IUY Weekly Journal Vol.2 No.32 – February 20 – 26, 2021

Indivisible Upper Yellowstone – Weekly Journal

The Week of Saturday, February 20 through Friday, February 26, 2021 [Vol.2 No.32]

COVID Relief

The Week’s Most Notable

The Covid relief bill perambulated through the House this week, dragging a number of issues with it. Two prominent features: House Republicans will probably unanimously not vote for the bill, even though many polls show that it is by far the most popular legislation in years, also among Republican voters; and that opposition to the included $15 per hour minimum wage increase is in trouble with both the House and Senate. The bill is big, $1.9 trillion, amazingly comprehensive, and for the most part intelligently detailed. By most accounts it stands a chance of doing what it’s intended to do – address the immediate COVID-19 related problems such as paying for vaccinations and opening schools, and serve as a stimulus for the economy by helping those who need the help the most. As such, even some Democratic economists think it’s “too big” and may flirt with causing inflation. Democrats are dancing around this issue, mainly because the intended impact of this bill is to set a tone – optimism – which is seen as more important than closely calibrating the amount of money being spent. For once, this is a “natural experiment” in Keynesian government intervention economics that isn’t woefully underfunded. It’s likely to pass using budget reconciliation rules as a purely Democratic initiative. We’ll know most of the outcome by the midterm elections.

Better COVID-19 pandemic prospects seem to be real. For several weeks, the numbers have been improving dramatically with new cases dropping from a high of 250,000 per day to a level around 70,000. This is still high, and if the COVID-19 variants proliferate as predicted, March could be a bad month. No one is certain how this will play out, but epidemiologists have hope that the vaccination rate will increase, especially with a newly approved Johnson & Johnson vaccine coming online in March. Pfizer and Moderna have committed to 140 million more doses over the next five weeks. Biden will hit his “100 million vaccinations in the first hundred days” target, but it may not have been ambitious enough. Nevertheless, the mood of the country (if there is such a thing) seems to be cautiously optimistic, which seems appropriate.

Saturday, February 20

[Coronavirus] U.S. Coronavirus Totals: Cases: 28,711,278; Deaths: 510,778

[Texas Disaster] Biden Issues Major Disaster Declaration for Texas – Normally federal disaster aid for an event as big as the Texas freeze disaster would be a no-brainer; but this aid highlights the failure of Texas state disaster management, which of course has political implications. Biden said he wanted to visit Texas [and did] but that he did not want to “have his visit seen as a hindrance to recovery efforts.”

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IUY Weekly Journal Vol.2 No.31 February 13 – 19, 2021

Indivisible Upper Yellowstone – Weekly Journal

The Week of Saturday, February 13 through Friday, February 19, 2021 [Vol.2 No.31]

Texas Freeze

The Week’s Most Notable

Last week’s dominant news is remindful of the Robert Frost poem, “Fire and Ice” – Some say the world will end in fire, some say in ice. From what I’ve tasted of desire I hold with those who favor fire. But if I had to perish twice, I think I know enough of hate to say that for destruction ice is also great and would suffice. From the very outset, the first terrifying statewide power outages, Republican leaders in Texas sought to blame windmills, Democrats, and AOC (not necessarily in that order) because these are targets on the first page of the Trump-GOP playbook. They stuck with this approach throughout the crisis, concluding by the end of the week that the Texas deep-freeze was Biden’s Katrina. Classic deflection, of course, because the cause of the disaster was decades of mismanagement, deregulation, and blithe disregard of public welfare. In short, the Texas energy infrastructure could not handle subzero temperatures – something that happens in Texas every decade or less. Plenty of blame to go around, but since Republicans have been in charge of Texas for decades. . ..

Trump’s congressional Republicans have quite literally gone all-in on lying. There’s nothing novel about politicians or even an entire political party committing to a lie; however, seldom and perhaps never has the commitment to a lie been so consequential or so completely integrated with media propaganda. The lie, the Big Lie, is of course, that Biden stole the election by electoral fraud. Whether explicit or not, this was the underpinning for the continual claims that the Senate impeachment trial, or in fact any of the impeachment process, was illegitimate and by extension (again usually not explicit) that the attack on the Capitol was justified. The Big Lie remains the cornerstone of Trump’s and the Republicans’ revenge campaign. So far, it appears 60 to 70 million American voters continue to believe the Big Lie.

