Unacceptable Answers

The news broke late in the day. Everyone knew this would happen, and it just happened:

The Wisconsin Supreme Court on Wednesday struck down the state’s stay-at-home order during the coronavirus pandemic as “unlawful, invalid, and unenforceable” after finding that the state’s health secretary exceeded her authority.

In a 4-3 ruling, the court called Health Services Secretary Andrea Palm’s directive, known as Emergency Order 28, a “vast seizure of power.”

The order directed all people in the state to stay at home or at their places of residence, subject only to exceptions allowed by Palm, the ruling says. The order, which had been set to run until May 26, also restricted travel and business, along with threatening jail time or fines for those who don’t comply.

Republicans want things open, now. The science says that’s too dangerous. Health Services Secretary Palm follows the science and issues an emergency order. It’s too dangerous. Polling shows that almost seventy percent of the public in Wisconsin agree with that, but Republicans control the Wisconsin Supreme Court by one vote, for now. In August a new justice replaces just one conservative justice, making it a liberal or least moderate court, or at least a facts-based empirical one. She was elected a month or two ago in that election that the current Wisconsin Supreme Court said must take place, with in-person voting, at the height of the pandemic.

That might work. No one would show up to vote. No one was that crazy. The incumbent Republican would keep his seat on the court – and then people did show up to vote, and they tossed that guy off the court. It wasn’t even close, and yes, about two dozen who came out to vote did test positive for coronavirus. Some of them got quite sick, but no one died. They were just willing to die to vote these jerks out of office. The new justice joins the court in August, too late for this matter, but she will make a difference.

As for now, things are complicated:

The ruling says the judges weren’t challenging Democratic Gov. Tony Evers’ emergency powers, but the decision effectively undercuts his administration and forces him to work out a compromise with the Republican-controlled Legislature.

The decision is the result of the Legislature’s lawsuit against the Health Services Department alleging that Palm’s directives overreached and asking the court to grant relief to give the Legislature a “seat at the table” in the rule-making process.

They really didn’t want to say that no Wisconsin governor has the right, ever, to compel Wisconsin citizens to do or not do anything all, even if it’s a grave matter of public safety – not even enforcing laws about stopping at stop signs so no one gets killed. That sets a bad precedent. The next governor might be a Republican. They went after the health services secretary and HER emergency order, and now everyone has to talk this out. The mayors of Wisconsin’s three largest cities, Democrats all, say they ain’t opening a damned thing yet. Now things will get hot, but that was inevitable:

During oral arguments, Justice Rebecca Bradley suggested that the order amounted to “tyranny,” and at another point, she referred to Japanese Americans’ internment during World War II.

Chief Justice Patience Roggensack actively questioned both sides and was later criticized for seeming to have downplayed a spike in cases connected to a JBS meatpacking in Green Bay.

Spikes in cases “were due to the meatpacking, though. That’s where Brown County got the flare. It wasn’t just the regular folks in Brown County,” Roggensack said in response to the Health Services Department’s highlighting the spread of the virus.

So, whatever happened, it happened to brown folks in Brown County who talk funny, not the “regular” folks over that way, but the lines have been drawn:

“Republicans believe business owners can safely reopen using the guidelines provided by the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation,” the Republican leaders of Legislature said in a statement after the ruling.

Evers said, “Up until now, Wisconsin was in a pretty good place in our battle against COVID-19.”

“We cannot let today’s ruling undo all the work we have done and all the sacrifices Wisconsinites have made over these past few months,” he said in a statement. “I am disappointed in the decision today, but our top priority has been and will remain doing what we can and what we have to do to protect the health and safety of the people of our state.”

Let the angry shouting begin, and be glad that’s only angry shouting, because it could be worse:

Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer said Wednesday that armed protests at the state’s Capitol over her stay-at-home order have “been really political rallies where people come with Confederate flags and Nazi symbolism and calling for violence,” adding that if they continue, they could lengthen the state’s social distancing restrictions.

That’s clear enough. Wave those Confederate and Nazi flags and threaten to kill her for Trump and for Freedom while all bunched up and not wearing masks and things will now get worse, perhaps bad enough to extend the restrictions for another six months. But the real problem is that threats of violence don’t exactly encourage dialog:

“I do think that the fact of the matter is these protests, in a perverse way, make it likelier that we’re going to have to stay in a stay-at-home posture,” Whitmer said on ABC’s The View.

