Tuesday ReadsPosted: April 6, 2021
I’m feeling a little bit safer today because I got my second dose of the Moderna vaccine yesterday morning. I didn’t even have any arm soreness after the shot, but by bedtime my whole upper arm was aching. This morning all my joints ache. It’s difficult to know if these are reactions to the vaccine or just my “normal” chronic pain symptoms. Whatever. It’s worth it to be fully vaccinated, especially since Massachusetts now leads the nation in cases of the Brazilian variant of Covid-19.
Now that most of us oldsters are protected, it’s time for people in younger age groups to get their shots. President Biden is now calling for states to make vaccines available to all adults by April 19. CNN:
With all states having opened eligibility to the public or at least having announced when they plan to do so, Biden will announce that every adult in the country will be eligible to be vaccinated by April 19, according to an administration official, instead of Biden’s original deadline of May 1.
Biden announced last week that 90% of adults will be eligible to get a coronavirus vaccine by April 19, as well as have a vaccination site within five miles of where they live. Biden said the number of pharmacies participating in the federal pharmacy vaccination program was increasing from the current 17,000 locations to 40,000.
CNN has previously reported that all 50 states have announced when they plan to open vaccinations to everyone who is eligible, if they haven’t done so already. New Jersey, South Dakota and Nebraska have announced plans to expand eligibility to those 16 years and older before Biden’s new deadline, and other states currently plan to open eligibility by May 1. Biden is expected to credit the governors’ effort to meet his May 1 deadline for this change.
After a slow start, my state’s vaccination effort is going very well. In fact, according to Bloomberg, yesterday was a banner day for vaccinations across the U.S.: Day of 4 Million Vaccines Signals Sharp Turnaround for U.S.
Massachusetts’ vaccine effort is moving so quickly that almost 38% of residents have received at least one dose, and the massive new system for getting shots into arms has plenty of untapped capacity.
“We could double our vaccination rate without too much effort,” said Paul Biddinger, a physician and chair of the state’s vaccine advisory committee.
Almost half of U.S. states had opened vaccination to everyone 16 and older by the end of last week. That will rise to 36 by the end of this week….
Nationwide, vaccinations hit a seven-day average of more than 3 million a day last weekend, and the country logged a 4-million-shot Saturday. (On Monday, the daily vaccination count plummeted to 2.1 million, but the drop was an expected anomaly after a holiday weekend.)
“Quite a turnaround,” tweeted medical researcher and author Eric Topol. “Who would ever have thought that the same country that couldn’t even get a COVID test working and scalable for two months could vaccinate more than 4 million people in a day?”
It’s amazing what a competent government can accomplish.
Yesterday, Democrats in Congress learned that they can pass more bills using the reconciliation process. Vox: Senate Democrats can now officially pass more bills with 51 votes.
On Monday night, the Senate parliamentarian — an in-house rules expert — determined that Democrats would be able to do a third budget reconciliation bill this year, a massive development that gives lawmakers more room to pass legislation without Republican support.
Already, Democrats had the ability to do two budget reconciliation bills: one focused on fiscal year 2021 and one focused on fiscal year 2022. Unlike most other bills, budget measures can pass with just 51 votes, instead of 60, which means Democrats are able to usher through the legislation they want if all 50 members of their caucus are onboard. (With the American Rescue Plan, for instance, 50 Democrats were able to approve the $1.9 trillion package as part of the FY2021 budget bill, even though no Republicans backed it.)
“The Parliamentarian has advised that a revised budget resolution may contain budget reconciliation instructions,” said a spokesperson for Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer in a statement. “This confirms the Leader’s interpretation of the Budget Act and allows Democrats additional tools to improve the lives of Americans if Republican obstruction continues.”
With the new decision from the parliamentarian, Elizabeth MacDonough, Democrats can now do a third budget reconciliation bill, which means they can push through more ambitious measures as long as they are related to taxing and spending. The decision is based on MacDonough’s interpretation of Section 304 of the Congressional Budget Act of 1974, which allows lawmakers to revise a budget resolution before the end of the fiscal year that it covers. Given her decision, Democrats can now edit the 2021 budget resolution they already passed, and include instructions for another bill.
That could mean finally addressing infrastructure. Read more at Vox.
There’s also some sad news today for Democrats. South Florida Sun-Sentinel: Congressman Alcee Hastings, after career of triumph, calamity and comeback, dies at 84.
Congressman Alcee Hastings, whose life was marked by perseverance, calamity and a comeback, has died. He was 84.
Hastings crusaded against racial injustice as a civil rights lawyer, became a federal judge who was impeached and removed from office, and went on to win 15 congressional elections, becoming Florida’s senior member of Congress.
He died Tuesday morning, a longtime friend said.
In late 2018, Hastings was diagnosed with Stage 4 pancreatic cancer. For much of the ensuing two years, he continued public appearances between medical treatments, but more recently he hadn’t been in public. In recent days, he had been in hospice care….
From the early days of his career, Hastings was a fighter for Civil Rights and voting rights. Some early history:
As a newly licensed young lawyer, Hastings moved to Fort Lauderdale, where he partnered with W. George Allen starting in 1964. Broward was not a welcoming place for a young Black man in the early 1960s. When he arrived to join Allen’s firm, a motel wouldn’t rent him a room.