Saturday, February 13

[Coronavirus] U.S. Coronavirus Totals: Cases: 28,215,632; Deaths: 496,135

[Senate – Trial] Senate Acquits Trump – As predicted, the Senate voted not to convict Trump. The vote was 57-43, a slightly surprising majority, which included seven Republicans, but not nearly enough for the required 66 vote supermajority. Most of the Republicans sheltered their vote by claiming that the impeachment process was unconstitutional, that the Senate could not convict somebody already out of office. This could be one of the weakest rationales ever used for such a momentous decision: The Senate had already voted to continue with the trial even though Trump was out of office, in effect what should have been a binding ruling. Behind that, stands the Constitution, which provides for an impeachment trial in two circumstances – to remove a president from office and/or prevent that president from holding another federal office. In short, it appears the Republicans acquitted Trump on false technicalities, not that it matters, because the real reason was that they would never convict a president of their own party. Trump immediately issued his proclamation of vindication and will likely open a new campaign with that as a centerpiece.

[Senate – Trial] McConnell Votes to Acquit Trump, Then Issues a Stunning Attack – “There is no question – none – that president Trump is practically and morally responsible for provoking the events of the day. No question about it.” Like several other Republican senators, McConnell seemed to be calling for legal action against Trump. This was McConnell, uncharacteristically one-faced, throwing down the gauntlet against Trump and all those Republicans who continue to stand behind the Big Lie. His statement was so blunt and so accurate, that many wondered what he knows that most Republicans seem not to acknowledge? It almost has to be his reading of Republican donors, nothing else counts so much – not voters, not other Republican officeholders – only the sources of the money that keep the party going. [Update: Trump fired back, calling McConnell a “dour, sullen, and unsmiling political act.” Is this sandbox fight really what it looks like?]

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IUY: Weekly Journal, Vol.2 No.28 – February 6 – 12, 2021

Indivisible Upper Yellowstone – Weekly Journal

The Week of Saturday, February 6 through Friday, February 12, 2021 [Vol.2 No.28]

Impeachment Trial 2

The Week’s Most Notable

[Update: Saturday, February 13, 2021: Trump’s impeachment trial terminates with acquittal. What has been set in motion? Of course, Trump will proclaim exoneration. He may become a candidate again. Can a lazy but vindictive man rule the Republican party from Mar a Lago? He certainly will try. About half a dozen presidential wannabes will hover like pilot fish around a shark, looking for tidbits and opportunities. The GOP congressional delegation is split, sort of, some resisting Trump, most surreptitiously; the majority proclaiming Trump wholeheartedly. The right-wing media will continue to propagandize the Big Lie, reinforcing Republican confrontations with the Biden administration and Democrats in Congress – and probably amplifying fights within the party. The base abides, still about 40% of voters, roughly 60 million people, fortified by decades of propaganda, loyal to Trump and Trump alone, still believing Biden stole the election, and that liberals are anathema. As long as the base remains intact, which implies an uninterrupted stream of media reinforcement, the position of the Trump-Republican party will remain the same: obstruction of everything possible. McConnell knows how to, and will do, that, even though he doesn’t have control of the Senate and apparently doesn’t believe in Trump.]

Now begins a battle to the 2022 midterm elections. Punctuated by events, especially criminal proceedings, judicial rulings, natural crises, domestic protests, and probably an international incident or two; it looks like the main contest is between the Biden administration trying to establish some true accomplishments, especially with COVID-19 and the economy, and the self-thrashing Trump-GOP opposition. The more the Democrats can achieve, the more inroads they can make on independent and marginal Trump voters. However, though Republicans are taking knives to each other, they can still turn their attention to cutting Democrats. Trump will try to make himself the center attraction; he does command the loyalty of the base and, to a certain extent, the right-wing militias. There is violence implicit in his position and he may exercise it – we’ll see how Americans respond. Violence in the service of chaos could well be the fulcrum for the 2022 elections.

Saturday, February 6

[Coronavirus] U.S. Coronavirus Totals: Cases: 27,522,843; Deaths: 477,875

[Republican Politics] Wyoming Republican Party Censures Cheney for Supporting Impeachment – Indicative of the vehemence common to state-level Republican leadership, Wyoming Republicans voted to censure Rep. Liz Cheney (R-WY), cut off party funding, and demand she repay donations to her 2020 campaign. Whatever the positions of Republicans at the federal level, most Republicans, especially in red states, are gearing up for swift retribution for those who do not support Trump. This will be an important political factor between now and 2022.

