This week definitely didn’t hit the low water mark set by suggestions to inject bleach at a press conference, but that’s not saying much. If anything, I’m feeling meh at the moment–likely a side-effect of growing inured after so many weeks of pandemic. It’s hard to really see where we go from here, and yet we keep on going. I’m here if anyone needs anything.
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 vaccine trial!–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:
As has become the norm, all of the Disregard of Governing Norms stories have a particular flavor, as leaders on state and national levels continue to refuse to listen to experts. We’re spared the worst of it here in Massachusetts, as we’re officially still in a stay-at-home advisory at least until May 18, but some states are reopening and it’s honestly scary. Here’s what is happening:
- Reopening Rodeo. About half the country’s states are beginning the process of resuming business, with the two original state consortia on the East and West coasts making up the bulk of states staying closed. The rush comes in part due to the White House releasing blueprints for reopening process, which appear to mostly involve holding collective breath and saying a quick prayer. The entire process has been divisive, with some owners in reopening states refusing to resume business and some municipal governments in closed states refusing to enforce stay-at-home orders. And even in states that are already open, COVID numbers are still rising at alarming rates. Nonetheless, Trump has already moved on to instructing governors to “seriously consider reopening schools.”
- Trump’s Messed Up COVID-19 Response. Trump’s grasp of leadership didn’t get any better this week, which makes it even more unsettling that he officially is ending his social distancing advisory. His new thing is theorizing that China unleashed COVID from a lab (spoiler: no they didn’t, not that this is provable), but he also dismissed another watchdog employee, this time someone who found that hospitals had massive testing and PPE shortages. His top officials say we’re likely to experience a more severe second round if we reopen too early, and even Trump is upping his death estimates, though he’s also complaining he’s treated worse than Abraham Lincoln while he does it and pushing to shield businesses from liability for COVID-related deaths caused by reopening. The cliff is plainly visible ahead, so it would be great if somebody could wrest the wheel from this guy before we all sail over the edge.
- Other COVID Misconduct. Of course, several other people in this administration took the time to be horrifying this week as well. William Barr gets an honorable mention for his nonsense insinuation that stay-at-home orders might be unconstitutional, but the real Vice Cad this week is, appropriately, Vice Cad Mike Pence. Pence earned this honor by touring a hospital full of immunocompromised people without wearing a mask, counter to the hospital’s policy and his own federal guidance, because–and I quote–“As vice president of the United States, I’m tested for the coronavirus on a regular basis.” Folks, this man literally leads the White House coronavirus task force and this is what he does while he tours a testing facility. Then he followed up by threatening to sue the reporter that confirmed Pence was intentionally ignoring the rules–apparently, journalists were all instructed by Pence’s team in writing to wear masks in deference to the Mayo Clinic policy. This administration is such a fascinating combination of obtuse and malignant; watching them operate is like watching Snidely Whiplash tie himself to the train tracks. Except the entire country is Nell and Dudley Do-Right is on holiday.
Your “Normal” Weird:
- Election Oddities (Again). This was a strangely active week in election news. Given everything going on, New York has taken the unprecedented step of canceling its primary election for a Democratic candidate. The governor of the state was quoted as saying it would be “unnecessary and frivolous” to hold an election when Joe Biden is already the presumptive nominee, but Bernie Sanders’s campaign was not happy. Meanwhile, Justin Amash more-or-less announced that he’s running for President on the Libertarian ticket by forming an exploratory committee. Joe Biden formally responded to credible allegations of sexual assault brought by former staffer Tara Reade, retaining the support of several prominant Democrats. And Trump reportedly lost his fool head at his campaign team because polling in several swing states supports Biden.
- State of the COVID-19.* Despite (because of?) the paragraphs above, COVID news is very bleak. At the time that I type this, almost 70,000 people in this country have lost their lives to the virus, and over one million people have been infected. The administration blocked its top advisor from testifying to a House committee about COVID response in much the same fashion as during impeachment proceedings. Many states still don’t have enough testing, and the Capitol’s physician says he doesn’t have enough tests for all the senators who are returning this week under McConnell’s orders. COVID model projections are now estimating many more deaths, which may be related to news that the CDC believes deaths have been underreported. Major players in the food industry warn that the supply chain may be breaking, which prompted Trump to sign an executive order forcing meat plants to remain open. And the push for a vaccine or at least functional treatment is causing the administration to barrel ahead with another potentially faulty drug, but at least this one has actual studies in its favor. (Unsurprisingly, vaccine efforts are going better abroad than they are here.)
- Market Mess Continues.* There’s scant good news on the market front too. Though the small business program restarted after bill 3.5 was passed, it was also in the news for giving $1B to publicly traded large companies instead of small businesses per its mission. Another 3.8 million people filed for unemployment, bringing us to 30 million total since the pandemic began. Some states have begun threatening to end unemployment benefits upon reopening so that workers are forced to return. Nonetheless, we’re starting to see more sectors impacted, and the first major retail bankruptcy was filed this week as well. Several labor groups at seven different corporations also organized protests on May Day, drawing attention to unsafe working conditions during the pandemic.
- Recent Michigan Resilience. Most of us didn’t have a great week, but it was apparently a good time for Michigan education. The Sixth Circuit found that Detroit students have a constitutional right to literacy under the Fourteenth Amendment, which is a pretty significant form of new constitutional precedent. And independently, Michigan’s governor announced a new tuition-free educational program for the state’s essential workers, which would permit those workers to complete a variety of types of programs. The announcement comes after a particularly rough week of protests in the state, with many armed constituents marching on the capitol as the governor signed a new stay-at-home order, so it’s nice to be able to offer some positive news from the state as well.
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 new Waititi-directed Star Wars movie and this 30th-anniversaary Good Omens short and 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 sinuses with fewer allergies!