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Texas governor slows down reopening amidst rising coronavirus numbers.

I didn’t expect Texas to take this step, but now that they are, I’ll have to readjust my predictions for the next few months of this pandemic.

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Texas started lifting lockdown directives and reopening business in May. Why?

coronavirus texas

What part of this graph shows a downward trend anywhere? Texas went into lockdown before the pandemic really hit the area, and then when the numbers stayed relatively flat (clearly going up, but not the extreme spike we saw in NYC), they opened back up. It’s so frustrating that nobody in government seems to understand what happens when you take a preventative measure. You prevent something from happening. When that thing doesn’t happen, that means the preventative measure is working, not that it was unnecessary just because nothing happened.

So Texas opened back up, they see the spikes we saw in other parts of the world, and now that reopening is on pause.

Gov. Greg Abbott announced Thursday morning that he will pause any further phases of reopening businesses in Texas and that he is once again putting a stop to elective surgeries to preserve bed space for coronavirus patients in certain counties that are seeing a surge of COVID-19 cases.

Abbott’s latest action does not reverse any of the reopening phases he’s already allowed — meaning that bars, restaurants, malls, bowling alleys and other businesses can still remain open with some occupancy limitations.

(cont. Texas Tribune)

Notice that was yesterday. Gov. Abbott said that putting a pause on reopening would slow down the virus, but to “go back and close down businesses” was not an option. Today he’s changed his tune. Bars are closing, restaurants are going back to 50% occupancy, river-rafting trips have been put on pause (y’all do that much rafting in Texas?), and outdoor gatherings of +100 people are banned (unless explicitly approved by the local government, so I’m sure big gatherings are still fine in every municipality where the Mayor has a Trump bumper sticker).

I didn’t expect Texas to take this step, but now that they are, I’ll have to readjust my predictions for the next few months of this pandemic. I really thought governments wouldn’t shut down again, because the economy took such a hit the first time, and money matters more than bodies. If Texas of all places is rolling back their reopening, I need to go ahead and get my fill of sunshine because Cuomo will definitely send us back to the house when our spike hits in a month or so.

Oh also:

LOL @ that idiot. Dying embers? The fire is just starting to get hot for most of the country.

 

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Crime

Cash bail is about privilege, not community safety.

Kyle Rittenhouse killed two people and is walking around getting sponsorships.

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In 2010, Kalief Browder was arrested and eventually sent to Rikers Island for grand larceny. Robert Bautista called 911 and reported a robbery — two Black males had stolen his backpack that contained cash, a camera, and an iPod. Police said Browder fit the description and Bautista said Kalief was the robber, but police frisked Browder and he had nothing on him. Bautista said he was robbed two weeks ago (the date kept changing) and at one point said he wasn’t actually robbed, that it was just an attempted robbery. There were enough inconsistencies coupled with a lack of evidence that Browder most certainly would have been found not guilty at trial, but the police (in theory) can’t serve as judge and jury, so they arrested him, booked him, and threw him in jail.

The year before, Browder had pled guilty in a case where he was accused of stealing a bakery truck and crashing it into a vehicle. Browder said he was just a bystander, but took a plea deal to be sentenced as a minor as he had originally been charged as an adult. This charge meant Browder was on probation, so even though his family came up with the bail money to release him from Rikers while he awaited trial, the probation office blocked the request.

We have a kid who was afraid of going to trial as an adult and pled to a sentence as a minor for a non-violent crime he says he didn’t commit. Now he’s been accused of another non-violent crime he says he didn’t commit, and he’s being kept in jail, away from the public, because he’s a repeat offender who is a danger to society.

Kyle Rittenhouse murdered two people on video. He loaded up his gun and had his mom drive him across state lines so he could get in on the action during a protest and intimidate strangers with his illegal weapon. He ultimately shot three of those people after a confrontation and two of them died.

Which one of them is a danger to society? Someone who allegedly crashed a van and allegedly stole a backpack, or someone who is on video shooting three people as the result of a confrontation he initiated by not minding his business?

According to the justice system, Kalief Browder is the danger because Kyle Rittenhouse is walking around free as a bird.

Kyle Rittenhouse, the Illinois teenager charged with killing two men during the Jacob Blake protests in Wisconsin this summer, made bail on Friday and walked out of jail, officials said.