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IUY Weekly Journal Weekly Journal Vol.2 No.29 Jan. 30 – Feb. 5, 2021

Indivisible Upper Yellowstone – Weekly Journal

The Week of Saturday, January 30 through Friday, February 5, 2021 [Vol.2 No.29]

GOP-Q

The Week’s Most Notable

This week it seemed as if Republicans no longer have a Trump, they’d just invent a new one. So, they did. The QAnon lady, a.k.a. MTG, Marjorie Taylor Greene, grabbed the spotlight as the new face of the GOP. There’s nothing like a crazy narrative to excite the base, especially a narrative that really bugs the (baby-blood drinking) liberals, and the QAnon lady has a carpet bag full of provocative statements and positions tailor-made for her removal from committees by a vote of the House. The resulting brouhaha kept the media busy most of the week. It was a useful distraction, although it poses longer-term risks for the GOP. Much like Trump’s continued use of the Big Lie, this new QAnon face signals a split in the party. Trump is going to try some come-back maneuvers after he’s acquitted by the Senate, and it looks like the QAnon lady will take over the bomb-thrower role from Rudy Giuliani. Their presence in the political scene will complicate Republican planning for the 2022 midterms by emphasizing party wrangling and association with the Capitol riot. Of course, all of this presents an excellent opportunity for the Democrats, if they figure how to use it.

The Biden administration, not even a month old, has completed most of their planned executive orders and is entering the legislative phase. (Of course, there is also Trump’s trial.) This week they launched the effort to get their COVID-19 relief bill through Congress. The $1.9 trillion price tag provides an artificial sticking point for Republicans (Oh, the debt!), but the strong public support, especially for the $1,400 stimulus check, is keeping the carping perfunctory. In fact, there was a slim chance a few Republicans might even lend support. Work on the bill and perhaps negotiations continue. It is expected to come up for congressional vote sometime in March. Republican support doesn’t matter much; the Democrats will go ahead and pass it under budget reconciliation rules (a 50% majority Senate vote). They have one more opportunity to use budget reconciliation, possibly for an infrastructure bill. After that comes the crunch time; if the Democrats want any more legislation to pass, they will need to jettison the filibuster. This is a very big decision. Expect this to be the topic by summer.

U.S. Covid situation is two-thirds better. Initial infections are down, way down – 45%. Vaccinations are up, not enough yet, there’s a way to go to get to 2-3 million shots per day, but with new vaccine companies coming online it looks like Biden’s “100 million vaccinations in the first 100 days” was, in fact, too low a target. And the final third? That’s the scary wildcard, the virus mutants from the UK, South Africa, and Brazil (so far). We know the UK variant is already widely distributed in the United States, but we’re not sure where it is in its progression – 2, 4, 16; or 16, 256, 65,536. As they say about the light in the tunnel, it could be the end, or it could be the oncoming express. It’s interesting how many companies, especially travel companies, are betting on things getting much better by the fall; their ads are showing up everywhere. In general, people are becoming almost optimistic. For the most part, that’s great, but as the epidemiologists are saying at the top of their lungs, “It’s not over yet!” No kidding, in about 10 days the U.S. will hit 500,000 deaths from COVID-19. We are going to need COVID-19 mitigation efforts right through the point where it’s thought we have enough herd immunity; and that’s going to be many months from now.

Saturday, January 30

[Coronavirus] U.S. Coronavirus Totals: Cases: 26,686,300; Deaths: 451,890

[Coronavirus] Anti-Vaxx Protesters Block Access to LA Vaccination Center – As a perfect expression of the coronavirus vaccination denialism, about 50 people blocked the entrance to Dodger Stadium, one of the largest vaccination centers in the country. They claim the soon to be 500,000 deaths from COVID-19 are a scam, and the vaccines to be dangerous. [Update: Reportedly, the total number of shots given at that site was unaffected.]

[Impeachment Trial] Trump’s Entire Senate Trial Defense Team Quits – Apparently, they quit because Trump wanted them to defend his Big Lie of the stolen election without paying them enough; they were demanding $3 million and he wanted to pay only $1 million. Sounds like a classic Trump transaction.

[Coronavirus] AP Report Shows Racial Bias in Vaccination Distribution – In general, Black Americans are being vaccinated at a rate of about half of their percentage of the population. For example, in Maryland Black people make up about 30% of the population but account for only 16% of the vaccination. The factors for this include distrust of the medical establishment, inadequate distribution of vaccine to Black areas, and too many states relying on Internet sign-up for vaccination. The mix of factors is specific to COVID-19, but the outcome is typical.

