You are browsing the archive for 2021 February 26.

Avatar of admin

by admin

CDC director warns of a 'very concerning shift' in the COVID-19  data

February 26, 2021 in Blogs

By Alex Henderson

With may millions of people getting vaccinated for COVID-19 every week and infection rates decreasing in recent weeks, medical experts have been expressing some optimism about the future course of the pandemic. But Dr. Rochelle Walensky, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, warned on Friday that the declines are now “stalling.”

In a briefing on Friday, the CDC director explained, “Over the last few weeks, cases and hospital admissions in the United States had been coming down since early January — and deaths had been declining in the past week. But the latest data suggests that these declines may be stalling, potentially leveling off at still a very high number. We at CDC consider this a very concerning shift in the trajectory.”

President Joe Biden has been pushing for an aggressive increase in COVID-19 vaccinations, and owners of brick-and-mortar businesses in the United States are hoping that it will be safe to ease restrictions in the months ahead. But Walensky warned against easing those restrictions prematurely — especially in light of highly infectious new COVID-19 variants that have emerged.

“It’s important to remember where we are in the pandemic,” Walensky cautioned during the briefing. “Things are tenuous. Now is not the time to relax restrictions.”

Aggressive new COVID-19 variants have emerged in the U.K., South Africa, Brazil and elsewhere. And according to Walensky, the U.K. variant, B.1.1.7., now accounts for 10% of COVID-19 cases in the U.S.

“We may be done with the virus,” the CDC director warned, “but clearly, the virus is not done with us. We cannot get comfortable or give into a false sense of security that the worst of the pandemic is behind us.”

The U.S. recently reached a grim milestone when, according to Baltimore’s Johns Hopkins University, the number of deaths from COVID-19 passed 500,000 in the U.S. Worldwide, Hopkins reports, the COVID-19 death toll has passed 2.5 million.

…read more

Source: ALTERNET

Avatar of admin

by admin

Columnist explains how Republicans' mistake gives Democrats a 'big opening'

February 26, 2021 in Blogs

By Alex Henderson

Supporters of a $15-per-hour federal minimum wage suffered a disappointment this week when the U.S. Senate’s parliamentarian, Elizabeth MacDonough, ruled that the policy cannot remain in the Democratic coronavirus relief package as it is currently written. Washington Post opinion writer Paul Waldman discusses the ramifications of this development in his Thursday column, warning that if Democrats don’t find a way to be as bold and aggressive as possible with their agenda, it could hurt them in the 2022 midterms.

“Right now,” Waldman explains, “Democrats are tying themselves in knots trying to figure out how to increase the minimum wage — something President Biden ran on, their entire party believes in, and which is overwhelmingly popular with the public…. Yet the Senate parliamentarian has ruled that a straight minimum wage increase can’t pass via the reconciliation process — the only way to pass a bill with a simple majority vote — the details of which are incomprehensible, or endlessly maddening, or both.”

The real problem, though, isn’t the parliamentarian herself so much. Democrats can work around her if they want. The problem is that a few key Democrats — most notably, Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia — have explicitly prioritized preserving arcane Senate procedure over action. And he’s reluctant to raise the minimum wage to $15, anyway.

Waldman continues, “So, Democrats have to find some kind of fiscal somersault to try to get the minimum wage increase into the COVID relief bill. Maybe they could impose a tax on companies that don’t increase their wages, or do something else to satisfy the parliamentarian by cloaking a non-budgetary provision in budgetary clothing.”

Expressing his frustration, Waldman points out that Democrats have run into this hurdle in the Senate at a time when Republicans “have seldom looked more feckless.” And ideally, he says, Democrats should be showing U.S. voters that they are a party of substantial ideas while Republicans are short on them.

“When we’re caught in a pandemic and an economic crisis, only so many people will get worked up about whether a transgender girl is allowed to play softball,” Waldman explains.

By focusing on the culture war, he argues, Republicans give Democrats a big opportunity to enact a popular economic agenda — if they’re all willing to take it.

“That gives Democrats the chance to move forward confidently with their agenda, an agenda that is enormously …read more

Source: ALTERNET

Avatar of admin

by admin

The crisis of American democracy is already here

February 26, 2021 in Blogs

By Cody Fenwick

We can stop waiting for the big constitutional crisis, the cataclysmic electoral breakdown, the fracturing of democracy that many have long feared in the United States of America.

The crisis is already here, and we’ve been living with it for years.

It’s become conventional wisdom among many political observers that the Electoral College system for picking our presidents is an anti-democratic relic that we’re nevertheless forced to work around. And yet the significance of this fact is far too easily elided. We hear warnings that the Electoral College may one day trigger a disaster, but we’ve yet to properly take stock of the world of crisis we’ve already made for ourselves. And American political discourse still hasn’t accommodated the fact that, because of the Electoral College and the winner-take-all state rules that decide our presidential elections, our form of government is not as democratic and morally admirable as we like to think.

Within the last two decades, there have indeed been, arguably, four distinct crises in the Electoral College that have profoundly shaken our democratic ideals and even warped the course of world history. Lives have been lost and ruined; blood has been shed as a result. The Electoral College is not just an outdated institution. It’s a shambolic mess. The wheels have completely come off, and the train is off the tracks. And there’s no sign it’s headed for any smoother terrain.

