Monday News: Mistaken trust


JUDGE TEMPORARILY BLOCKS GOVERNOR'S RESTRICTIONS ON CHURCHES: The temporary order comes after two Baptist churches, a minister and a Christian revival group filing a lawsuit against the Democratic governor Thursday, saying his executive order violates their First Amendment freedom of religion and other constitutional rights, The News & Observer reported. A hearing is scheduled May 29 on whether the order will become permanent. Until that time, the judge’s order prevents Cooper from taking enforcement actions against religious worshipers, but also states they should observe recommendations for social distancing and reduce transmission of the virus when possible. “The court trusts worshipers and their leaders to look after one another and society while exercising their free exercise rights just as they and their fellow citizens (whether religious or not) do when engaged in non-religious activities,” Dever’s order states.

HERE WE GO AGAIN: HURRICANE ARTHUR FLIRTS WITH NC OUTER BANKS: Arthur formed Saturday in waters off Florida, marking the sixth straight year that a named storm has developed before the official June 1 start of the Atlantic hurricane season. The U.S. National Hurricane Center in Miami issued a tropical storm warning for North Carolina’s Outer Banks on Sunday. At 2 a.m. EDT, the storm’s center was located about 185 miles (300 kilometers) south-southwest of Cape Hatteras, North Carolina. Arthur had top sustained winds of 45 mph (75 kph) and was moving to the north-northeast at 12 mph (19 kph). The hurricane center said Arthur is expected to move near or just east of the coast of North Carolina, where 1-3 inches of rain is expected, on Monday and they turn away from the East Coast on Monday night and Tuesday. By Sunday night, the storm's swirling outer rain bands were skirting closer to the coast.

NC'S UNEMPLOYMENT SYSTEM HAS SOME WAITING FOR TWO MONTHS TO GET PAID: Last week, Jasa told The News & Observer of a weeks-long odyssey through the state unemployment system. It involved long waits, computer glitches and phone calls going unanswered or being routed to unrelated state agencies where people either told her they couldn’t help — or did try to help but potentially only made things worse. “From the get-go there were issues,” she said. After two months of confusion, she spent nearly six hours on hold on Wednesday before getting in touch with someone at the unemployment office. After a more in-depth call Thursday, her first benefits check showed up in her account on Friday. It was exactly eight weeks from the day she first filed her claim, on March 20. Slightly more than half of the people to have filed for unemployment so far have started getting paid, state data shows. Officials at the N.C. Division of Employment Security say that typically, people shouldn’t wait more than 14 days — as long as they qualify and don’t have any complications with their claim.

COLLEGE BOARD STUMBLES WITH ONLINE AP TESTING: After a tsunami of complaints about students having problems submitting answers during online Advanced Placement exams last week, the College Board said Sunday that it will allow some test-takers to email their responses this coming week. However, that does not apply to students who already had trouble with the exams. The College Board, which owns the AP program, alerted students on Sunday and posted on its website details of the change, starting Monday, explaining how students taking browser-based AP exams can email their responses immediately if they are unable to submit them the preferred way. The email address provided will be unique to each student. The change came after students taking AP exams in various subjects last week reported having trouble completing their exams, many of them encountering problems submitting answers through the testing platform. The College Board told them their only recourse was to retake the exam in June. That was not likely to satisfy teachers, parents and students who could not submit answers last week. “That’s still so unacceptable and ridiculous,” said Margaret Yang, whose son took an AP exam last week in Okemos, Mich., and couldn’t submit answers. “They need to assist and offer [another] option for these students.”