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IUY Weekly Journal Vol.2 No.28 – January 23 – 26, 2021

Indivisible Upper Yellowstone – Weekly Journal

The Week of Saturday, January 23 through Friday, January 29, 2021 [Vol.2 No.28]

Biden’s First Ten Days

The Week’s Most Notable

The Biden side of things: Big cabinet changes, 42 executive orders, and the administration hits the ground running. It’s apparent that Biden’s team, the largest ever assembled for presidential transition, is unusually well schooled, experienced, and working from a thoroughly considered set of orders. As expected, changes are happening so fast that the Republicans have little ability to respond other than whining about “excessive use of executive orders.” (For the record, Lincoln issued 48 executive orders, FDR 3,721, Trump 220.) Of course, right-wing media are crying “catastrophe,” but that’s already an old tune even for their audiences. Biden has also launched a massive program to manage COVID-19, especially for vaccination. It’s had lots of PR, but unfortunately is saddled with a slow start from there having literally almost nothing put in place by the Trump administration. It will be a month or more before solid evidence of a plan at work will be visible. Soon, comes the legislation. That will be difficult to the point of ugly. First up, is the coronavirus relief bill, all $1.9 trillion of it. Biden must follow his campaign promise by reaching out to Republicans for support. Not being stupid or inexperienced, he and his folks know the current GOP is coalescing around a big gob of obstructionism. In the Senate, the Democrats almost certainly will have to fall back on budget reconciliation to get most elements of the bill passed. Eventually, the Democrats will have to face the issue of eliminating the filibuster, or not (maybe just changing some of the rules about it will be enough).

The GOP side of things: To what extent have QAnon and Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA) become the GOP? It seems like congressional GOPers are more than willing to let her and QAnon-style conspiracy theories stand-in for party policies. Does that include beliefs such as what she said in 2018, that the forest fires in California were caused by Jewish space lasers? It seems so; they even put her on the House education committee. The majority of Republicans are not going to renounce the Big Lie. They are not going to admit complicity in the Capitol riot. They’re not going to admit that any of this is anti-democratic or even against the Constitution. They are going to continue the Trump tradition of manufacturing outrageous statements and events for the purposes of distraction and media management. The key point: Most Republican voters have no problem with this approach. That and right-wing media (along with a few Trump threats) brought almost all the Republican strays back into the arms of Trump after 1/6.

The emerging story of the Capitol Riot grows darker almost by the day. On Tuesday, in a closed-door hearing with Congress, the acting chief of Capitol Police admitted “[We] should have been more prepared for this attack, we knew that there was a strong potential for violence, that Congress was the target.” This begs the questions: How and why did this happen? The questions beg for investigation, which is happening through Congress, the FBI, and other agencies. Important avenues of research have opened into funding for the riot, leadership and coordination, collusion with members of Congress and the White House, and the seriousness of right-wing militias. From the public perspective, this is making most everyone very uneasy. Are we facing a gaggle of dilettantes, who have no idea how real “revolution” functions and did not succeed in killing or capturing anybody politically relevant, or is this the beginning of an orchestrated sequence of events – including violence – leading to the kind of chaos that is the birthspace of authoritarianism?

Saturday, January 23

[Coronavirus] U.S. Coronavirus Totals: Cases: 25,568,161; Deaths: 427,642

[Russia – Navalny] U.S. State Department Calls for Release of Navalny – What a difference a week and a new Secretary of State make; the U.S. now officially condemns the arrest of Russian protest leader Alexey Navalny and the incarceration of more than 3,000 demonstrators. In short, Biden is resuming the traditional U.S. opposition to Putin’s authoritarian regime.

[Arizona Government] Arizona GOP Censures its Top Leaders – As a measure of the pro-Trump GOP “eat their own” state of mind, the Arizona Republican Party censured Gov. Doug Ducey, former Sen. Jeff Flake, and Cindy McCain, the widow of John McCain, for failing in their support for Trump. This was part of a widespread state GOP led movement to punish their non-loyal party members.

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IUY Weekly Journal Vol.2 No.27 January 16 – 22, 2021

Indivisible Upper Yellowstone – Weekly Journal

The Week of Saturday, January 16 through Friday, January 22, 2021 [Vol.2 No.27]

Inauguration

The Week’s Most Notable

All inaugurations are for the history books but this week’s ceremony requires not only an asterisk for the pandemic environment, but a couple of exclamation points for presentation. Thanks to the out-of-control pandemic, the absence of a public throng completely changed the atmosphere. In some ways it was better; for many, the most memorable moment of the inaugural ceremonies was the quiet honoring of the 400,000 COVID-19 dead at the Lincoln Memorial Reflecting Pool. There were no interminable parades, no elite dress-up balls, and not a lot of pomp (although Lady Gaga, J-Lo, and Michelle Obama provided a fair amount of ostentatious accoutrement). Biden’s inaugural address was almost like an FDR fireside speech, unconventionally personal. And then there was the poem and charismatic presence of the astonishing Amanda Gorman, U.S. Youth Poet Laureate. Democrats and liberals got about 36 hours of basking in happy relief, and then on Inauguration Day the Biden administration kicked into gear with 17 executive orders, which caused the Republicans to wail that the Democrats spouting for “unity” were shamelessly governing like Democrats.

