Wednesday, August 11, 2021

Last Call For The Vax Of Life, Con't

Here in Kentucky, Democratic Gov. Andy Beshear has ordered a school mask mandate and Republicans are vowing to overturn it as the court fight over powers stripped from the Governor's office drags on, but the Lexington Herald-Leader has consigned Beshear to the dustbin of history already saying that he went down doing the right thing.
For thousands of Kentucky children, the first day of school started with excitement, trepidation . . . and masks.

Yes, another start to school amid a flaring pandemic, only this time caused by many grown-ups’ willful disregard of the science. It’s not hard — if people won’t get vaccinated against COVID-19, and many Kentuckians won’t, then we must wear masks indoors.

Gov. Andy Beshear may have just signed away his chance to win re-election, but he did the right thing. The Delta variant is making more people and more children sick. Voluntary masking, as adopted by roughly two-thirds of Kentucky school districts, will not work. Universal masking, as Kentucky did last spring for a successful end to the school year, will.

His decision was bolstered by a new study out of North Carolina of 100 school districts — and nearly 1 million students —by two pediatric specialists at Duke University.

“Although vaccination is the best way to prevent Covid-19, universal masking is a close second, and with masking in place, in-school learning is safe and more effective than remote instruction, regardless of community rates of infection,” the authors wrote.

Children under 12 cannot be vaccinated yet. So we have to find a way to protect them, and masks are the best way. To Kentucky adults who are not vaccinated and protest masks: You can’t have it both ways. Our children must bear the brunt of our selfishness, and masks are a relatively painless way to do that. The places where masks will not be required? Places that have high vaccination rates, where hospitals are not filling back up with COVID patients.

Yes, our children are anxious. But not because of masks. Because they are living in a pandemic that has been far too deadly, and all they can see and hear are adults screaming about freedom rather than doing all they can to stop the disease.

We know this. We did it last year. Fayette County did a tremendous job of keeping kids safe, healthy and learning, which is, in the end, the real goal.

That COVID-19 has become so politicized, and thus continues its reign is a huge disappointment and frustration
Amen to that.
Honestly, I expect Beshear to lose by double digits in 2023, almost certainly replaced by GOP AG Daniel Cameron. Beshear will be vilified and hated and will probably lose his court battles, but hopefully by then COVID delta will be under control here.  The fatalism I'm seeing here is astounding: "We're all going to get COVID, the faster you accept that the faster this will be over" from the state's GOP and Rand Paul and Thomas Massie.
We can do better, but Republicans are stopping us.
Sen. Rand Paul revealed Wednesday that his wife bought stock in Gilead Sciences — which makes an antiviral drug used to treat covid-19 — on Feb. 26, 2020, before the threat from the coronavirus was fully understood by the public and before it was classified as a pandemic by the World Health Organization.

The disclosure, in a filing with the Senate, came 16 months after the 45-day reporting deadline set forth in the Stock Act, which is designed to combat insider trading.

Experts in corporate and securities law said the investment, and especially the delayed reporting of it, undermined trust in government and raised questions about whether the Kentucky Republican’s family had sought to profit from nonpublic information about the looming health emergency and plans by the U.S. government to combat it. Several senators sold large amounts of stocks in January or February of last year, prompting a handful of insider-trading probes. Most of those investigations concluded in the spring of 2020, according to notifications from the Justice Department to lawmakers under scrutiny.

“The senator ought to have an explanation for the trade and, more importantly, why it took him almost a year and a half to discover it from his wife,” said James D. Cox, a professor of law at Duke University.

Kelsey Cooper, a spokeswoman for Paul, said the senator completed a reporting form for his wife’s investment last year but learned only recently, while preparing an annual disclosure, that the form had not been transmitted. He sought guidance from the Senate Ethics Committee, she said, and filed the supplemental report along with an annual disclosure Wednesday.

She also said Paul’s wife, Kelley, an author and former communications consultant, lost money on the investment, which she made with her own earnings. The purchase was of between $1,000 and $15,000 of stock in Gilead, which makes the antiviral drug known as remdesivir.