MyPillow Inc. founder Mike Lindell and former “Silver Spoons” child actor Ricky Schroder played key roles in “putting us over the top” in coming up with $2 million for bail, according to Rittenhouse’s defense attorney Lin Wood.

(cont. NBC News)

Legally, bail is supposed to be determined by seriousness of the crime, ties to the community, the flight risk posed by the defendant, and the danger posed by the defendant to his or her community. Kyle Rittenhouse’s bail was $2 million as opposed to $10,000 because he murdered two people. However, in reality, the amount of bail set means nothing if it’s not pegged to the accused’s ability to raise that money. Bail for possession of a controlled substance is usually around $2,500 for a first offense. If you have no way to actually raise that money, it might as well be $2 million. There are no celebrities looking to donate to your cause when you’re in jail for carrying around cocaine you’d plan to take to a party. If you commit a murder for Amerikkka, people will raise money for you. If you get caught with cocaine on a night out, you may be stuck in jail for years.

A few months ago, I wrote a blog called “What I’ve Learned as a Black Man” about some of the ways being Black in America has altered my path from that of a white person in this country. I want to pull a little piece out for this.

—————————————————————

I was walking along 125th Street one night when four policemen came out of nowhere and told me to put my hands up because I fit the description of a robbery suspect in the area. This was around the time Kalief Browder had committed suicide after being released from Rikers because he had been locked up for three years for the crime of fitting a description. I thought that would be me. One of the cops slammed me up against a wall face first, which is what saved me. I had been wearing a baseball cap and a hoodie, like this.

When he pushed my face into the wall, the cap was knocked off and my hair came tumbling out. I have a lot of hair.

The frisking stopped and one cop put their hands in my head to see if it was a wig that could be taken off. They were looking for a bald Black man and clearly that wasn’t me.

—————————————————————

I’ve been stopped and frisked by the NYPD five times over the past decade living here, but that was the first time I feared for my safety because there was nothing I personally could do to avoid being arrested. I could plead my innocence, but it wasn’t up to the cops to decide. I would be sent to jail, and as an underemployed Black man without a family living paycheck to paycheck in those days, I would have no way to raise any amount of bail.

I knew I was innocent, so I knew I wasn’t a threat to the community. I had no money, so I knew I wasn’t a flight risk. I knew that I was more afraid of the consequences of not showing up for my trial date than I was afraid of potentially being found guilty of something I didn’t do. But the system didn’t know that. The system would assign an arbitrary number as the price of my freedom, a number that I wouldn’t have been able to meet. I would have been sitting in jail, waiting for my case to go to trial. I would have lost my job because I couldn’t show up. I would have lost my apartment because I couldn’t pay the rent. After hopefully being found not-guilty, I would be sent back into the world homeless with no possessions, trying to start over, because I didn’t have the money to get me out of jail for a crime I didn’t commit.

And that’s the best case scenario with no money. If I was arrested today, there’s a decent chance I could die in jail, awaiting trial, after contracting coronavirus. Texas has more incarcerated coronavirus deaths than anywhere else in the country, and in the county jails, 80% of those deaths were people who haven’t been convicted of anything.

Over 230 people have died from Covid-19 in Texas’s correctional facilities — and in county jails, nearly 80 percent of them were in pretrial detention and hadn’t even been convicted of a crime, according to a new report.

The 231 figure is likely to be a conservative count. As the researchers note, TDCJ and county jails update death reports after autopsies are conducted, sometimes months after the fact. Additionally, many people have “died without ever having been tested for COVID,” and others died due to a preexisting conditioned worsened by the virus and are not counted in this figure.

(cont. VOX)

After homelessness or death, there is a third outcome, another extended consequence of being denied bail and incarcerated based on an accusation.

Kalief Browder sat in jail for three years while the prosecution delayed his trial. He was bullied, abused, and beaten by inmates and guards, spending a cumulative two years in solitary confinement. He attempted suicide three times while he was locked up, and a few months after his release (because Bautista went back to Mexico and the prosecution no longer had a witness), his tried again and was sent to a psychiatric facility. After two more stints at the facility, Kalief succeeded in taking his own life because he couldn’t move past the injustice that had happened to him. The City of New York paid his family $3.3 million last year in a civil suit, but no one has been held individually responsible for delaying his trial for three years and keeping him behind bars where he was tortured and abused and broken.