The far-right circles the wagons for the Big Lie. A prominent meme developed this week on right-wing media (Fox Network, OAN, MaxNews, et al.), that when they do a cover picture involving Biden, he’s usually in shackles and/or an orange jumpsuit. The logic: His son Biden is a crook, Biden stole the election, Biden is also a crook; therefore, Biden should be in prison, lock him up! In a tightly symbiotic relationship developed over decades, where right-wing media goes, there goes Trump’s base, and consequently the majority of the Republican Party. Both base and media are doubling down on that relationship. To that end, the sacking of the Capitol building is rarely mentioned and usually pushed into the background as being not so important. Several Fox personalities characterized the impeachment process as Democrats seeking vengeance for the Trump years. They never mentioned that the impeachment/trial is only the first step toward the real objective of banning Trump from ever holding public office again because of his incitement of insurrection. All of this is classic spin; a single news broadcast on OAN could be used as a textbook for Soviet-style televised propaganda. Within the web of this narrative literally tens of millions are caught up in the belief that the election was rigged, Biden is a crook, and Democrats are the enemy. As long as these beliefs are fortified, there’s not much chance for Biden’s agenda to move very far beyond Executive Orders or half measures squeezed out of budget reconciliation bills.

Saturday, January 16

[Coronavirus] U.S. Coronavirus Totals: Cases: 24,308,840; Deaths: 405,370

[Right-Wing Protests] U.S. Capitol, Statehouse Capitols Warned of Right-Wing Attacks – Throughout the week, state and federal officials summoned extra police, National Guard, and Army Reserve units to guard against right-wing militia groups staging further violent demonstrations at capitol buildings. As the days went by, no significant demonstrations occurred. In fact, enthusiasm for riot was dwindling: the leader, Trump – without his Twitter account and on his way out of power – could not provide motivation.  In addition, the militias were aware that many of their members, particularly those who had been at the U.S. Capitol, had been arrested or were in the FBI crosshairs, and that because of heightened awareness the general public was not ready to support a right-wing coup.

[Government – Science] Biden Introduces White House Office of Science and Technology – Eric Lander, a pioneer in the field of genomics, will head the Office, newly elevated to the Cabinet level, and become the chief White House science advisor. Biden said, “In a way . . . this is the most exciting announcement that I’ve gotten to make in the entire Cabinet, raising this to a Cabinet-level position.” This is, of course, a huge distinguishing feature of Biden’s approach to governance compared to Trump’s – he believes in science, facts, and data.

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IUY Weekly Journal Vol.2 No.26 – January 9 – 15, 2021

Indivisible Upper Yellowstone – Weekly Journal

The Week of Saturday, January 9 through Friday, January 15, 2021 [Vol.2 No.26]

Impeachment 2

The Week’s Most Notable

Trump’s second impeachment, the only president so dishonored, in itself settled little, but exposed the fateful divide between the defense of democracy (the presidential election), political tribalism (Republicans and the Big Lie), and the potential for violent authoritarian government (Trump’s call for insurrection). Awash in the emotion and the growing awareness of potential catastrophe in the Capitol riot – with the background noise of the ever-escalating coronavirus pandemic – this was a unique impeachment in many ways. For example, the 10 Republicans who voted for impeachment constitute the most impeachment votes from the opposition in our history; on the other hand, they were opposed by 142 fellow Republicans who not only voted against impeachment but continued to push the Big Lie that the election was stolen.

Eventually the impeachment process moves to the Senate for trial. The trial will not begin until after the inauguration and not until control of the Senate formally passes to the Democrats. Transition to a 50-50 Senate is going to take some tricky negotiations, harkening back to the Daschle/Lott agreement of 2001, which required several weeks. The trial won’t begin until Pelosi sends the article of impeachment from the House, which she will probably delay for at least a week or two, if not more. The Democrats are going to try to keep the trial from mucking up Biden’s fantastically ambitious first 100 days. If circumstances allow, the Democrats would like to delay trial activity until April.

While conviction is the goal, since Trump will already be out of office the underlying goal is to pass a second item of remedy – permanently forbidding him from holding any federal office. The initial conviction requires 67 votes, 17 of them Republican; the second vote needs only a simple majority. At first glance, getting 17 Republicans to vote against Trump seems unlikely; but, if evidence arising from the Capitol riot is striking, if McConnell actually decides to support conviction, if Trump’s numbers continue tanking (some polls are already under 30%), and if enough Republicans want Trump out of the way to clear a path for 2022 and 2024, conviction is not impossible.