“This is not appropriate in a global pandemic, but it’s certainly not an exercise of democratic principles where we have free speech,” Whitmer said. “This is calls to violence. This is racist and misogynistic. And I ask that everyone who has a platform uses it to call on people to observe the best practices promulgated by the CDC and to stop encouraging this behavior, because it only makes it that much more precarious for us to try to re-engage our economy, which is what everyone says they want us to be able to do.”

But why even bother to talk? This won’t change:

At a previous protest, heavily armed demonstrators went inside the Capitol as legislators were debating coronavirus restrictions. Another protest by the group Michigan United for Liberty is scheduled for Thursday, the Detroit Free Press reported. Some who plan to attend have called for violence online, according to the Detroit Metro Times.

Whitmer, a Democrat, has urged the Republican-controlled Legislature to ban guns from the building, but the Michigan Capitol Commission, which oversees the grounds, delayed a decision Monday.

And now no one will agree on anything:

Top coronavirus health expert Dr. Anthony Fauci’s recent warning about the potentially dire consequences of reopening states and schools too soon was “not an acceptable answer,” President Donald Trump said Wednesday.

Trump told reporters at the White House that he was “surprised” by Fauci’s answers during a hearing before the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions.

Trump did not single out which specific answer from Fauci that he found unacceptable, but referenced Fauci’s testimony about reopening schools in the fall.

Fauci says that the science says this. Trump says that what science says is unacceptable. Science should bend to his will. Everything else does, but Fauci simply plowed on:

Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases and a member of the White House task force, said at the hearing that he doubted that an effective vaccine or treatment for the virus would be available by the fall when schools are set to reopen.

“In this case that the idea of having treatments available or a vaccine to facilitate the reentry of students into the fall term would be something that would be a bit of a bridge too far,” he said.

He later added: “We just have to see on a step-by-step basis as we get into the period of time with the fall about reopening the schools, exactly where we will be in the dynamics of the outbreak.”

Fauci also said that reopening states too soon amid the Covid-19 crisis could bring even more “suffering and death,” and that he was concerned that rushing to reopen “would almost turn the clock back rather than going forward.”

There’s the data. This is how things are. The president was not impressed:

Asked if he agreed with Fauci’s concerns, Trump said, “Look, he wants to play all sides of the equation.”

“I was surprised by his answer, actually” Trump said when asked for clarification. “To me it’s not an acceptable answer, especially when it comes to schools.”

But what is Fauci supposed to do about that? He provides facts, and he worries:

The official position of the White House is that it should be left to individual governors whether to follow the guidelines set out by the Centers for Disease Control, which describe criteria that states should reach before they begin a phased reopening.

These include a downward trajectory in the number of “positive tests” or “documented cases” of coronavirus for at least two consecutive weeks. Other recommendations include being able to provide “robust contact tracing” for people who test positive, and “surveillance testing” for high-risk groups. But many states are reopening despite not having met these criteria, a move that experts like Fauci say could put lives at risk.

No one has met those criteria, and more was on the way to upset the president:

Dr. Rick Bright, the ousted director of a key federal office charged with developing medical countermeasures, will testify before Congress on Thursday that the Trump administration was unprepared for the coronavirus pandemic and warn that the US will face “unprecedented illness and fatalities” without additional preparations.

“Our window of opportunity is closing. If we fail to develop a national coordinated response, based in science, I fear the pandemic will get far worse and be prolonged, causing unprecedented illness and fatalities,” Bright is expected to say Thursday, according to his prepared testimony obtained by CNN. “Without clear planning and implementation of the steps that I and other experts have outlined, 2020 will be darkest winter in modern history.”

“The lamps are going out all over Europe; we shall not see them lit again in our life-time.” That’s what British Foreign Secretary Sir Edward Grey said to a friend on August 3, 1914. This is a modern version of that:

Bright is set to testify Thursday morning before the House Committee on Energy and Commerce’s health subcommittee after he filed a whistleblower complaint last week alleging he was removed from his post in retaliation for opposing the broad use of a drug frequently touted by President Donald Trump as a coronavirus treatment.