REPUBLICANS GEARING UP FOR MAJOR VOTER INTIMIDATION CAMPAIGN: The Republican program, which has gained steam in recent weeks, envisions recruiting up to 50,000 volunteers in 15 key states to monitor polling places and challenge ballots and voters deemed suspicious. That is part of a $20 million plan that also allots millions to challenge lawsuits by Democrats and voting-rights advocates seeking to loosen state restrictions on balloting. The party and its allies also intend to use advertising, the internet and President Trump’s command of the airwaves to cast Democrats as agents of election theft. The efforts are bolstered by a 2018 federal court ruling that for the first time in nearly four decades allows the national Republican Party to mount campaigns against purported voter fraud without court approval. The court ban on Republican Party voter-fraud operations was imposed in 1982, and then modified in 1986 and again in 1990, each time after courts found instances of Republicans intimidating or working to exclude minority voters in the name of preventing fraud. The party was found to have violated it yet again in 2004. Besides the national party and Mr. Trump’s campaign strategists, conservative advocacy groups are joining lawsuits, recruiting poll monitors and mounting media campaigns of their own. Leading them is a new and well-funded organization, the Honest Elections Project, formed by Leonard Leo, a prolific fund-raiser, advocate of a conservative judiciary and confidant of President Trump. Republicans will have an Election Day operations program “that probably no other presidential campaign has had before,” Josh Helton, a Republican consultant, said at a meeting of the Conservative Political Action Committee in March. “It’s going to be all hands on deck.”



Look at those dates...

Every time Republicans got caught intimidating minority voters it was in the mid-terms of a GOP Presidency, except in 2004 when they were helping Dubya squeak by for a second term. With the level of extremism provoked by Trump, it's going to get really ugly this year.

Something else I worry about: With the inevitable drop in (official) volunteers this pandemic will bring, will GOP operatives take advantage of that to insert their people in there? County boards of election will need to screen these folks closely, including looking at their social media.

Reopen protests and spreading Covid-19

The Guardian is out with an article about a study showing that the ReOpen protests may be spreading the virus.

Cellphone location data suggests that demonstrators at anti-lockdown protests – some of which have been connected with Covid-19 cases – are often traveling hundreds of miles to events, returning to all parts of their states, and even crossing into neighboring ones.

The data, provided to the Guardian by the progressive campaign group the Committee to Protect Medicare, raises the prospect that the protests will play a role in spreading the coronavirus epidemic to areas which have, so far, experienced relatively few infections.

The anonymized location data was captured from opt-in cellphone apps, and data scientists at the firm VoteMap used it to determine the movements of devices present at protests in late April and early May in five states: Michigan, Wisconsin, Illinois, Colorado and Florida.

Charlotte Mayor on Covid-19 and the RNC Convention in August

The RNC has been "full steam ahead" with plans for their convention, due to take place in Charlotte in August. The RNC has made no alternative plans, while the DNC has been public about holding a "virtual" convention if conditions warrant.

The RNC will bring about 50,000 people to the city - about the same number that visit Disneyland on a typical day when the park is fully operating.

Charlotte Mayor Vi Lyles, in interviews over the weekend, seems to be responding to increasing concerns from Charlotte residents about the safety of holding the event:

“Charlotte has a contract with the National Republican Committee to host this convention but now that we have this pandemic virus going on. We also have a mandate to follow whatever the guidelines coming from our public health directors and from our governor's office, so we’re going to hope to do both,” Lyles added. ...

“Charlotte has the sixth busiest airport in the country. Yesterday, we saw a flight ... from JFK to Charlotte without masks and without social distancing,” she added. “We need that tourism and that business travel. But we first and foremost have to make sure that our citizens and our residents are safe and well.”

With prominent Republicans calling the virus a "hoax" or egging on protests to recklessly reopen, I can't see the convention goers giving a damn about social distancing or the safety of the many Charlotte service workers making the RNC's Trump cult worship meeting possible.

To stage an event that is safe for the city, the convention-goers will have to play by the rules. They've already shown that they believe rules aren't for them.

Judge Dever's ruling...

is an affront to the 1st Amendment. He's literally trying to expand the 1st to insist that religious institutions cannot be subjected to secular law at all, which has never been the case. It citing the 1st, he is essentially saying that the state cannot regulate what people do at all if they claim it is in the name of religion. This is the same as if these churches had claimed that they were not required to follow state and local fire code or building code regulations, but could build their churches out of gasoline-soaked matchsticks and pack 500 people into a 500 square foot space with one door, because they're a religious body and god told them to. No one would ever even attempt to make a legal argument like that, yet here we have a judge approving exactly the same argument when it comes to an infectious disease and proper government attempts to limit its spread by regulation generally applied. If this nonsense isn't overturned on appeal, then our entire court system has lost its collective mind.