The great race: Vaccines vs Variants. In theory, an orderly rollout of COVID-19 vaccinations – something like a million people a day – should reach the point where more people are vaccinated than not and the rate of infection should drop. But what if a new strain of the virus appears which is 50% to 75% more infectious? To stay ahead of this virus the health system would need to vaccinate 1.5 million people a day. Otherwise, the rising rate of infection would continue, and more people would be hospitalized and more would die – at least until a maximum of the population has been reached. That’s what’s happening in Great Britain, Ireland, Spain, and very soon the U.S. Right now, it’s a race to bring vaccines online and get them into people’s arms before the new COVID-19 strains (UK, South Africa, Brazil, and possibly others) get ahead of our ability to immunize people. According to the director of the CDC, if we don’t do this – if we can’t vaccinate fast enough and don’t practice solid mitigation efforts – the U.S. will see up to 10,000 deaths a day by the end of spring. We better hope that Biden’s massive emergency vaccination program really works.

Saturday, January 9

[Coronavirus] U.S. Coronavirus Totals: Cases: 22,709,949; Deaths: 381,423

[Election – 2020] Trump Continues Pressure on Georgia Officials to Overturn Vote – At least two more phone calls by Trump, one to Atlanta’s top prosecutor and another to the top investigator for Georgia’s Secretary of State had the same intent as the original phone call to the Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger – “find” 11,760 votes so that Trump could win the state of Georgia. Apparently, the calls were not successful; however, they could be added to the list of impeachable offenses or possibly criminal activity. Need proof that Trump is irrationally desperate?

[U.S. – Taiwan] Pompeo Ends Restrictions on U.S. Contact with Taiwanese Diplomats – This last-minute move by Pompeo is guaranteed to piss off the Chinese, since it was American policy for decades to not have official contact with the Taiwanese. Pompeo has been making moves like this with Iran, North Korea, Israel, and other sensitive areas to set policy that will be at best difficult for Biden to reverse. It’s the diplomatic equivalent of scorched-earth. [Update: EU officials refused to meet with Pompeo on last-minute trip, because he had not recognized Biden’s election win.]

[Capitol Riot – Investigation] FBI Continues Intensive Research and Arrest Efforts – Using facial identification software, witness testimony, public recognition, and other forensic techniques, the FBI has opened files on more than 250 people involved in the January 6 Capitol riot. Officials say that eventually hundreds of people will be identified and charged with everything from trespass on federal property to sedition. Will this have a chilling effect on the plans for continued militia-based violence, especially during the upcoming inauguration?

[Social Media] Parler Silenced by Tech Giants – Parler collected right wing groups and Trump supporters as they left standard social media such as Facebook and Twitter. It eventually accepted the highly inflammatory rhetoric of the neo-Nazis and hosted planning for violence against the government. This brought the attention of Apple, Google, and Amazon, who had distributed the Parler app. Following the Capitol riot they decided to shut down their support and services, effectively ending Parler (at least for now). Parler was funded by a group of right-wing billionaires led by the Mercer family. Most right-wing participants will now migrate back to less public services such as 4chan and 8chan.

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IUY Weekly Journal Vol.2 No.25 – January 2 – 8, 2021

Indivisible Upper Yellowstone – Weekly Journal

The Week of Saturday, January 2 through Friday, January 8, 2021 [Vol.2 No.25]

Capitol Insurrection

The Week’s Most Notable

This may have been one of the more significant weeks in U.S. history. In fact, Wednesday January 6, may be one of those days for the generations to remember. What happened during the week: The worst coronavirus numbers yet, the sacking of the U.S. Capitol building by a Trump incited mob, the Georgia election of two Democrats that flipped control of the Senate, and the desperate follow-up by both Democrats and Republicans to the problem of what to do with Trump, are dramatic in their own right, but the real significance is how they can potentially play out in the longer-term future of democracy in America.

Peak pandemic is what the epidemiologists are calling it. It’s a confluence of bad public behavior, bad mitigation policy, bad leadership, and the proclivity of the virus to up its game during national holidays. After 10 months of confused messaging, political opportunism, and just being plain sick of the pandemic threat, a large proportion of the American public moved about too much, clumped together too much, ignored masking, and staged a variety of superspreader events. It worked. This week’s more than 4,000 deaths in one day, more than 300,000 new COVID-19 cases in one day, and more than 130,000 hospitalizations broke all records and severely tested the medical capacity of the U.S. And yet this did not dominate the news.

It’s the images that will stick.  Most Americans will remember the desecration of the national Capitol building: the mob flowing up the Capitol steps, the flutter of Trump flags, the smashing of windows, the shit on the walls, blood on the floor, and the moronic grin of a guy stealing Pelosi’s podium. Some of it had a grotesque carnival atmosphere, but inside – in the halls of Congress – people died, our elected representatives feared for their lives, and the business of Congress, which happened to be certifying a new president, was brought to a halt for much of the day. The alt-right militias had prepared for months, the guardians of the Capitol were conveniently undermanned, the Trump-GOP and right-wing media provided a stream of Big Lie (Stolen Election) rationale, and the President of the United States deliberately pointed the mob in the direction of the Capitol. It was an event of starkly profound symbolism, an apotheosis of a fool’s insurrection, and quite possibly a watershed in the political fortunes of the American democratic experiment.