Bright will reiterate that he believes he was removed from his post because he “resisted efforts to promote and enable broad access to an unproven drug, chloroquine, to the American people without transparent information on the potential health risks.”

Bright is seeking to be reinstated to his position as the head of the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority (BARDA) and the Office of Special Counsel, which is reviewing Bright’s complaint, has determined there is reason to believe his removal was retaliatory and is recommending he be reinstated during its investigation, according to Bright’s attorneys.

That should have never happened. The new studies are being published. That chloroquine stuff in any form or in any amount doesn’t work on this. So, how did all of this happen? Does it have a source?

That’s possible. Talking Points Memo’s Matt Shuham looks to The Federalist – the oddly popular conservative website – and he finds these headlines:

“Imagine for a moment that the nation were ruled by dictatorship of doctors…”

“Is it right for the nation to require our children’s futures be destroyed to keep alive less than 1 percent of our population until the next flu season?”

“It seems harsh to ask whether the nation might be better off letting a few hundred thousand people die.”

“So the barbaric, panicky elevation of mere life as the only good worth conserving is becoming increasingly shameful.”

“Is death the worst thing that could happen to you?”

That’s not a parody, that’s this:

For weeks, the site has been at the vanguard of the backlash against COVID-19 public health orders.

After early attempts to interrogate the media’s “hysteria” about the virus – and amid an ongoing obsession with what to call it – the site has pushed to “reopen” despite the growing death toll. That’s meant instructing readers to buck up, avoid “cowardice,” and fight back.

Or as executive editor Joy Pullmann put it in a critique Wednesday of House Democrats’ latest stimulus proposal, “Americans shouldn’t hide in our homes fumbling in our children’s’ pockets for money like drunkards.”

“Like the greatest generation, we owe it to our nation to face danger bravely,” Pullmann wrote. “Our ancestors risked much worse to give us the best country in the world: cholera outbreaks, amputations without anesthesia, hand-to-paw combat with bears and panthers, natives who ruled territory through slavery and torture, establishing homes in a forbidding wilderness amid outbreaks of starvation and disease, volunteering to fight from poisoned foxholes, perilous trips in rickety ships across a dark ocean.”

Ah, so THAT’S where all this is coming from! All the “right people” on the Right read these things:

The Federalist, though frequently a platform for the off-color and unscientific, is also read by those in power. A spokesperson for Republicans on the House Oversight committee, for example, lauded an article last month on “How Cowardice and Class Privilege Shift Support for Lockdowns.”

And members of Congress often publish Federalist op-eds. A five-word blog post from Rep. Jim Jordan (R-OH) on Friday captures the message of many of them: “We were right about everything,” the congressman wrote. President Donald Trump has boosted that post and several others from the site to his millions of Twitter followers. And popular conservative voices like talk show host Mark Levin regularly spread The Federalist around.

That may be because of how the site evolved:

At first, The Federalist’s coronavirus coverage was pretty straight-laced. In late January, the site’s first post on the then-Wuhan-based outbreak focused on “implications for international security and for the global economy.” Senior contributor Helen Raleigh subsequently amplified voices from inside Wuhan as the city battled the virus. Generally, coverage focused on criticisms of the Chinese government and the World Health Organization. But as President Donald Trump began speaking more frequently in public about the virus, The Federalist changed its tone.

“The Coronavirus Has Mutated – Into A Political Talking Point,” political editor John Daniel Davidson observed on Feb. 27, the day after Trump held his first press conference on the virus…

In the days and weeks that followed, The Federalist plugged the disease into its existing battles: For a border wall, against environmentalism and gender studies. Even “Big Porn” got put on notice.

“Like the coronavirus, pornography use is silent but deadly, a powerful disease that has had devastating effects across our society,” wrote Terry Schilling, executive director of the American Principles Project, a conservative political group.

But the giant border wall along the Rio Grande would have stopped it cold, or something. Still, the real issue was naming the damned thing:

‘In March, after Trump and House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) began calling it the “China Virus,” The Federalist enlisted in a new fight. Sure, the World Health Organization dubbed it COVID-19 all the way back on Feb. 11, creating a convenient international shorthand (rather than “novel coronavirus disease of 2019”) uniformly used by scientists, doctors and policymakers. But when President Trump and Republicans in Congress tried to change the label in March – in an effort, they acknowledged, to shift blame to China – the website couldn’t stay away.

