louisville, said the governor must be able to act decisively during an emergency.

The Senate also passed Senate Bill 9, which would require doctors to "preserve the life and health of a born-alive infant" during a "failed abortion," Senate Bill 2, which would additional requirements for a governor to enact administrative regulations, and Senate Bill 3, which moves the Kentucky Agriculture Development Fund from the governor’s office to the Kentucky Department of Agriculture.
In other words, Kentucky state Republicans are setting up a permanent regime where the governor is rendered powerless well before he reaches the opportunity to run for a second term.

And that's the point.


Tales Of The Trump Depression, Con't

The December 2020 jobs report is in, and under Trump and the GOP the nation's job market is collapsing quickly and taking the economy with it.

U.S. employers shed jobs last month for the first time since April, cutting 140,000 positions, clear evidence that the economy is faltering as the viral pandemic tightens its grip on consumers and businesses.

At the same time, the unemployment rate stayed at 6.7%, the first time it hasn't fallen since April.

Friday’s figures from the Labor Department suggest that employers have rehired roughly all the workers they can afford to after having laid off more than 22 million in the spring — the worst such loss on record. With consumer spending barely growing over the past few months, most companies have little incentive to hire. The economy still has 9.9 million fewer jobs than it did before the pandemic sent it sinking into a deep recession nearly a year ago.

The pandemic will likely continue to weaken the economy through the winter and perhaps early spring. But many economists, along with the Federal Reserve’s policymakers, say they think that once the coronavirus vaccines are more widely distributed, a broad recovery should take hold in the second half of the year. The incoming Biden administration, along with a now fully Democratic-controlled House and Senate, is also expected to push rescue aid and spending measures that could accelerate growth.

For now, the renewed surge in virus cases, as well as cold weather, has caused millions of consumers to avoid eating out, shopping and traveling. Re-imposed business restrictions have shut down numerous restaurants, bars, and other venues.

Economists at TD Securities estimate that more than half the states have restricted gatherings to 10 or fewer people, up from about a quarter in September. New York City and California, among others, placed strict new limits on restaurants last month.

In recent months, retailers have been especially hurt by the slump in consumer spending. Debit and credit card data tracked by JPMorgan Chase, based on 30 million accounts, shows that Americans slowed their purchases during the holiday shopping season. Such spending was 6% lower in December compared with a year ago. That was worse than in October, when card spending was down just 2% from the previous year.

Restaurant traffic has also dropped, according to the reservations website OpenTable. Seated dining is down 60% this week compared with a year ago, much worse than two months earlier, when they were down about 35%.

The $900 billion financial aid package that Congress enacted last month should also help propel a recovery, economists say. It will provide a $300-a-week federal jobless benefit on top of an average weekly state benefit of about $320. In addition, millions of Americans stand to receive $600 payments, and the Treasury Department said Thursday that 8 million of those payments were going out this week.

Late Wednesday, Goldman Sachs upgraded its forecast for economic growth this year to a robust 6.4% from its previous estimate of 5.9%. Its upgrade was based in part on the expectation that the Biden administration will implement more stimulus.

Nothing is going to improve unless we get a handle on Covid-19, and as long as Republicans continue to block recovery efforts at the state level, that won't happen. The next six months will be miserable without a massive direct stimulus package, a herculean vaccine distribution effort, and Republicans not blocking it all.

And even then, we're now seeing 280,000 new Covid cases and 4,000 Covid deaths a day, on top of an attempted coup by Trump to remain in power. 

It's coming apart and we have to get it back together. Now.

Our Little White Supremacist Terrorism Problem, Con't

Trump's Defense Department made sure that Capitol police were left high and dry, and had no choice but to let the insurrectionists in, because the Capitol Police rejected any outside help anyway. It was planned from the get-go, folks.

Three days before supporters of President Donald Trump rioted at the Capitol, the Pentagon asked the U.S Capitol Police if it needed National Guard manpower. And as the mob descended on the building Wednesday, Justice Department leaders reached out to offer up FBI agents. The police turned them down both times, according to senior defense officials and two people familiar with the matter.

Despite plenty of warnings of a possible insurrection and ample resources and time to prepare, the Capitol Police planned only for a free speech demonstration.

Still stinging from the uproar over the violent response by law enforcement to protests last June near the White House, officials also were intent on avoiding any appearance that the federal government was deploying active duty or National Guard troops against Americans.