Meanwhile, that same day the American democracy elected a black preacher and Jewish filmmaker as the two newest members of the United States Senate; coming from the state of Georgia, an astonishing result on many levels. The senators are Democrats and they tip control of the Senate, which will make it possible for President Biden to have a shot at forming his government and enacting his legislation without the intractable obstructionism of Mitch McConnell. Now it’s up to the Democrats to get enough done that they warrant more votes in the 2022 midterms.

At the moment, the GOP finds itself wedded to Trump and the Big Lie. Yet there are those in the GOP who appear to be considering divorce, a split from Trump; there are those who continue to support the Big Lie of a stolen election and refuse to grant legitimacy to Biden’s win and there are those who admit Biden’s win and wish to move on. It was thought the debacle at the Capitol would quash support for the Big Lie, but that same night more than 130 Republicans continued their fictional narrative and voted against Biden’s certification. The Big Lie continues to be the top-level motivation for right-wing militias and Republican opposition. Until the Big Lie and the corresponding legally illegitimate claims of having “evidence” for a rigged election are addressed, the right-wing media, Trump’s base, and ultraconservative politicians (much of the GOP) will continue to use it to justify their actions – including the assault on the U.S. Capitol.

Saturday, January 2

[Coronavirus] U.S. Coronavirus Totals: Cases: 20,977,465; Deaths: 358,738

[Election – 2020] Josh Hawley (R-MO) and Ted Cruz (R-TX) Become Headliners for Election Certification Opposition – Joined by 11 other senators and 132 House Republicans, these are the folks who plan on using the Wednesday certification process to further the Big Lie. Their performance for the Trump-GOP base is intended to reinforce the right-wing media propaganda effort to solidify long-term opposition to Biden.

[Election – 2020] Trump Uses Phone Call for Georgia Election Extortion – In an ongoing series of calls and public moves, Trump continued to put pressure on Georgia’s Republican Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger to “find 11,780 ballots.” This is the margin by which Trump lost Georgia. In this case, the phone call was recorded and witnessed by others in the office, which makes it potentially evidence for illegal election tampering. Raffensperger released the recording after Trump went public with his criticism of the Secretary of State.

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IUY Weekly Journal Vol.2 No.24 – Dec. 26, 2020 – Jan. 1, 2021

Indivisible Upper Yellowstone – Weekly Journal

The Week of Saturday, December 26, 2020 through Friday, January 1, 2021 [Vol.2 No.24]

Year’s End

The Week’s Most Notable

Trump’s reign is running out. First and foremost, Trump is no longer governing; he is no longer involved with anything but his personal vendettas and the “stolen election.” That means noxious pardons and executions are still on the agenda and various bizarre parliamentary shenanigans are in play. These are bad mainly for the precedent they set but essentially toothless in the here and now. Of course, the White House and some federal agencies continue their anti-government ways, but the short time remaining limits the scope of their bad intentions. Secondarily, with former AG Barr removed from government, the scope of justice-by-bad-faith may be limited by legal incompetence as well as incentive. Internationally, Trump is apparently backing down from a confrontation with Iran by moving an aircraft carrier out of the Arabian Gulf. At this point, with no U.S. mobilization, a last-minute war with Iran is unrealistic. Likewise, Trump announced plans to freeze some foreign aid, which may sound good to his base, but cannot be applied to congressionally approved funds and only holds until Biden takes over in about 20 days.

What’s left of the Trump regime is still toxic. The negligence concerning the coronavirus pandemic is criminal. Trump and his people are still blocking Biden’s transition wherever they can get away with it, and almost certainly are laying traps for things Biden and his administration may plan to do. On the other hand, Trump seems to have generated some feuds within the Republican Party, not the least being his relationship with McConnell and the senatorial elections in Georgia. This aspect of his malevolence is at least entertaining for Democrats. Once he’s out of power, Trump has left few bridges unburned; the betting is he will lose influence gradually but steadily.