And they did have fun:

In the weeks that followed, Federalist writers posted more than a dozen articles arguing for a name that pinned the pandemic to its country of origin.

The only thing they couldn’t agree on was a replacement: Across the site, the viral disease is referred to as “Chinese coronavirus,” “Chinese virus,” “Wuhan virus,” “Wuhan Flu,” “WuFlu” and “ChiCom flu.”

And there was this:

The most inventive contribution to the clicky naming debate genre came from a Lutheran pastor in a satirical interview with the virus itself — “currently living in an undisclosed location on the East Coast and everywhere else on the planet.”

“I’m very proud of my Chinese heritage,” the virus said. “But I’m also really into the whole international thing these days.”

That’s popped up on Facebook quite a bit, but there was anger too:

In March, the President started hyping the anti-malarial medication hydroxychloroquine as a potential wonder cure for COVID-19, despite almost no evidence showing it was effective. Federalist writers quickly joined the effort.

On March 23, for example, senior contributor Margot Cleveland wrote that “preliminary scientific evidence suggests the drug chloroquine provides a therapeutic benefit to people with the coronavirus.” She argued reporters were being real downers by pointing out to Trump that the drug wasn’t actually proven to be effective.

“What seems clear now is that President Trump is hopeful, while the media come off as rooting for a failure,” Cleveland wrote. “That doesn’t just make the press terrible reporters—it makes them terrible Americans.”

No, it does not work – not that this matters to these people – as they live elsewhere:

The site’s call for “chickenpox parties,” which a formerly licensed dermatologist figured could help establish herd immunity, was widely mocked on the web and led to a temporary suspension of The Federalist’s Twitter account. Writer Douglas Perednia told The New Yorker afterward that he’d pitched the piece to a number of medical journals, blogs and news sites, all of which had turned him down. The Federalist accepted the piece no questions asked, he said.

The site’s speculation that saltwater gargling or smoking could help ward off infection disappeared quickly, but they had a more serious message:

As the virus rages on and social distancing rules remain largely in place for the majority of Americans, denunciations of society’s cowardice have also figured prominently. A characteristic article last week, for example, chastened readers, “Our Ancestors Would Be Amazed at Our Cowardly Coronavirus Hysteria.”

 Theology professor Keith Stanglin wrote that he respected medical workers and was not dismissing the pain of thousands who’ve lost loved ones, but also that medieval time travelers “would realize we are a comparatively weak people.”

“What I am talking about is the general fear that so quickly and easily overtook our politicians, media, and then citizens at large, resulting in an overreaction of total lockdown and now, presumably, a permanent health emergency,” Stanglin wrote…

Stanglin compared “lockdown” orders to “shutting down all automobile traffic because tens of thousands of people die in auto accidents in this country every year.”

“But we will continue to drive our cars, and pretty fast, too,” he added. “We will mourn those who die in car wrecks, and we will get in our cars and drive to attend their funerals.”

That’s because they’re strong and wonderful and never wear masks, but everyone wears masks. Their mask is aggrieved true masculinity and courage, not science and thinking and all that nonsense. They say that’s not an acceptable answer to anything. But that’s not an acceptable answer either.

About Alan

The editor is a former systems manager for a large California-based HMO, and a former senior systems manager for Northrop, Hughes-Raytheon, Computer Sciences Corporation, Perot Systems and other such organizations. One position was managing the financial and payroll systems for a large hospital chain. And somewhere in there was a two-year stint in Canada running the systems shop at a General Motors locomotive factory - in London, Ontario. That explains Canadian matters scattered through these pages. Otherwise, think large-scale HR, payroll, financial and manufacturing systems. A résumé is available if you wish. The editor has a graduate degree in Eighteenth-Century British Literature from Duke University where he was a National Woodrow Wilson Fellow, and taught English and music in upstate New York in the seventies, and then in the early eighties moved to California and left teaching. The editor currently resides in Hollywood California, a block north of the Sunset Strip.
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