The drug was initially invented as a hepatitis C drug a decade ago and tested for possible use against other infectious diseases, such as Ebola. Remdesivir gained emergency use authorization from the Food and Drug Administration in May of last year and was administered to then-President Donald Trump when he was sick with covid-19 in October, before it gained full approval. Results of a WHO-sponsored study released later that month raised doubts about the drug’s effectiveness, prompting the agency to reverse itself and recommend against its use as a treatment for covid-19. The drug brought in $2.8 billion for Gilead last year.

Remdesivir was backed on Feb. 24, 2020 — two days before Kelley Paul’s purchase — by a WHO assistant director general, who described it as the only known drug that “may have real efficacy” in treating the novel virus.

The existence of public information causing Gilead’s stock to rise, said Joshua Mitts, an expert in securities law at Columbia University, doesn’t rule out the possibility that the senator gained additional knowledge in private. Paul is a member of the Senate health committee, which in January hosted Trump administration officials for a briefing on the coronavirus.

“Not everything about the product was necessarily clear from existing announcements,” Mitts said. “There could have been information about interest that certain individuals within administration may have had in the product, or that hospitals here in the U.S. were already loading up.”

Cooper said the senator attended no briefings on covid-19. Eight days after his wife invested in the company behind the antiviral drug thought to be effective against covid-19, Paul cast the lone vote in the Senate against $8.3 billion in emergency spending to combat the emerging outbreak.
And people will die as a result in Kentucky and across the country.

The Good Package, Con't

Senate Democrats have passed The $3.5 trillion Good Package™ super infrastructure plan on top of the Biden Infrastructure Bill in the last 24 hours, but now comes the hard work of actually filling in the numbers, and arriving at something that both moderates like Kyrsten Sinema and Joe Manchin can accept that doesn't get sunk by AOC and The Squad in the House may already be an impossibility.

The blueprint now heads to the House, where lawmakers will return early from a scheduled summer recess the week of Aug. 23 to take it up. But moderate Democrats are also agitating for a stand-alone vote on the bipartisan infrastructure package, which could complicate efforts to swiftly pass the measure. Progressives have said they will not vote on the infrastructure bill until the House approves the budget package.

“Democrats have labored for months to reach this point, and there are many labors to come,” said Senator Chuck Schumer of New York, the majority leader. “But I can say with absolute certainty that it will be worth doing.”

The budget resolution will ultimately allow Democrats to use the fast-track budget reconciliation process to shield the legislation from a Republican filibuster. It will pave the way to expand Medicare to include dental, health and vision benefits; fund a host of climate change programs; provide free prekindergarten and community college; and levy higher taxes on wealthy businesses and corporations.

But months of arduous work remain. That includes not only turning the outline into fleshed-out legislation, but also reconciling the competing demands of liberal and centrist Democrats.

Moderates have begun to express reservations about the size and scope of the legislation. At least one Senate Democrat, Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona, has said she will not support a final $3.5 trillion price tag, despite voting to advance a budget resolution of that scope, and some House moderates have expressed similar concerns.

But many liberals in both chambers had sought even more spending, and they conditioned their support for the infrastructure deal, which they believe Democrats scaled back too much to secure Republican votes, on passage of the budget blueprint.

Senate Republicans sought to exploit some of those divisions through the so-called vote-a-rama, where an unlimited number of amendments could be offered by both parties. This was the third vote-a-rama this year, after Democrats prevailed through two identical exercises to push their $1.9 trillion pandemic relief package through Congress.

The marathon of nearly four dozen votes also gave Republicans a platform to hammer Democrats for trying to advance a package of this magnitude entirely without their input, as well as distinguish the process from the public works plan many of them had supported hours earlier.

“You’re spending money like drunken sailors,” declared Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, the top Republican on the Budget Committee. “You’re putting in motion, I think, the demise of America as we know it. You’re putting in motion a government that nobody’s grandchild can ever afford to pay.”

The proposed changes, many of which were shot down along party lines, were nonbinding and intended more to burnish a political case against the most vulnerable Democratic senators facing re-election in 2022 than to become law. Some Republicans said the brunt of their proposals would wait until the subsequent legislation was finished, when changes could actually be adopted.

“The next vote-a-rama is the one that really matters, because then you’re firing with live ammo,” said Senator Patrick J. Toomey, Republican of Pennsylvania. “So I’m much more interested in that one than this one.” 