We don’t actually know how many people are in jail because they’re too poor to bail themselves out because there’s no standardized method set up for reporting that. An oft-reported figure of 450,000 people sitting in jail without having been convicted of a crime also includes people the justice system has deemed unbailable, which would have applied to Kalief Browder because he was denied bail due to his probation. There is a study that says 9 out of 10 felony defendants are too poor to meet the bail that has been set for them, so even without a specific number, we know that thousands and thousands and thousands of people can’t make bail. We also know from prison records that almost half of our prison population is behind bars due to drug offenses, meaning these are non-violent criminals who aren’t a high risk threat to the community. If 90% of people awaiting trial can’t afford bail and half the people passing through our legal system have drug charges, then 200,000 non-violent criminals are sitting in jails across the country, losing their jobs and their homes, contracting illnesses, and watching their mental health deteriorate sometimes past the point of no return, because they simply don’t have enough money to buy their freedom.

I don’t know where I would be right now if I didn’t have any hair, if I had been arrested and charged and given a bail amount that I couldn’t make, but I do know I wouldn’t be walking the streets of my community with sponsorships from coffeebrands.

 

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Politics

Republicans don’t believe the election was “free and fair”

In that case, I hope they just stop voting.

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Three days after every major media outlet called the election for former Vice President Joe Biden, President Donald Trump has shown no signs of conceding as he continues to push baseless claims of widespread fraud. The campaign he is waging against the integrity of the election, which first took root months ago, has had a major impact on how Republicans perceive the results, according to new Morning Consult polling.

This latest survey, conducted Nov. 6-9, 2020 among 1,987 registered voters nationwide, is part of an ongoing research project to gauge the level of trust Americans have in their electoral system. Results will be updated on this page weekly.

(cont. Morning Consult)

This was absolutely the goal of the Trump administration from the start. The writing was on the wall — he was going to lose this election bigly and he needed to make his supporters doubt the results, so they all cast a shadow on mail-in votes. They knew the largest share of mail-in votes would be Democrats because Democrats have not rejected COVID science and are more likely to avoid crowds. Sending in your ballot from the safety of your home makes sense to someone who believes the coronavirus pandemic is a real thing. Then the GOP prevented those ballots from being counted until after all of the same day ballots in places like Pennsylvania, so Trump declared victory on the day, and his supporters watched it slip away as these sketchy mail-in ballots were counted.

That’s the one-two punch. Mail-in ballots have more fraud, and I won before the fraudulent ballots started being counted.

So now we have an entire political party undermining the foundation of our democracy, by following behind this orange baby man throwing a tantrum because he hates losing, and they’re all but ensuring lower turnout for the next election cycle among their base. If 7 out of 10 people on your side of the aisle believe the election is rigged, how many of them are going to sit out next time because their vote doesn’t matter anyway? If just 1 of every ten says “why waste the time?” the GOP loses by an even wider margin.

Fine with me! I especially hope Republicans in Georgia have lost faith in the voting process so they don’t turn out for the Senate runoffs in a few weeks. I know plenty of Lazy Liberals who’ve sat on the couch on election day because we keep seeing these races stolen from us due to gerrymandering and voter restrictions and polling site closures. A big chunk of us have said “why waste the time?” and it has cost us every time. A little pessimism on the other side is music to my ears.

Also, it’s important to note that whichever party loses the White House has less trust in the election. It happens every time. Strangely enough, the only recent election where faith in the election was about equal for Democrats and Republicans was Bush v. Gore back in 2000, where the election hinged on less than 600 votes in Florida (as opposed to tens of thousands of votes in multiple states for Biden this go ’round).

This is the share of voters who said the election was free and fair, going back to Bush vs. Clinton.

It’s interesting that the trust gap of the 90s doubled once Barack Obama was elected, and it has doubled again now that the sitting President has spent the past few days telling his base over and over that the results weren’t fair. The Republican Party is circling the drain and I would love for this distrust in the voting process to be the final nail in their coffin. They can’t win if they don’t even show up.

Donald Trump’s ego would love nothing more than to see his supporters rise up and fight for him, so he will fan the flames for as long as they will believe his lies. I can’t think of a bigger indictment of his fabrications than Fox News refusing to give them more airtime:

I guess Rusty and Carole will have to get all their conspiracy theories straight from the source now.