The first of the modern crises, of course, came in 2000. The presidential election came down to Florida, and that state came down to 537 votes. A wave of irregularities and clear errors in the process easily swamped that margin, but as the fight over a recount dragged on, the Supreme Court was asked to intervene. Its decision essentially gave George W. Bush the presidency over then-Vice President Al Gore, despite the fact that Gore had won nationally by about half a million votes.

Gore conceded graciously, but a disaster was set in motion. The 9/11 Commission cited the delayed transition as a potential factor in the failure to foresee the coming terrorist attack mere months down the road. Had the Clinton administration smoothly transitioned into a Gore administration as most American voters wanted, perhaps that calamity could have been avoided — along with the disastrous wars of choice that followed. The country might have started taking climate change seriously at a crucial point in history, rather than ignoring it …read more

Source: ALTERNET

Avatar of admin

by admin

Biden's relief plan is extremely popular — and the GOP arguments against it are increasingly desperate

February 26, 2021 in Blogs

By Lindsay Beyerstein

The House is expected to pass the $1.9 trillion COVID relief package Friday and the Senate will take up the bill in early March. Democrats are racing to send a bill to Joe Biden’s desk before extended unemployment benefits run out in mid-March.

So far, not a single Congressional Republican has signaled support for the COVID stimulus. The Biden administration is fully prepared to see passage of the massive relief package with no GOP support. And why not? Nearly 80 percent of Americans support Biden’s American Rescue Plan Act, including 60 percent of Republicans.

As usual, Congressional Republicans are more interested in fighting symbolic culture-war battles than in crafting meaningful relief policy for suffering Americans.

GOP legislators have taken every opportunity to introduce performative anti-choice bills and amendments aimed at COVID relief. These measures have little chance of success in the Democrat-controlled Congress, but they burnish a legislator’s anti-choice cred, which in the 2021 Republican Party, is really what matters.

Republicans Sen. Roger Marshall and Rep. Brian Babin introduced companion bills designed to expand the Hyde Amendment to forbid any COVID relief funds from being spent on abortion. Hyde bans the use of federal funds for most abortions.

Sen. Ben Sasse tried unsuccessfully to insert a “born alive” amendment into the budget resolution that serves as the vehicle for COVID relief. Sasse’s amendment would have required doctors to offer medical care to babies born following failed abortion attempts, which is … exactly what current law requires. Nevertheless, Sasse felt this was a good use of legislative time in a crisis. I hope he enjoys the talk-show invites.

Rep. Lauren Boebert tweeted that the American Rescue Plan would allocate $414 billion for elective abortions or abortion-covering insurance. That is a jaw-dropping estimate—$414 billion is about 20 percent of the entire stimulus. Boebert’s spokesman said that she meant that without Hyde Amendment language in the American Rescue Plan, $414 billion dollars of stimulus money could potentially be spent on abortion. He declined to further explain how Boebert arrived at the $414 billion number.

Suffice it to say, the word “could potentially” is doing a lot of work here.

The stimulus sets aside $414 billion for direct payments to individuals (the much-anticipated $1,400 checks) and $163 billion for extended unemployment insurance benefits. …read more

Source: ALTERNET

Avatar of admin

by admin

How white evangelicals found themselves worshipping a golden Trump

February 26, 2021 in Blogs

By John Stoehr

Social media was ablaze this morning with a video taken at the Conservative Political Action Conference in Washington of a golden statue in the image of Donald Trump. People right away associated the graven image with the golden calf of the Bible—when Moses took so long bringing Yahweh’s Law down from Mt. Sinai that his brother succumbed to pressure to erect an idol to a competing god. “Mentioned in Exodus 32 and I Kings 12 in the Old Testament, worship of the golden calf is seen as a supreme act of apostasy, the rejection of a faith once confessed,” according to the Encyclopedia Britannica. “The figure is probably a representation of the Egyptian bull god Apis in the earlier period and of the Canaanite fertility god Baal in the latter.”

Now, there’s more important stuff going on right now. The parliamentarian of the United States Senate, for instance, ruled last night that the provision in the president’s covid relief package that raises the federal minimum wage to $15 an hour cannot pass by way of “reconciliation,” which is a special budget rule requiring a simple majority instead of the usual 60 votes. That, plus the reluctance of Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema to monkey with the rule, means the hard work of governance is becoming visible. By comparison, a statue of “the Golden Ass,” as someone quipped, seems rather petty. I disagree. This image captures something important and dire about the forces that still threaten our republic. It’s worth our time thinking about them.

Why are white evangelical Protestants so obedient to authority? I think because it’s literally beaten into them.

Let’s start with the obvious. Trump’s most reliable supporters are white evangelical Protestants (WEPs). These are the people who are most likely to attend this weekend’s Conservative Political Action Conference. You’d think, given how devoutly religious the former president’s supporters claim to be, that they would be outraged by the sight of a golden statue in Trump’s image, an idol akin to the golden calf, a graven image for worshipping a competing god. You’d think WEPs would be discomfited even by the appearance of elevating a mere mortal (Donald Trump) to the level of the Almighty.

I’ve explained many times before how two things that should not co-exist find a way of co-existing. But I have not explained one of the psychological roots of this cognitive dissonance. …read more

Source: ALTERNET