Lazy Caturday ReadsPosted: February 27, 2021
The vaccine rollout in Massachusetts has been awful, and Governor Charlie Baker has been taking a beating over it. Yesterday the legislature held a public hearing on the problems. WBUR: Emotions Ran High During A State Hearing On Mass.’ Vaccine Rollout.
For six hours, a joint committee of state representatives and senators grilled Gov. Charlie Baker and members of his administration, listening to them testify on issues related to vaccine distribution and equity.
The technical problems people experienced trying to sign up for vaccine appointments loomed large at the hearing. Last week, state websites crashed under the weight of a million more vaccine seekers hustling to get one of a mere 60,000 slots. This week, people posted screenshots showing wait times in the tens or hundreds of thousands of minutes to social media.
The problems mostly revolved around technology failures and confusion about the software being used to manage vaccines, PrepMod.
The disconnect between the state and the PrepMod system seems to be part of a larger trend of people feeling that the rollout is confusing. Clinicians running vaccine sites have expressed frustration at how the rollout policies seem to keep shifting and changing. During the hearing, state Sen. Cindy Friedman spoke to this feeling.
“[The] twists and turns, the change in plans, the communication that changes depending on who you are talking to. Even I, with all my knowledge, am completely at a loss as to what is going on at times,” she said.
The unpredictable nature of the rollout has people on edge. State Sen. Eric Lesser conveyed some of that frustration to the governor during the hearing.
“Will you say you’re sorry to the millions of people [who could not make an appointment],” Lesser demanded.
“Of course. Absolutely. Definitely. Yes,” Baker responded. A hint of exhaustion crept into his voice.
He may have to do this rodeo again. The committee chair invited Baker for another hearing in a couple weeks’ time.
“Well, this one’s been so much fun, I’ll certainly look forward to coming back,” Baker said.
There’s some good news this morning, so I’ll begin with that.
LOL! The good news for me is that the state is now allowing vaccines for seniors 65 and older and those living in subsidized housing. I had already gotten an appointment for March 4 at my doctor’s office, but yesterday I learned that my town in providing vaccines for my apartment building. They will come to my door, like they did with the flu shots last fall. So I feel fortunate. But my sister who lives in California got her first shot in early February and will be getting the second soon. Still I’m grateful to get it in such a convenient way.
More good news: The House passed the Covid relief bill last night. HuffPost: House Democrats Pass $1.9 Trillion COVID-19 Relief Bill.
After hours of delays, the House passed a $1.9 trillion COVID-19 relief bill early Saturday morning, taking the first step toward delivering another round of stimulus checks, enhanced unemployment benefits, increased child tax credits and an influx of cash for state and local governments.
The House passed the bill almost entirely along partisan lines, 219-212, with two Democrats, Kurt Schrader of Oregon and Jared Golden of Maine, voting no.
The measure will now go to the Senate, where it’s set to pass by a “reconciliation” process that requires a simple majority. But not before one key provision is stripped.
The Senate parliamentarian ruled Thursday that a section providing for a $15-an-hour minimum wage could not be done through the reconciliation process, deciding that it did not have enough of an impact on the federal budget to qualify. It left that provision subject to a 60-vote threshold.
Democrats have only 50 seats in the Senate ― with Vice President Kamala Harris able to break a tie in favor of the Democrats ― and the $15 minimum wage was already imperiled because of opposition from Sen. Joe Manchin (.). But even though the Senate parliamentarian had ruled that the minimum wage provisions couldn’t be done through reconciliation, House Democrats still included it.
That means the bill will still have to come back to the House for a final vote after the Senate amends the legislation. However, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) kept the minimum wage hike in after progressives argued they had already compromised on other items they wanted in the COVID-19 relief bill.
Ultimately, the $1.9 trillion package has a number of provisions that progressives love. It would provide a round of $1,400 checks to most Americans. It extends and increases a federal boost to unemployment benefits by $400 a week ― up from $300 ― and provides that extra money until September. It increases the child tax credit to $3,000 for children ages 6 to 17 and raises it to $3,600 for children younger than 6. It also provides $1,400 checks per dependent.
On top of all those policies, there’s money for state and local governments ($350 billion), public schools ($128 billion), higher education ($39 billion), coronavirus testing and contact tracing ($46 billion), rental assistance ($25 billion), restaurants and bars ($25 billion), child care ($15 billion), vaccine distribution ($14 billion), pandemic supplies ($10 billion) and a host of other public health causes.
Nancy Pelosi said yesterday that the process should take about two weeks.
More good news but bad news for Trump. Prosecutors in New York have his tax returns in hand. Eric Lutz at Vanity Fair: Sad: Prosecutors Have Trump’s Tax Returns and There’s Nothing He Can Do About It.
Donald Trump has fought tooth and nail to keep anyone from seeing his tax returns, and likely for good reason: even glimpses of them seemed to show a bumbling businessman who employed shady, and sometimes outright fraudulent, tactics to stay afloat. Were his taxes to wind up in the hands of, say, a Manhattan prosecutor, it could mean some serious trouble for him—particularly if he didn’t have the office of the presidency to protect him from legal liability.
Unfortunately for the ex-president, that’s precisely what’s happened: on Thursday, Manhattan District Attorney Cy Vance officially obtained Trump’s personal and corporate tax records and is likely poring over them this very instant as part of his sweeping probe into Trump’s financial affairs. Vance spokesman Danny Frost confirmed that the DA’s office had finally gained possession of the returns, which have long proven elusive for prosecutors and lawmakers alike.
The public probably won’t get a look at them for a while, if ever. But with Vance and his team now scouring the records, Trump’s legal vulnerability may have increased dramatically, as reflected by the desperate and aggrieved statement the former president released earlier this week after the Supreme Court rejected his last-ditch effort to keep the documents hidden. “All they focus on is the persecution of President Donald J. Trump,” he said in the statement, referring to himself in the third person. “I will fight on, just as I have, for the last five years…despite all of the election crimes that were committed against me.”
Does that man ever get off the pity pot? He’s fortunate not to be charged with negligent homicide of more that half-a-million people.
The latest on the FBI’s Capitol riot investigation from The New York Times: F.B.I. Said to Have Singled Out Potential Assailant in Capitol Officer’s Death.
The F.B.I. has pinpointed an assailant in its investigation into the death of Brian D. Sicknick, a Capitol Police officer who was injured while fending off the pro-Trump mob that stormed the Capitol last month and later died, according to two law enforcement officials briefed on the inquiry.
The F.B.I. opened a homicide investigation into Officer Sicknick’s death soon after the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol. Investigators initially struggled to determine what had happened as he fought assailants. They soon began to suspect his death was related to an irritant, like mace or bear spray, that he had inhaled during the riot. Both officers and rioters were armed with such irritants during the attack.
In a significant breakthrough in the case, investigators have now pinpointed a person seen on video of the riot who attacked several officers with bear spray, including Officer Sicknick, according to the officials. And video evidence shows that the assailant discussed attacking officers with the bear spray beforehand, one of the officials said.
While investigators narrowed potential suspects seen in video footage to a single person this week, they have yet to identify the assailant by name….
Given the evidence available to investigators, prosecutors could be more likely to bring charges of assaulting an officer, rather than murder, in the case. But the death of Officer Sicknick, a 42-year-old Air National Guard veteran who served in Saudi Arabia and Kyrgyzstan, could increase the penalties that prosecutors could seek if they took such a case to court.
More from The Washington Post: FBI focuses on video of Capitol Police officer being sprayed with chemicals before he died in pro-Trump riot.