Saturday, April 30, 2022

America Goes Viral Yet Again, Con't

As I warned weeks ago, all the evidence pointed to another surge in COVID-19 cases as the Omicron.BA2 variant, because the virus does not care about your mask politics, and now cases are rising across the country in yet another pandemic spread.

Coronavirus cases and hospitalizations are rising in a majority of American states, in what appears to be the first widespread increase since the peak of the Omicron surge in January.

Reports of new cases were nearly flat in the United States at the beginning of April, but as the month draws to a close, they are increasing in all but three states, signaling a wave that is increasingly national in scope.

“Most of the cases are relatively mild,” said Dr. Eric S. Toner, a senior scholar at the Center for Health Security at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health.

The recent increase was once concentrated in the Northeast, but the effects of the highly contagious BA.2 subvariant is growing more geographically diverse. In the last two weeks, cases have more than doubled in states from West Virginia to Utah.

Hospitalizations are also on the rise nationwide, after plummeting early this month to their lowest point since March 2020. More than 30 states and territories have seen their hospitalization rates tick up in the past two weeks, and in much of the Northeast, the number of people hospitalized with the coronavirus has increased since mid-month by 40 percent or more.

“It’s not over yet,” Dr. Toner said in an interview on Friday. “It may be a mistake to relax all of our protective measures too quickly.”

Still, new data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention shows that more than 60 percent of Americans have been infected with the coronavirus at least once, lending credence to the belief that the modest effects of this surge could reflect growing immunity from previous infections and vaccinations.

The number of new cases announced each day in the United States — about 55,000 — remains at its lowest level since last summer, and hospitalizations, despite recent growth, are still nearly as low as they have been at any point in the pandemic.

Case counts have become an increasingly unreliable measure of the virus’s true toll, as Americans increasingly turn to at-home tests that go unreported. That has prompted some officials to put more emphasis on hospitalization rates as a measure of the virus’s true impact.

“What we’re not seeing is a lot of stress on hospitals, and that’s very encouraging,” Dr. Toner said.

The nightmare scenario isn't happening thanks to vaccinations, but the people dying are unvaccinated still. COVID-19 continues to rip across the country every 3-5 months and we're in for a bad spring. The country has crossed more than one million COVID deaths, and people keep using wishful thinking to make the virus leave, but of course that's not happening.

What I fear is that people who do mask up are going to be attacked, banned, and harmed by the CHUDs. We're already seeing that in red states, and that will only get worse too.

America has largely given up on fighting the virus.

The (Burned) Bridges Of Madison Cawthorn, Con't

GOP Rep. Madison Cawthorn has now reached the "embattled and besieged" stage of his rapidly fading political career, and I have neckties older than he is. Republicans want him gone like the fart in the wind he is, apparently.

Besieged by multiplying scandals and salacious accusations, Representative Madison Cawthorn, Republican of North Carolina, is under mounting pressure from both parties to end his short career in Congress.

In rapid succession, Mr. Cawthorn, who entered Congress as a rising star of the party’s far right, has been accused of falsely suggesting that his Republican colleagues routinely throw cocaine-fueled orgies, insider trading and an inappropriate relationship with a male aide. This week, he was detained at an airport, where police said he tried to bring a loaded handgun onto an airplane, the second time he has attempted that.

That came just days after pictures surfaced of him wearing women’s lingerie as part of a cruise ship game, imagery that might not go over well in the conservative stretches of his Western North Carolina district. And last month he was charged with driving with a revoked license for the second time since 2017.

The deluge of revelations and charges have left him on an island even within his own party. A political group supporting Senator Thom Tillis, Republican of North Carolina, has been pouring money into an ad campaign accusing Mr. Cawthorn of being a fame-seeking liar. The group is supporting the campaign of a more mainstream Republican, State Senator Chuck Edwards, who is running against Mr. Cawthorn. And the far-right, anti-establishment wing of the party now views the first-term congressman with similar skepticism, as someone who is falsely selling himself as a gatekeeper in his state to former President Donald J. Trump.

After initially blaming Democrats for the onslaught, Mr. Cawthorn on Friday said it was Republicans who were targeting him because he threatens the status quo.

“I want to change the GOP for the better, and I believe in America First,” he wrote on Twitter. “I can understand the establishment attacking those beliefs, but just digging stuff up from my early 20s to smear me is pathetic.”

At 26 years old, Mr. Cawthorn is not far removed from his early 20s, and Republicans running to unseat him in the May 17 North Carolina primary said the drumbeat of revelations could put his seat at risk if he secures the nomination for a second term.

Washington Republicans scoff at the notion that a solidly conservative district could be at risk during a year in which they are heavily favored, but early voting began this week as the avalanche of accusations against Mr. Cawthorn was gaining steam.

“He could absolutely lose,” said Michele Woodhouse, one of seven Republicans challenging Mr. Cawthorn in the primary.