Remember, even if the bill passes the House in a final compromise form and heads back to the Senate, all it will take to sink the bill is one Democrat and all 50 Republicans adding an amendment that wipes out the entire thing. 

And as always, the clock is ticking.

The Best Little Jailhouse In Texas

After wrangling in the courts for a few weeks, Texas Republicans have (as I predicted) ordered the arrest of all Texas House Democrats who left the state to stop a quorum for the state's special legislative session to gut voting rights, and the state's GOP says they will bring in these "fugitives from justice" by any means necessary.


Texas House Speaker Dade Phelan (R) escalated a showdown with Democratic lawmakers who broke quorum for the third time over voting rights, signing arrest warrants Tuesday that a spokesman said would be delivered "for service" Wednesday morning.

The move followed approval of a House motion to send for absent members, which enabled Phelan to issue the warrants. The Texas Supreme Court on Tuesday also stayed a trial court judge’s ruling that would have protected absent Democrats from arrest.

Phelan spokesman Enrique Marquez said warrants were signed for 52 Democrats who failed to return during the fourth day of the House’s second special session, leaving the chamber eight members short of a quorum. In the first special session, Phelan signed a warrant for only one member — Rep. Phil Cortez (D) — who fled to Washington with other Democrats, returned to Austin where he checked in on the floor, then left again for D.C.

While lawmakers would not be jailed if arrested, they may be brought into the Capitol by law enforcement once the warrants are delivered to the House sergeant-at-arms to be served.

It is unclear exactly how many House Democrats have returned to Texas since 57 fled to Washington in mid-July in an exodus that again blocked passage of new voting restrictions. In Washington, the Democrats advocated for federal voting rights protections in the U.S. Senate.

In anticipation of a possible Senate vote on a narrower elections-and-ethics bill, 26 of the Texas Democrats have vowed to remain in Washington “for as long as Congress is working and making progress” on the issue of voting rights, keeping themselves outside the reach of Texas law enforcement.

State Rep. Celia Israel (D) returned to her home in Austin but not to the House floor. She said Tuesday night that she did not fear being arrested — but acknowledged that the state chamber was in uncharted waters.

“I think they’re bluffing. Do they really want to arrest a woman of color?” Israel said in a phone interview. “They’re just thumping their chests.”

Asked whether she would be on the House floor Wednesday morning, Israel responded, “Hell no.” She said a legal team was working on the House Democrats’ case, with “punching and counterpunching happening by the hour.”

In a session that can last up to 30 days, Israel said, “every day that we don’t have to deal with these far-right policies is a good day.”

Quorum has been broken previously, but never in Texas have lawmakers had to be rounded up and taken to the House or Senate chambers by law enforcement, Israel said.

“We’ve never been down this road before,” she said.
Meanwhile, in the Texas Senate, a measure there is advancing to end the tactic Democrats used to break a quorum with a new state constitutional amendment.

Republicans in the Texas House of Representatives advanced a measure on Tuesday that would allow the legislature to operate without having two-thirds of the members present after House Democrats twice left the state to prevent the passage of an elections reform bill.

The Texas state constitution requires that two-thirds of the House and Senate be present in order for the legislature to operate, which allowed Democrats — 57 out of 150 total House members — to block legislation from passing while they traveled to D.C. to advocate for federal voting legislation.

As the Austin American-Statesman reports, a Texas Senate committee approved a joint resolution that would ask voters to amend the state's constitution so that a simple majority could establish a quorum in the House and Senate.

"Our state cannot allow a minority of lawmakers to wield such a disproportionate power so as to render the Texas Legislature incapable of responding to our state's needs," state Sen. Brian Birdwell (R) said during a hearing on the resolution on Monday, adding that this would prevent "a minority from crippling or disabling the Legislature."

Birdwell noted that Texas is one of only four states that require a supermajority in order to establish a quorum.

The bill must receive the support of at least two-thirds of the House and Senate before it can be put up for voter approval, the Statesman notes. This means three Democrats in the House and 18 in the Senate would need to join with all of their Republican colleagues to support it
I'm betting that arresting Democrats will be a way to try to "gently convince" enough Democrats to back the quorum measure.
Of course, this is what Republicans in power do with power: they abuse it.

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