The result is the U.S. Capitol was overrun Wednesday and officers in a law enforcement agency with a large operating budget and experience in high-security events protecting lawmakers were overwhelmed for the world to see. Four protesters died, including one shot inside the building.

The rioting and loss of control has raised serious questions over security at the Capitol for future events. The actions of the day also raise troubling concerns about the treatment of mainly white Trump supporters, who were allowed to roam through the building for hours, while Black and brown protesters who demonstrated last year over police brutality faced more robust and aggressive policing.

“This was a failure of imagination, a failure of leadership,” said Houston Police Chief Art Acevedo, whose department responded to several large protests last year following the death of George Floyd. “The Capitol Police must do better and I don’t see how we can get around that.”

Acevedo said he has attended events on the Capitol grounds to honor slain police officers that had higher fences and a stronger security presence than what he saw on video Wednesday.

Army Secretary Ryan McCarthy said that as the rioting was underway, it became clear that the Capitol Police were overrun. But he said there was no contingency planning done in advance for what forces could do in case of a problem at the Capitol because Defense Department help was turned down. “They’ve got to ask us, the request has to come to us,” said McCarthy.

Capitol Police Chief Steven Sund was planning to resign, as was the House sergeant-at-arms, the chief security officer for the House of Representatives. Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., the incoming majority leader, said he will fire the Senate sergeant-at-arms.

“There was a failure of leadership at the top,” House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said.

I have been warning for years now that the nation's police forces are full of white supremacists and Trump sympathizers, and if you don't believe by now that those two groups are one and the same, well you should probably be reading another blog.

We need a nationwide review of every major police force in the country, starting with Capitol Police.

And to summarize how far America has fallen, our allies are definitely calling this a coup. Mitch Prothero at Business Insider:

Insider spoke with three officials on Thursday morning: a French police official responsible for public security in a key section of central Paris, and two intelligence officials from NATO countries who directly work in counterterrorism and counterintelligence operations involving the US, terrorism, and Russia.

They said the circumstantial evidence available pointed to what would be openly called a coup attempt in any other nation. None were willing to speak on the record because of the dire nature of the subject.

While they did not furnish evidence that federal agency officials facilitated the chaos, Insider is reporting this information because it illustrates the scale and seriousness of Wednesday's events: America's international military and security allies are now willing to give serious credence to the idea that Trump deliberately tried to violently overturn an election and that some federal law-enforcement agents — by omission or otherwise — facilitated the attempt.

'Today I am briefing my government that we believe with a reasonable level of certainty that Donald Trump attempted a coup'

One NATO source set the stage, using terms more commonly used to describe unrest in developing countries.

"The defeated president gives a speech to a group of supporters where he tells them he was robbed of the election, denounces his own administration's members and party as traitors, and tells his supporters to storm the building where the voting is being held," the NATO intelligence official said.

"The supporters, many dressed in military attire and waving revolutionary-style flags, then storm the building where the federal law-enforcement agencies controlled by the current president do not establish a security cordon, and the protesters quickly overwhelm the last line of police.

"The president then makes a public statement to the supporters attacking the Capitol that he loves them but doesn't really tell them to stop," the official said. "Today I am briefing my government that we believe with a reasonable level of certainty that Donald Trump attempted a coup that failed when the system did not buckle.

"I can't believe this happened."

The French police official said they believed that an investigation would find that someone interfered with the deployment of additional federal law-enforcement officials on the perimeter of the Capitol complex; the official has direct knowledge of the proper procedures for security of the facility.

The security of Congress is entrusted to the US Capitol Police, a federal agency that answers to Congress.

It is routine for the Capitol Police to coordinate with the federal Secret Service and the Park Police and local police in Washington, DC, before large demonstrations. The National Guard, commanded by the Department of Defense, is often on standby too.

On Wednesday, however, that coordination was late or absent.
'It's obvious that large parts of any successful plan were just ignored'

"You cannot tell me I don't know what they should have done. I can fly to Washington tomorrow and do that job, just as any police official in Washington can fly to Paris and do mine," the official said. The official directs public security in a central Paris police district filled with government buildings and tourist sites.

"These are not subtle principles" for managing demonstrations, "and they transfer to every situation," the official said. "This is why we train alongside the US federal law enforcement to handle these very matters, and it's obvious that large parts of any successful plan were just ignored."

This was deliberate, folks. And even if you don't believe that, it has to be investigated. We cannot "turn the page" on this.

I guarantee you this was planned. I guarantee you Donald Trump was behind this. And I guarantee you that if heads don't roll now, it will be successful next time it's attempted.
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