 

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Politics

2020 Election Firsts

The last four years have been hard, and these “firsts” show that we are in fact still moving in the right direction.

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You know where this is going to end up (but not for the reason you think!) and I just wanted to highlight some other “firsts” from last week’s election. On the one hand, it’s 2020, so having “the first” of anything when it comes to representation is tiring. On the other hand, it’s 2020, and the last four years have been hard, and these “firsts” show that we are in fact still moving in the right direction.

Mauree Turner

Oklahoma has never had a Muslim elected to their State Legislature. The US has never had a non-binary person elected to any State Legislature. Until Mauree Turner.

Being a queer Black Muslim activist in Oklahoma comes with a lot of hurdles just to be seen and heard, but during the course of their activism and organizing behind other politicians, Turner was being encouraged to just run for office themself. They ran on a platform of inclusion and defeated their challenger with 71% of the vote.

Cori Bush

If at first you don’t succeed, keep at it until you do. That’s what Cori Bush did.

Cori Bush ran for Senate in 2016, but was defeated in the primary. She ran for the House in Missouri’s 1st Congressional District (St. Louis mostly) in 2018, but was defeated in the primary. When she ran again this year and upset incumbent Lacy Clay in the primary, it ended the Clay Family’s hold on that seat which began with Lacy’s father Bill Clay back in 1968. Bush got her start in politics after the Ferguson protests where she served as a triage nurse and organizer. With her win in the general, she’s the first Black Woman elected to Congress from Missouri.

Sarah McBride

In 2012, Sarah McBride became the first openly trans woman to work in the White House. In 2016, she addressed the Democratic National Convention, becoming the first transgender American to address a major political party. Now, she has another first.

After winning her State Senate race in Delaware, Sarah McBride is the first trans person elected to a state Senate in the US. As a campaign staffer in Delaware, McBride previously worked on Delaware Attorney General Beau Biden’s campaign before coming out as trans during her last week as student body president of American University. A flurry of media coverage followed and the Biden Family continued to express their support, culminating in a position at the White House Office of Public Engagement and Intergovernmental Affairs.

Mondaire Jones

Mondaire Jones won his House race to become the first openly gay Black Congressman.

Jones was running in a solidly Democratic district just north of NYC without a strong challenger in the primary. He easily pulled ahead of his challengers back in June during the primary for a seat that had been held by the same woman for thirty years.  Jones has the support of Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders, but I’m most excited to see him working with another of his high-profile supporters — AOC.

Ritchie Torres

Another openly gay first, this time the first openly gay Afro-Latino in Congress.

Ritchie Torres will also be representing New York alongside Mondaire Jones when Congress seats its new class. His primary challenger was a notorious homophobe by the name of Rubén Díaz Senior, not to be confused with his more popular and more liberal son, Rubén Díaz Junior, who is the Bronx borough president. The ballots during that primary didn’t specify Junior or Senior, which I’m sure was an intentional “oversight” by the father’s campaign to capitalize on his son’s popularity, but in the end, Torres pulled it off and defeated his Republican challenger in the general last week. Torres said during his campaign that he wants to tackle the affordable housing crisis, expand the Supreme Court, and make Puerto Rico a state. He’s got big dreams and a bright future.

Kamala Harris

Madame Vice-President Elect will be the first female Vice President, the first Black VP, and the first Asian VP.**

There’s not much to add that hasn’t already been breathlessly covered everywhere for the past few days, but! She’s also the first Vice President who doesn’t share a last name with their spouse, which hadn’t occurred to me until last night, but I think it’s really awesome!

Full Disclosure: I hate when women feel pressured to change their last names after they get married, but I especially hate it when they have a career. You have papers and interviews and titles associated with one name, so why change that because of an outdated tradition that stems from ownership? Kamala Harris married Douglas Emhoff, and she’s still Kamala Harris. I was watching a documentary about Hillary Clinton before the 2016 election and it bummed me out that she felt she had no choice but to change her last name when Bill lost his reelection for Arkansas governor. She had kept her name and her job and she was too “independent” as a Southern wife, so she changed herself to help her husband appeal to voters, and that included taking Clinton as her last name. Forty years after that, I’m really excited that a woman has finally gotten to the White House and she kept hers.

**Kamala Harris is the first woman of color, but she’s not the first non-white VP. Hoover’s Vice President Charles Curtis was 3/8ths Native American.

 

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