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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IUY Weekly Journal Vol.2 No.22 December 12-18, 2020

Indivisible Upper Yellowstone – Weekly Journal

The Week of Saturday, December 12 through Friday, December 18, 2020 [Vol.2 No.22]

Coronavirus Vaccines

The Week’s Most Notable

This week COVID-19 vaccines began to be real in the United States and with that came hope. First out of the gate, Pfizer’s finicky vaccine didn’t take long to garner initial PR attention and a day or two later the first less than good news with distribution problems. The development of an effective vaccine, and in fact two of them so far – Moderna’s vaccine received emergency FDA approval on Friday – represents a major achievement by medical science and deserves celebration. The good news has been tempered by an obvious lack of coordination at the national level for allocation and distribution of vaccines. States will handle their own administration of shots, but most of them are struggling to put together the infrastructure – particularly the tracking capability for two-dose vaccines – needed to handle vaccinations of tens of millions. Most states are also having difficulty financing the project, although there is still hope that Congress will help by passing the second coronavirus relief bill before the end of the year. At the moment, immunology experts are recommending that first responders and vulnerable elderly receive vaccinations through January and February. Critical workers will probably be next from March through May, as vaccine supplies increase, and hopefully the general public will be receiving vaccinations by May and June. Without a major breakdown in distribution, the U.S. may be approaching common-immunity (a.k.a. herd immunity) at around 75% to 80% of the population by the end of summer. That is good and hopeful news.

Propagating mass delusion and fantasy for political and financial gain is one of the most disturbing features of current American politics. This is not the first time that significant political activity is based on propaganda, but not since the issue of slavery has the problem of two different versions of “the facts” been so obvious or so devastating for American democracy. At the surface, the Trump-GOP supporters are using a fog of claims about evidence of mass fraud in the presidential election. More than 60 times these claims have been brought to court – and failed. There is no legally viable (or any other kind of) evidence of mass electoral fraud. The majority of Americans and many Republican officials know this to be true. And yet, the right-wing media, Trump, and most Republican politicians promote the fiction of a fraudulent election. Why? It not only rakes in the cash, more than $300 million so far, it also provides an emotional rallying cry for political identity. After all, more than 70 million Americans voted to keep Trump in office; that’s a resource to be exploited. The Trump-GOP-right wing media propaganda will persist indefinitely, unless we (that is, the citizens, media, and politicians who believe in democracy) can figure out a way to end the “two versions of reality” problem.

Saturday, December 12

[Coronavirus] U.S. Coronavirus Totals: Cases – 16,551,197; Deaths – 305,082

[Coronavirus] First Doses of Pfizer COVID-19 Vaccine Hit the Road – Shipments of the newly FDA approved vaccine are rolling out of the Pfizer Kalamazoo, Michigan plant. About 3 million doses are scheduled for delivery, which will cover 1.5 million people with the two-dose vaccine.

[Pro-Trump Demonstration] D. C. Protests Turn Violent – Although limited in scope, clashes between Trump supporters such as the Proud Boys and anti-Trump demonstrators led to some injuries and multiple arrests.

[Britain-Brexit] Brexit Talks Between EU and UK Shamble On – After more than a half dozen deadlines, the ultimate deadline, December 31, 2020 – when the withdrawal period ends – rhetoric turns into reality. At that point, with or without a negotiated deal, Great Britain will sever most legal and commercial ties with the European Union.  Negotiators will continue to seek some kind of a “deal” that at least preserves a semblance of organized trade. However, in reality most technical issues have been resolved and what remains are political decisions that hinge on PM Johnson’s positioning with members of Parliament. “No deal” Brexit is widely unpopular, even in his own party, but there is a large faction of conservative members who may revolt if there is any kind of “deal.” It’s apparent that Johnson wants a deal, but one that doesn’t fracture his party. Meanwhile the EU negotiators sit on their hands and wait for the UK to make up its mind, which is likely to be at the very last minute and possibly even then be indeterminate. There could be a “temporary no deal Brexit” followed quickly by negotiations to find a deal. In other words, the situation is likely to remain fluid.

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IUY Weekly Journal Vol.2 No.21 – December 5 – 11, 2020

Indivisible Upper Yellowstone – Weekly Journal

The Week of Saturday, December 5 through Friday, December 11, 2020 [Vol.2 No.21]

No Coup

The Week’s Most Notable

Trump’s attempted coup – theatrical sideshow or existential threat for democracy?