During much of the ’60s and ’70s, Hastings has said, there were parts of the county where it wasn’t safe for Black people. The many civil rights cases filed by Hastings and Allen, who died in 2019, included lawsuits against a restaurant popular with other lawyers and judges — which wouldn’t serve them because they were Black — and desegregating Broward County schools.
Speaking at a national gathering of Black elected officials at the Westin Fort Lauderdale Beach Resort on the 50th anniversary of the Voting Rights Act of 1965, Hastings recalled what it was like when he came to the community. “I couldn’t go to that beach that you all see now,” he said.
In the early days of his career, the justice system in which Hastings practiced was dominated by racists, Finkelstein said at the 2019 luncheon honoring him. Hastings was a “howling voice” attempting to change Broward from a “little cracker town that was racist and mean and vicious.”
Eager for attention for himself, his law practice, and the cause, Hastings made several unsuccessful runs for public office, most notably a candidacy for the 1970 Democratic nomination for U.S. Senate. It wasn’t a race the 29-year-old expected to win. Rather, it was a campaign to show people of all races that a Black candidate could run for such an important job. It also brought him death threats.
Read more about Hastings at the link.
The Matt Gaetz saga continues. Here’s the latest.
One of Rep. Matt Gaetz’s former staffers said Monday that FBI agents contacted him last week, shortly after news broke that the Florida Republican was embroiled in a federal sex-trafficking investigation.
Nathan Nelson, Gaetz’s former director of military affairs, said two agents questioned him at his house after they had heard from members of the media that Nelson knew of Gaetz’s alleged involvement in illegal activities. The media tipsters told the FBI that Nelson resigned as a result of that knowledge, the ex-aide said….
Nelson said his departure from Gaetz’s office last fall was not related to the Department of Justice’s probe of allegations against the 38-year-old congressman. The investigation into whether Gaetz trafficked an underage girl began in the final months of former President Donald Trump’s term, The New York Times reported Tuesday.
In response to CNBC’s report on Nelson’s remarks, Gaetz slammed the FBI, claiming the agency is “literally running down false media rumors.”
The Daily Beast: Matt Gaetz Said His ‘Travel Records’ Would Exonerate Him. They Don’t.
When it first came out last week that Rep. Matt Gaetz was under investigation for his sexual involvement with a 17-year-old, the Florida Republican said his travel records would exonerate him….
What Gaetz knew—or should have known—is that there are no such public records, at least not when it comes to his private life.
There are, however, campaign filings. Among all the Matt Gaetz revelations last week was the news that the Justice Department is looking into the Florida Republican’s potential use of campaign funds for personal expenses. And the reality of those campaign finance reports is that they raise more questions than they answer about these alleged scandals.
“The spending surrounding the Gaetz campaign simply doesn’t say what he wants it to say,” Jordan Libowitz, communications director for Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, a campaign-finance watchdog, told The Daily Beast. “One, the reports don’t offer specific information; and two, it’s not clear whether he’s even saying that his campaign filings will exonerate him. If he’s paying out of pocket, we won’t know the answers without a subpoena.”
As Gaetz knows, his campaign filings don’t have any sort of information that would prove he never participated in a sex ring or paid for the travel of an underage minor. What his filings do show, though, is that Gaetz had a close relationship with Joel Greenberg—the Seminole County tax collector indicted on sex trafficking charges.
Also from The Daily Beast: Gaetz’s Accused Extorter Confirms, Denies $25 Million Shakedown.
Air Force veteran and “research consultant” Bob Kent verified to Sirius Radio personality Michael Smerconish that he had approached Gaetz’s deep-pocketed father, former Florida Senate President Don Gaetz, last month seeking a $25 million loan. The funds would ransom the release of Robert Levinson, a former Federal Bureau of Investigation agent who disappeared in Iran more than a decade ago. Levinson’s own family believes him to be dead, but Kent has insisted he has evidence Levinson is alive and remains a hostage of the Islamic Republic, though credible experts have dismissed his claims.
Kent said he was aware at the time that Matt Gaetz might have “legal issues” and that he suggested that assisting in the mission would create “good will” toward the congressman. Although Kent didn’t say it outright, those issues seem to be the recently surfaced allegations that the lawmaker paid women for sex—including, possibly, an underage girl—and misused campaign funds.
“Matt Gaetz is in need of good publicity, and I’m in need of $25 million to save Robert Levinson,” Kent told Smerconish….
Despite having coupled his request for money with an allusion to the congressman’s alleged improprieties, and despite working on the project with serial Florida fraudster Stephen Alford, Kent maintained he had not sought to extort the Gaetz clan.
Kent appears to be every bit as nutty as Gaetz.
While serving in the Florida Legislature, U.S. Rep. Matt Gaetz opposed a bill meant to stop people from sharing sexually explicit images of their ex-lovers because Gaetz believed that recipients of those images had a right to share them, according to the sponsor of the legislation.
Former state Rep. Tom Goodson, a Republican from Brevard County, spent three years sponsoring legislation to outlaw nonconsensual pornography — sometimes called “revenge porn.”
And Goodson said Monday that Gaetz was the chief opponent to that legislation. Goodson said he remembered a meeting in which Gaetz said that if someone sends an intimate image to their romantic partner, then that image becomes the partner’s property to use however they want.
“Matt was absolutely against it. He thought the picture was his to do with what he wanted,” Goodson said. “He thought that any picture was his to use as he wanted to, as an expression of his rights.”
A couple more Gaetz stories:
That’s it for me today. What’s on your mind?