The news this week is ten pounds of garbage in a five-pound hat, as the parts of the country reopening bring a wider news cycle with them. Here in New England things remain quiet for now, but that might not remain the case for long. As always, I’ll keep folks posted on what’s going on.
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 college campus!–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:
I can’t say I missed the old Disregard of Governing Norms stories, but they’re sure back with a vengeance–so now we get to contend with that as well as the COVID crisis. Here’s what is happening:
- Flynn Flyover (and other foul federal news). The Department of Justice truly stunned the legal field this week by dropping charges against Michael Flynn, an unprecedented move given Flynn had pleaded guilty literal years ago. It illustrates just how much William Barr appears to follow Trump’s agenda rather than leading an independent department–a point only punctuated by Trump’s follow-up attack on the head of the FBI, and Trump’s request that SCOTUS block the release of other evidence from the Mueller investigation. Meanwhile, things aren’t great on the federal judicial side either, with the Senate considering McConnell’s truly unqualified protege for an appeals court appointment and the GOP doing its best vulture impression when asked about Justice Ginsburg’s recent hospitalization. Betsy DeVos used a chaotic week to release her new regulations about sexual assault on campus, despite many college campuses housing no students at the moment. And rounding everything out, Trump appointed a Republican fundraiser to head the U.S. Post Office instead of, y’know, someone from the post office. Given the giant pile of everything in this paragraph, it’s hardly a surprise that the House wants to continue investigating Trump for impeachable offenses.
- White House Messed Up COVID-19 Response. Despite our apparent return to commerce, this was a real banner week for White House COVID response–by which I mean, it will make you want to Hulk out and smash something. Trump continued to block coronavirus task force members from testifying before the House because–and I quote–“the House is a bunch of Trump haters.” The White House also threatened to disband the task force entirely, before reversing course and resuming coronavirus briefings instead, and refused to release CDC guidance on safely reopening. Meanwhile, a watchdog agency found that scientist Rick Bright had a credible complaint of retaliation because he was removed from his position when he refused to support Trump’s sudden push for hydroxychloroquine. Trump refused to wear a mask while touring a mask production facility, and Trump’s personal valet and Pence’s press secretary both tested positive for COVID. Trump continued to refuse to wear a mask, saying “the whole concept of tests isn’t great,” and Pence refused to change his patterns on the grounds that he “has tested negative every single day.” There are also, apparently, no plans to keep Trump and Pence apart.
- Reopening Rodeo. Needless to say, reopening is not smooth sailing on the state level either, despite most states beginning the process as I type this. Data suggests that most reopening states do not meet the criteria put forward by the White House for reopening, and that guidance was more modest than the CDC’s. As if to punctuate the point, a recording of Texas governor Greg Abbott also surfaced this week acknowledging that reopening will increase spread of COVID-19. And early reopening data suggests that official steps don’t make consumers return to their prior patterns anyway, which frankly is pretty understandable given the rest of this paragraph.
Your “Normal” Weird:
- Arrests in Georgia. Over two months after a Georgian man was killed while jogging, police have arrested two Georgia residents for his murder. The official action was likely spurred by video of the murder, which was posted to the Internet in the past week–apparently by a local defense attorney. There is much about this story that is strange or confusing, but one aspect definitely isn’t, and that’s the racist underpinnings of the entire story.
- State of the COVID-19.* COVID news is… still not great. Scientists have begun to study an apparent COVID-related infection that has begun to surface in young kids, though this version thankfully appears treatable. The food supply chain still has issues, with beef shortages and pork shortages reported, and over a thousand workers have tested positive at Tyson plants in Iowa and Indiana. Meanwhile, the drug with modest treatment efficacy in trials, remdesivir, is being inconsistently administered to hospitals. In a silver lining, blood thinners are showing promise as a secondary treatment for patients with severe infection, and the FDA also granted emergency approval for a new antigen test.
- Market Mess Continues.* Financially speaking, things are still a mess. Unemployment is continuing to grow at the same rate as previous weeks, resulting in the highest rate since the Great Depression. Needless to say, this makes federal response in the coming weeks particularly important. It’s not surprising that several Senators have begun promoting universal base income, introducing a bill that would grant $2K per month for the duration of the crisis. And speaking of granting funds, the Small Business Administration’s programs are still a total mess–they’re in the news this week for dramatically lowering maximum loan amounts on one of their programs without telling any applicants about it.
- Recent California Resilience. The state of California is suing Lyft and Uber for refusing to classify its drivers as employees under a recent California law that expands worker protections to gig laborers. We’ll have to see what happens, but this is a promising bit of news–given the dire employment news above, this is a way to potentially get more protections without workers taking a hit for 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 new Waititi-directed Star Wars movie and this 30th-anniversary 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!