U.S. vaccination snafu should not be a surprise. By the end of the week, it was becoming clear that although doses of both the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines were being distributed, their distribution was uneven and at times chaotic; many states were having difficulty managing the administration of the vaccines, and the upshot was that while 20 million people were promised vaccinations by the end of the year, less than 2.5 million received their first dose (both of the current vaccines require two doses). First rumors, and then evidence of mishandling and even outright destruction of doses began appearing during the week. The U.S. is flirting with a PR disaster that could cripple its effort to control the pandemic. All it would take would be one major event, such as doses killing people or significant incidents of cheating, to discredit the entire program and perhaps make it impossible to reach common (herd) immunity. Although from the very beginning of the pandemic it has been understood that a vaccination program needed to be designed and implemented on a national level, the Trump administration did almost nothing. It left vaccination entirely up to the states, which of course with 50 variations meant everything from no preparation to excellent planning. Expect the fallout from the vaccination chaos to continue well into the Biden administration.

Saturday, December 26

[Coronavirus] U.S. Coronavirus Totals: Cases: 19,450,050; Deaths: 339,957

[Coronavirus] 14 Million Lose Unemployment Benefits – As Trump continues the PR-related dithering about signing the $900 billion COVID-19 relief bill, unemployment benefits end today.  The odds remain high that he will sign the bill, but the reinstatement of payments will be off schedule, causing problems for recipients.

[Brexit] UK – EU Trade Deal Published – Formalizing the complex agreement over trade between the UK and the EU, the 1,246-page document published today signals the end of the withdrawal period and the actual beginning of Brexit. Negotiations on a wide variety of issues will continue, as the trade agreement does not address much more than the manufacturing/product aspect of trade, which the EU needed most, but has little to say about services, financial services in particular, which the UK needed most. The trade agreement avoids the potential disasters of a “no deal” Brexit, but carries many long-term issues.

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IUY Weekly Journal Vol.2 No.23 – December 19 – 25, 2020

Indivisible Upper Yellowstone – Weekly Journal

The Week of Saturday, December 19 through Friday, December 25, 2020 [Vol.2 No.23]

Stimulus Interruptus

The Week’s Most Notable

The stimulus smorgasbord, or more appropriately, string of political sausage, seems to cover in its $890 billion and 5,300 pages of legislation just about every ounce of pork, special interest wishes, and policy wrinkle that can be wrung out of the pandemic situation. That is, it would if the bill ever gets out of the White House. By the weekend Trump had still not signed the bill and was loudly harrumphing about its inadequacies, most pointedly the miserable $600 per person stimulus amount, which he suggested should be $2,000. Of course, this 11th hour presidential protest works against everything the GOP was trying to do, and of course the Democrats jumped on it, because this is what they wanted all along. Unfortunately, the lack of Trump’s signature affects not only the coronavirus relief bill but also the funding for the U.S. government, which theoretically might need to begin shutting down next week. Probably not, though nobody is sure what Trump has in mind, really, and the chorus of complaint will grow every day of next week. It’s expected he will sign, but with Congress about to override his veto of the defense spending bill, his mood remains unpredictable. At the least, Trump’s intransigence has screwed up the timing of relief, especially for the millions of people running out of unemployment insurance or facing eviction by the end of the year.

Good news, bad news: We have vaccines and mutation. During the week the Pfizer vaccine rolled out across the U.S. and will be soon joined by the Moderna vaccine. We have the obligatory pictures of politicians and celebrities taking one in the arm for the good of the nation (except Trump of course). A fairly robust pro-COVID-19 vaccine campaign is in the works, although counter campaigns by anti-vaxxers are also on the drawing board. As the reality of the vaccines dawns on people, and with that the growing promise of actually dealing with the coronavirus pandemic, epidemiologists hope that vaccine acceptance will make it possible to achieve common immunity before next year is out. However, meanwhile, a mutation of the virus said to be 70% more infectious has appeared in southern England and in perhaps a related form in South Africa. Although apparently not more virulent, that kind of infection rate could still be catastrophic. That this mutation exists, and that it has spread to other parts of the world, no doubt including the U.S., seems true enough; its properties and significance are still largely a matter of unfinished investigation. In other words, it’s too early to make predictions, much less to panic. The mutation does point out that this is what viruses do; they adapt to become more efficient at surviving. We can hope that COVID-19 mutations stay within the effectiveness of current vaccines.

Saturday, December 19

[Coronavirus] U.S. Coronavirus Totals: Cases: 18,094,791; Deaths: 323,953

[Cyberattack] Trump Implicates China, not Russia for Cyberattack on U.S. – Trump has been remarkably consistent in deflecting blame for Russian cyberattacks on the U.S. Every time the U.S. intelligence community agrees that all the evidence points to Russia, Trump demurs that it could have been somebody else like China or a 400-pound guy sitting on a bed with a portable computer. This time even Secretary of State Pompeo agreed that it was probably the Russians. Correspondingly, suspicions about Trump’s defense of Putin rise again, but without concerted investigation we may never know the true backstory of Trump’s fealties.

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