Quick news about the news: I can’t make the current cycle better, but I can reach out about how I can help–which is why I’m beginning to seek weekly feedback, launching topic-based polls on Sundays and collecting answers until Saturday. We’re kicking off with a coverage poll that can be answered at the link above or via the NNR answer box (if you are not a Patreon user or prefer to stay anonymous).
The COVID crisis is looming large again for the umpteenth week in a row, and I think I can safely say this is the most terrifying monotony I’ve ever experienced. Speaking as a social worker: Now might be a time to think about emotional first-aid, your personal coping strategies, and stages of loss. (Speaking as a lawyer: I know, Social Worker Kara can be really annoying. Sadly, that doesn’t make her suggestions incorrect.)
Standard standing reminders apply: I am no journalist, though I play one in your inbox or browser, so I’m mostly summarizing the news within my area of expertise. NNR summaries often contain some detailed analysis that’s outside my expertise–I’m a lawyer, not a resignation!–but all offroad adventures are marked with an asterisk. And, of course, for the things that are within my lane, I’m offering context that shouldn’t be considered legal advice. Okay, I think that’s about it for the disclaimers. Onward to the news!
Constitutional Crisis Corner:
This week it’s just Disregard of Governing Norms all the way down, and I honestly can’t decide if that’s an improvement or not. Here’s what happened:
- White House Departures. Several people have left the White House in the past week. First up was Acting Navy Secretary, Thomas Modley, who you may remember relieved a commander because he reported COVID spread on his aircraft carrier (and then Modley mocked the commander for making the right call). Because there is occasionally justice in this world, Modley has been forced to resign, and will be replaced with Undersecretary of the Army James McPhearson. Meanwhile the White House Secretary, Stephanie Grisham, is leaving her post after eight months of literally never briefing the press about anything. (Grisham is returning to be Melania’s staff, from whence she came.)
- Trump’s Messed Up COVID-19 Response. Trump’s response to this crisis keeps getting uglier and uglier, y’all. He keeps signaling he’ll reopen the country next month, hinting that he may force regions open and claim he supercedes governors’ orders if they stand in his way. He also removed the Pentagon’s acting inspector general, who was named to lead the Pandemic Response Accountability Committee, so that the CARES Act funds going to big businesses would have no oversight. Trump is also starting to signal that he may fire the leading specialist on COVID, Andrew Fauci, because Fauci keeps being the grown-up in the room. And just in case anyone abroad wanted to help us, Trump keeps threatening to withhold funding from the WHO because he doesn’t like how they are reporting virus spread in the U.S. The WHO is responding with big weary teacher energy, telling him that “now is not the time” and could he “please [not] politicize this virus”. If you get him to listen, WHO, let us know how you did it.
- Other COVID Misconduct. Of course, Trump’s administration has plenty of other malfeasance this week as well. An honorable mention goes to William Barr and Steven Mnuchin, both of whom lack any medical expertise whatsoever but are nonetheless loudly supporting Trump’s cockamamie plan to reopen the country on May 1st. And several people have enabled Trump’s bizarre vendetta against the U.S. Postal Service, which Trump refuses to support despite its struggles because he doesn’t want to allow voting by mail to happen. But the most obnoxious action from the White House this week was Mike Pence blocking top health experts from appearing on CNN–a retaliatory action because the station refused to cover any more of Trump’s dangerously misinformative “press briefings.”
Your “Normal” Weird:
- Weekly Election Oddities. As noted last week, Wisconsin’s Supreme Court ordered in-person elections in the eleventh hour on Monday, resulting in a messy Tuesday election with only five polling locations open in the state. While results were pending, Bernie Sanders ended his campaign, leaving Joe Biden the near-certain Democratic nominee for 2020. Sanders also endorsed Biden today, presumably trying to avoid a mess like 2016. Meanwhile, several states that aren’t Wisconsin continue to postpone their primaries, worried about public health risk during a pandemic. And Elizabeth Warren has released a comprehensive proposal for voting during the pandemic, because of course she has a plan for that.
- State of the COVID-19. We are unquestionably being hit hard by this pandemic–at the time that I type this, we definitely lead the world in cases, and over 23,000 people in this country have lost their lives to COVID-19. We’re increasingly seeing fatalities in younger adults and food industry workers, and COVID-19 has become the leading cause of death in the United States. We’re also beginning to experience massive food waste because food migratory patterns have changed dramatically. Experts say the pandemic is unlikely to improve with warmer weather, and New York is still hit particularly hard. Several outlets have also started writing about the disproportionate infection rate experienced by Black Americans, which is exacerbating existing health disparities. Immigrant communities and prisons are hit disproportionately hard as well.
- Market Mess Continues.* Negotiations continue to go poorly on a fourth Coronavirus response bill. Bill Mnuchin has requested more money for small business relief, saying the original amount in the CARES Act was gone within days, though SBS officials say the problem lies with big banks. Mitch McConnell seems amenable to Mnuchin’s request, but refuses to negotiate with Democrats to get a final version of the bill. So now Nancy Pelosi won’t negotiate either, and everything appears to be at a standstill. The Congressional gridlock is unfortunate, because things are still very bad. More than 17 million people have filed for unemployment in the past four weeks, and experts are starting to say we’re experiencing a depression.
- Recent State Resilience.Though things have been bleak, we’ve seen some glimmers of encouraging state action. A Kansas court upheld the governor’s order to limit in-person gatherings, ignoring “war on Easter” rhetoric to note that the governor had authority to make the order. As the Washington Post notes, Ohio has unusually low hospitalization rates due to its governor modeling ideal epidemic response early. And in Wisconsin, where the state Supreme Court forced an ill-advised election, constituents voted out one of the judges who made them vote during a pandemic.
- New Tracing Technology.* Apple and Google announced this week that they are working on new technology that would trace coronavirus contact, allowing people to receive warnings about recent exposure. The proposal is for new smartphone software that could be easily added to people’s phones, and it won’t be ready for several months, but that window would still cause it to arrive before vaccines. Though there is obvious potential for abuse, it also has great potential for expanding testing and tracking infection vectors, so I’m tentatively excited about it.
So that’s what I have for this week, and I’m sorry, there are no news refunds. For making it through, you deserve this predictive text haggadah and these lovely forest photosand an eventual better government. I’ll be back next week with more (and hopefully better) news, and I hope you will be back as well–but in the meantime, feel free to ping the National News Roundup ask box, which is there for your constructive comments. Send me questions! Send me feedback! Send me extra closing links, because we’re moving to two per week!