As ever (but especially on Fridays!), we try to find some good news where we can on The BradCast. It's been slim pickings of late, but we work with what we've got. We don't create the news. We just report it. [Audio link to full show is posted below.]
We start off with what progressive journalist and former Bernie Sanders staffer David Sirota describes as "Some actual good news". It picks up on an issue we discussed with The American Prospect's David Dayen, who has also been reporting on the same issue, on yesterday's show. House Democrats have been putting together their proposal for the next round of coronavirus emergency funding. Their so-called Heroes Act bill amounts to about $3 trillion of spending in response to the crisis, including a curious expansion of the Paycheck Protection Act for small businesses. The expansion would allow for certain non-profit organizations who were not previously eligible to take advantage of the program.
Among the expanded groups are industry trade groups (lobbyists!) and dark money campaign organizations, which both Davids --- Dayen and Sirota --- strongly objected to. (As noted with Dayen yesterday, and again today, I'm not quite as vehemently against it, for reasons which I explain in a bit more detail on today's program.) In any event, as Sirota reported late on Thursday, it appears that House Democrats heard the complaints, thanks to the handful of independent progressive media outlets reporting on it, and quietly amended the measure to ensure that PPP recipients do "not make a contribution, expenditure, independent expenditure, or electioneering communication."
After that "good news" section of the program, we move on to the lesser good news. Though anytime whistleblowers are able to shine sunlight on corruption and failure that's actually pretty good news as well. On Thursday, longtime federal government career official Dr. Rick Bright --- formerly Deputy Asst. Secretary of Health and Human Services for Preparedness and Response, and Director of the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority (BARDA) --- testified to a U.S. House Committee on the unspeakable failures of the Trump Administration in their early response to the virus, when it could have saved tens of thousands of lives, and even now, after more than 86,000 Americans have been killed.
Bright, who, until last month, had been leading the Government's effort to produce a coronavirus vaccine, was demoted after the Trump Administration became unhappy about him questioning the use of an unproven anti-viral drug (hydroxychloroquine) that Trump was pushing to treat COVID-19. Bright has now filed a whistleblower complaint to get his old job back, alleging he was moved out of his post for opposing "efforts to fund potentially dangerous drugs promoted by those with political connections."
Today, we share some key parts of his more than three-hour long testimony on Thursday, in which he warned that the U.S. lacks any plan at all to battle the virus or even a strategy to produce or distribute a vaccine once one is eventually developed. He blames the Administration for months of failure to obtain and distributing adequate personal protective equipment for medical workers and testing kits for all. He told lawmakers that a shortage of simple but critical supplies like syringes could become catastrophic and cautions that we could be looking at "the darkest winter in modern history" in 2020 if action is not taken very quickly by a dreadfully inept federal Administration.
Meanwhile, Donald Trump told Fox "News" on Thursday that a vaccine will be available by "the end of the year"! And that "we will give it to a lot of people very, very rapidly." So, who ya gonna believe?
Well, apparently, there are a lot of folks in Wisconsin who believe the President, because they were out in droves at bars this week --- crowded together without masks in tiny spaces --- in some parts of the Badger State within minutes after the state's rightwing Supreme Court struck down Democratic Gov. Tony Evers' "Safer at Home" order.
The timing was perfect, as a new study from a researcher at Brookings Institution this week finds that COVID-19 is now spreading at an alarming rate in less populated rural areas (including across Wisconsin) as the rate of infections is declining in the nation's urban centers which were initially hit hard. The study finds that earlier in the crisis, at the end of March, counties won by Hillary Clinton in 2016 amounted to the majority of "high prevalence" COVID-19 counties. As of mid-May, however, that has flipped. It is now people in suburban and rural counties that supported Trump who are more likely to be become infected at an alarming rate. That said, as of May 10, according to the study, some 72% of the nation's population was living in a "high prevalence" county, though only 23% of them were in urban areas.
So, good luck, Trump voters! Donald Trump has a special song for you today!
Finally today, we close with Desi Doyen and the latest Green News Report which we ran out of time for yesterday, in which we find another "bright" side to the crisis, along with the usual amount of otherwise disastrously troubling environmental news...
(Snail mail support to "Brad Friedman, 7095 Hollywood Blvd., #594 Los Angeles, CA 90028" always welcome too!)