Friday News: Bending the Arc


UNMARRIED LGBTQ PEOPLE CAN NOW FILE DOMESTIC VIOLENCE PROTECTION ORDERS: LGBTQ people in North Carolina can no longer be prevented from getting domestic violence protective orders, the N.C. Court of Appeals ruled Thursday. North Carolina had been the only state in the country to withhold emergency protections from people seeking protection from abuse by a same-sex partner, The News & Observer reported in 2019. That kind of protection is offered to couples of the opposite sex, and to married and divorced same-sex couples, but not for same-sex couples who are dating or who used to date. But that ban is unconstitutional, the appeals court ruled in a 2-1 opinion Thursday. Attorney General Josh Stein and Gov. Roy Cooper, both Democrats, had previously called the law unconstitutional and signed briefs supporting the plaintiff in this case.

SOME 15,000 NC STUDENTS ARE "UNACCOUNTED FOR" IN ONLINE CLASSES: Lawmakers and educators worry more students are falling through cracks in the system than is presently known, as the coronavirus pandemic upends students' learning plans and keeps some out of virtual or physical classrooms. David Stegall, the North Carolina Department of Public Instruction's deputy superintendent of innovation, told lawmakers earlier this month that a survey the state conducted of some districts concluded that the whereabouts of about 0.7% to 1% of the state’s 1.5 million K-12 public school students are unknown. This happens when a school has lost contact with a student, often because the student dropped out without alerting the school or moved elsewhere without the parent notifying the school or responding to repeated requests to get their kid back in class. Erik Naglee, a principal at Page High School in Greensboro, has worked to support the roughly 1,800 students at his school who were learning entirely online during the two fall quarters this year. He said several dozen students remain unaccounted for and dozens don’t have access to a computer or the Internet, disrupting their ability to show up to class even when they’re accounted for.

NC GOP WANTS TO HOLD ONTO TRUMP'S BASE AFTER HE'S GONE: “That’s one of the biggest challenges that we’re going to have — to make sure we convert Trump voters into Republican voters,” says state GOP Chair Michael Whatley. To supporters, he’s been a turnout machine who energized voters by tapping into the economic and cultural issues they care about. To critics, he’s created nothing less than a cult of personality. “Trump has completely co-opted the Republican brand,” says Republican Bob Orr, a former state Supreme Court justice. “It’s the Trump brand now. That might have short-term benefits for Republicans, but I think in the long term it’s a negative.” “One of the big miscalculations on the part of the Democrats this year was underestimating what the Republican vote would be in the rural areas and also what the turnout in the rural areas would be,” says Tom Eamon, an East Carolina University political scientist and author of a book on modern N.C. politics. For that Republicans can thank Trump.

PENCE OPPOSES LAWSUIT THAT WOULD GIVE HIM POWER TO OVERTURN ELECTION: Vice President Pence asked a judge late Thursday to reject a lawsuit that aims to expand his power to use a congressional ceremony to overturn the presidential election, arguing that he is not the right person to sue over the issue. The filing will come as a disappointment to supporters of President Trump, who hoped that Pence would attempt to reject some of President-elect Joe Biden’s electoral college votes and recognize votes for Trump instead when Congress meets next week to certify the November election. The filing came in response to a lawsuit from Rep. Louie Gohmert (R-Tex.) and a number of Republicans in Arizona, who argued that an 1887 law that governs how Congress certifies presidential elections is unconstitutional. The suit argues that the Constitution gives the vice president, in his role as president of the Senate, sole discretion to determine whether electors put forward by the states are valid. It asks a federal judge to take the extraordinary step of telling Pence that he has the right, on his own, to decide that the electoral college votes cast earlier in December for Biden are invalid and to instead recognize self-appointed Trump electors who gathered in several state capitals to challenge the results. Sen. Ben Sasse (R-Neb.) called the effort to use the congressional process to reverse Biden’s electoral college victory a “dangerous ploy,” underscoring the challenge Trump faces in persuading even members of his own party to join it.

SCIENTISTS BLOCKED TRUMP'S EFFORTS TO STIFLE CLIMATE ASSESSMENT: How the Trump White House attempted to put its mark on the report, and why those efforts stumbled, demonstrates the resilience of federal climate science despite the administration’s haphazard efforts to impede it. This article is based on interviews with nearly a dozen current and former government officials and others familiar with the process. In November, the administration removed the person responsible for the next edition of the report and replaced him with someone who has downplayed climate science, though at this point it seems to be too little, too late. But the efforts started back in 2018, when officials pushed out a top official and leaned on scientists to soften their conclusions — the scientists refused — and then later tried to bury the report, which didn’t work either. “Thank God they didn’t know how to run a government,” said Thomas Armstrong, who during the Obama administration led the U.S. Global Change Research Program, which produces the assessment. “It could have been a lot worse.” Having failed to either change or bury the report, Mr. Trump and his senior officials then tried dismissing it. President Trump, asked about the assessment’s findings that global warming could devastate the economy, responded, “I don’t believe it.” His press secretary at the time, Sarah Huckabee Sanders, said the assessment was “not based on facts.” Ryan Zinke, who was secretary of the interior at the time, said that its findings emphasized “the worst scenarios.” The office put a halt to any activities that might draw attention to the assessment. Additional reports, meant as periodic updates, stopped getting released. Plans for the authors to meet with local officials in places threatened by climate change and talk about their findings were shelved.



The hidden, long-term costs of the pandemic

One aspect of COVID-19 we need to keep in mind - and the criminally botched response to it by Trump and Republican leaders - is that we are going to be paying for it for many decades to come.

A study released by researchers in October in the Journal of the American Medical Association just looked at lost wages and long-term health impacts of COVID survivors:

The total cost is estimated at more than $16 trillion, or approximately 90% of the annual gross domestic product of the US. For a family of 4, the estimated loss would be nearly $200 000. Approximately half of this amount is the lost income from the COVID-19–induced recession; the remainder is the economic effects of shorter and less healthy life.

This doesn't include the increased costs we'll see from the "domino effects" of the pandemic - the high school kids that fell through the cracks that will need remedial work and a GED later, value lost in real estate as companies switch to "work at home" permanently, increases in homelessness and poverty that will require long-term funding and solutions, lost trade and research opportunities due to closed borders, and many more I can't even imagine right now.

The GOP needs to be reminded of this every time they're crying out for tax cuts for the rich or reckless spending on pork-barrel projects for their big-money donors.

The GOP owns this - every single penny of that $16 trillion and much more.