Tuesday Reads

Good Morning!!

downloadI’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:

President Joe Biden plans to announce Tuesday that he is moving up his deadline for states to make all American adults eligible for a coronavirus vaccine by almost two weeks.\

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.

249952_rgb_768After 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.)

jd040521dapr“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.


Alcee Hastings

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.

CNBC: Former Matt Gaetz aide says FBI contacted him after sex-trafficking probe news.

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.

250241_rgb_768Nathan 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.

Barry Blitt, The New Yorker

Barry Blitt, The New Yorker

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.

Orlando Sentinel: Former lawmaker says Gaetz fought ‘revenge porn’ law: ‘He thought that any picture was his to use as he wanted.’

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.

20210405edhan-aFormer 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:

Politico: Trump and his allies abandon Gaetz. The congressman was a MAGA fixture. Now, engulfed in scandal, he’s persona non grata in Trumpworld.

Greg Olear at Substack: SCIF-laws: Matt Gaetz & his GOP accomplices committed a serious crime, endangering our national security. There were no consequences.

That’s it for me today. What’s on your mind?


17 Comments on “Tuesday Reads”

  1. dakinikat says:

    I’m so happy to hear you were able to get your second moderna! They’re nearly handing vaccines out on the street here! What a difference the Biden/Harris team has made. I’m hoping they take care of those covariants. I really don’t want normal very fast but I don’t want backward at all!

    • quixote says:

      The good news is that the early studies indicate Pfizer, and probably the others, *are* effective against variants. The iffiest one is the SAfrican variant, but there’s some amount of protection even against that one.

      • dakinikat says:

        There’s a california variant now with two ugly mutations!

        • NW Luna says:

          Yikes, mutations are popping out all over the globe. Not surprising — that’s what most viruses do. They’ll be doing trials looking at how protective are the vaccines we already have.

          Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine appears to be 100% effective at preventing cases of the South African variant, B.1.351 in a clinical trial. I hoping that bodes well for other variants, or that at the most we’ll need a booster jab.

          • quixote says:

            I suspect it is. I seem to remember that the SAfr variant is the most genetically divergent at the crucial sites, so if the Pfizer vaccine works that well against it (impressive!), the chances are excellent it will be at least as good against the ones that are closer to what it was designed for.

    • NW Luna says:

      Glad you got your 2nd dose! Your aching is mostly likely due to the vaccine, or more accurately, your immune system ramping up its defenses. I was hideously achey all over for days after my 2nd dose. Hope yours goes away soon.

      • bostonboomer says:

        It’s a sign that your immune system is building immunity so I trying to see it as positive. I read that older people tend to get fewer symptoms than young people because they have weaker immune systems.

    • palhart says:

      I received my second dose of the pfizer vaccine this morning and it appears I was counted in NCDHHS’ update at 11:45 a.m.

      38.4% of the Adult Population have at least been partially vaccinated.
      25.7% of the Adult Population have been fully vaccinated. (NCDHHS)

      I had minor muscle pain 3 weeks ago and hope I have no problems this time.

      • NW Luna says:

        Congrats on your 2nd dose! If you do have reactions like aches and pains, chills, fever or headache, (I had all of those with my 2nd Pfizer dose) it’s temporary as you know. Though it sure sucks while having it!

  2. NW Luna says:

    The fact that Gaetz was against revenge porn tells us how despicable he is. “He thought that any picture was his to use as he wanted to, as an expression of his rights.” Women are property to him.

  3. dakinikat says:

    This is an amazing level of support for this. I have no idea what republicans are thinking if they oppose it … especially congress critters not in deep red districts but even in deep red districts.

    • NW Luna says:

      Not the first time, and won’t be the last time that Republicans oppose programs and actions that the majority of people want. See also: sensible gun laws, universal health care, Medicare, Social Security. I can’t fathom how these Rs get re-elected as often as they do.

  4. NW Luna says:

    Science-based smackdown of Trump appointee. Love the “hard to understand why he wouldn’t know that.” Lol!

    Op-Ed: Why Redfield Is Wrong on SARS-CoV-2 Origins — Scientific data simply don’t support the former CDC director’s claims

    Recent comments by [Trump pick] former CDC Director Robert Redfield, MD, on CNN have helped push the question of the origins of SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, back to the forefront of public discussion. Two theories have emerged: one, favored by most virologists, is that SARS-CoV-2 was transmitted in the wild from an animal – a bat or intermediate host species – to a person before exploding in Wuhan. The other, pushed by a vocal minority, holds that the virus was being secretly researched at the Wuhan Institute of Virology, a major research center, before escaping the lab through the accidental infection of a lab worker. Right now, we still don’t know enough to be certain which route the virus took from its natural host to humans, though there are compelling reasons to believe the first scenario is far more probable.

    Redfield is suggesting more than an accidental version of the latter scenario though – he’s saying that human action made SARS-CoV-2 the virus that it is.

    It’s often stated almost as a truism, and apparently accepted by Redfield, that a virus crossing from animals into people has to undergo rapid adaptation to become transmissible in humans. While that may often be true, it doesn’t have to be. We know SARS-CoV-2 itself can jump seamlessly between hosts – it’s gone multiple times from humans into minks and spread like wildfire. It transmits perfectly well among hamsters and ferrets in the lab. If a human virus can transmit among mink, there’s no basis to assume a bat virus can’t transmit among humans. Us humans may think we’re very special – but to a virus we are just another mammalian host.

    viruses evolve virulence and transmission in a complex host system. If you extract them from that system and force them to evolve in a different context (like in cells outside a body) they “de-adapt” to the “real world,” precisely the opposite of what Redfield suggests. Frankly, it’s hard to understand why he wouldn’t know that.

    One of the fundamental principles of a life in science is to admit what you don’t know, and never be afraid to look it up. That’s where Redfield falls short, unfortunately on a big stage.

  5. dakinikat says:

    Matt Gaetz, Loyal for Years to Trump, Is Said to Have Sought a Blanket Pardon
    The congressman was at the time under investigation over whether he violated sex trafficking laws, though it was unclear what he knew of the inquiry.

    Breaking at NYTIMES