His leading Democratic opponent, the Rev. Jasmine Beach-Ferrara, continues to raise money off her Republican opponent’s foibles. Ms. Beach-Ferrara called Mr. Cawthorn “a troubled young man.”

“I hold him in my prayers, but I believe he is not fit to serve in office,” she said in an interview.
For those of you who don't speak Southern, "I hold you in my prayers" is the formal version of "Bless your heart" and it's just about the worst thing anyone can say about you in Carolina politics.

Oh, but it gets worse for the Madman...

Still, the dirt being dished is coming from Republicans — not in Washington but in North Carolina, said David B. Wheeler, president of American Muckrakers PAC, a group he said was put together to “hold Cawthorn accountable.”

Mr. Wheeler’s group, run by Western North Carolina Democrats, filed an incendiary ethics complaint on Wednesday that included a video of Mr. Cawthorn with a senior aide, Stephen L. Smith. In the video, Mr. Cawthorn, in the driver’s seat of a car, appears to say, “I feel the passion and desire and would like to see a naked body beneath my hands.

The camera then pans back to Mr. Smith who says, “Me too” as he places his hand onto Mr. Cawthorn’s crotch.

The ethics complaint said Mr. Cawthorn has provided loans to Mr. Smith in violation of House rules. It also suggested that Mr. Cawthorn, who, according to the complaint, lives with the aide, has violated rules put in place during the #MeToo movement that bar lawmakers from having sexual relationships with employees under their supervision.

After the story broke in The Daily Mail, Mr. Cawthorn posted on Twitter, “Many of my colleagues would be nowhere near politics if they had grown up with a cell phone in their hands” — not exactly a denial but a suggestion that other members should not cast stones.

Mr. Wheeler provided The Times with a screenshot of the anonymous text he received that included the video, and he said he believed the tipster to be a former Cawthorn campaign aide. Another former aide, Lisa Wiggins, went public in an audio recording released by Mr. Wheeler with her consent, saying, “We all want the ultimate goal of him never serving again.”

Republicans in the state insist that accusations of lawlessness and neglect of his district are more damaging than details of his sex life. Democrats say they are most concerned with Mr. Cawthorn’s support for the protesters who attacked the Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021. A legal effort led by North Carolina Democrats to label him as an “insurrectionist” and constitutionally disqualify him from the ballot failed last month.
The legal, ethical way to get this little skidmark off the ballot may have failed, but it's now Republicans who are doing him in just weeks before his primary, and I couldn't be happier.  Yes, it means that Chuck Edwards may end up in Congress and he's a giant Republican racist asshole too, but it also means Cawthorn might survive his primary and end up losing a safe seat to a Democratic challenger, too.

We'll see.

Our Little White Supremacist Domestic Terrorism Problem, Con't

Federal prosecutors on Friday secured a second guilty plea and cooperation deal with a member of the Oath Keepers militia group charged in the government's seditious conspiracy case stemming from the Jan. 6 assault on the U.S. Capitol.

Brian Ulrich, of Guyton, Georgia, admitted on Friday that he was part of the group of Oath Keepers that was seen during the riot ascending the east steps of the Capitol in a military-style "stack" formation.

The 44-year-old pleaded guilty to two felony charges of seditious conspiracy and obstruction of an official proceeding, both of which carry maximum sentences of 20 years in prison and fines up to $250,000. As outlined in his plea, Ulrich's estimated offense level carries a sentencing range between 63-78 months, though the government could recommend a lesser sentence based on the extent of his cooperation.

As part of his plea deal, Ulrich agreed to provide "substantial cooperation" to the government, including testifying before a grand jury and at trial, as well as sitting for additional interviews with the government if they request it.

As D.C. district judge Amit Mehta read off the terms of his plea, Ulrich became emotional, his voice cracking as Mehta described the potential time in prison he could face at sentencing.

Mehta at one point asked Ulrich if he wanted to take a break to compose himself.

"It's not going to get any easier," Ulrich responded.
He could be heard weeping over the teleconference line several times through the remainder of the hearing.

In a filing released Friday, Ulrich acknowledged using the Signal app to send private messages to other members of the Oath Keepers regarding their plans to prevent Joe Biden from becoming president in favor of then-President Donald Trump.

"I seriously wonder what it would take just to get every patriot marching around the capital armed?" Ulrich messaged on Dec. 5, 2020. "Just to show our government how powerless they are!"

Ulrich also admitted he traveled to Washington, D.C., on Jan. 4 with the knowledge that other members of the group had stored firearms at a hotel in Virginia, where prosecutors say a number of Oath Keepers were stationed on Jan. 6 as part of a heavily armed "Quick Reaction Force" in case the group wanted to transport weapons into the city.
Ultich will be testifying against his fellow seditious white supremacist terrorist comrades in the weeks and months ahead. I hope all these assholes, especially Stwart Rhodes, end up in prison for a very long time.
After ratting out Trump's circle, of course.  That's the thing with conspiracies: there's always more people to charge.
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