The center of the Trump-GOP argument, which should be distinguished from the emotional appeal, is that the Democrats stole the election through fraud, vote tampering, and results manipulation. When pushed, Trump lawyers and supporters claim to have “evidence” such as rigged voting machines in Georgia, ballot irregularities in Wisconsin, and a raft of procedural anomalies in Pennsylvania. In the known cases brought to court, 54 in all, this kind of evidence was presented, and in all but one procedural case, summarily rejected. ALL of the so-called evidence was either irrelevant, insubstantial, or simply bogus. No court, including the Supreme Court, accepted any of the evidence as a basis for trial. Most courts rejected the cases out of hand, often with prejudice. There is no evidence for widespread election fraud (there are always random isolated events, usually errors) and in fact this was one of the most closely monitored and cleanest elections in American history. The problem is the appeal of the Trump-GOP argument isn’t facts or logic but emotional support for Trump, a complicated psychology.

There’s the rub, as Shakespeare said, the large number of Trump-GOP supporters – including many professionals such as GOP politicians and GOP state attorneys general – who know that the “stolen election” gambit is legally hopeless but are not bothered by the effect of threatening a coup, or consolidating Trump’s power, or squeezing yet more millions out of credulous members of Trump’s base. There are surveys showing large numbers of the base more or less in favor of a “coup,” as in having an authoritarian government. Therein lies the existential threat to democracy, not this time, not with this bulbous orange buffoon, but easily cultivated by a more competent demagogue.

The case for COVID-19 vaccination launched this week on a wave of hype. Using the exuberance over the beginning of vaccination in Great Britain and the FDA approval of the Pfizer vaccine, most of the American media glommed onto the undeniably good news. “Light at the end of the tunnel” became the leitmotif of the week. No question, we needed the good news, but. . . .  (Yes, the significant news comes after the “but.”) In reality, it will be many months before the vaccines can be distributed and administered to a significant percentage of the population. That presumes a smooth rollout and no complications with the vaccines. Meanwhile, the pandemic in the U.S. is Out. Of. Control. We are literally heading toward 500,000 dead by March, and potentially a significant collapse of hospitalization capacity in many parts of the U.S.

Saturday, December 5

[Coronavirus] U.S. Coronavirus Totals: Cases – 15,014,068; Deaths – 287,730

[Election – 2020] Trump Calls Gov. Kemp of Georgia to Demand Special Legislative Session – The call was among a series of contacts Trump made with officials in swing states attempting to cajole or coerce them into overturning presidential election results. Although his actions constitute illegal election tampering, this is a difficult case to make against a U.S. president. [Update: Contacts during the week included officials in the states of Michigan, Arizona, Georgia, and Pennsylvania. Apparently, none of them complied with any requests/demands.]

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IUY Weekly Journal Vol. 2 No. 20 – November 28 – December 4, 2020

Indivisible Upper Yellowstone – Weekly Journal

The Week of Saturday, November 28 through Friday, December 4, 2020 [Vol.2 No.20]

200,000 – 100,000 – 3,000

The Week’s Most Notable

237,372 Infected – Friday, single day record – 101,276 Hospitalized – Friday, single day record – 3,157 Dead – Wednesday, single day record. In a country growing perilously blasé about the everyday reality of the coronavirus pandemic, these numbers should – but probably won’t – shake everybody awake. This is the baseline not only for the previous month but for the month ahead. It’s also baseline reality, regardless of the politics, regardless of the good and bad medical outlook, regardless of personal preference – this is what’s really happening. These are the headlines of headlines. They mean that the equivalent of the population of a good-sized city is becoming sick every day. They mean that hospital systems all over the country are being stretched to their limit, especially their people. They mean that the equivalent of a 9/11 event are killed by COVID-19 every day. This shouldn’t have to be constantly highlighted, but it’s necessary in a country where 40% of the population, the second major political party, and a highly influential chunk of the media seek to deny or degrade the reality. Until something changes those beliefs and attitudes, there will be no effective pandemic mitigation and what’s yet to come will only be worse.

Pardon-$-Us. Presidential pardons, especially the prepaid kind, were a hot topic, which was strange because no new pardons were issued; it was all speculative. We should know by now that such coverage is almost always a distraction. Of course, debasing the presidential pardon process is consequential and symbolic, up to a point; but it’s not even close to the most important issues of the day. A kindred distraction-storyline was all the various Trump-GOP court cases, a batch of badly undercooked spaghetti thrown against the wall, none of which stuck. In short, it was court drama for PR, which disgusted judges are beginning to slap down “with prejudice.” One more example of distraction: Trump threatened to veto defense spending if Congress doesn’t repeal the liability shield for social media companies (section 230 of the 1996 Communications Decency Act).

Saturday, November 28

[Coronavirus] U.S. Coronavirus Totals: Cases – 13,614,832; Deaths – 272,275

[Economy] Black Friday Marks Record Online Sales – Typical headlines highlight the record $9 billion in online sales, up from $7.4 billion in 2019. Then comes the caveat, worries about COVID-19 kept people at home, shopping online instead of in person. Overall, Black Friday sales were down 10% to 20%.

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IUY: Weekly Journal Vol. 2 No. 19 – November 21 – 27, 2020

Indivisible Upper Yellowstone – Weekly Journal

The Week of Saturday, November 21 through Friday, November 27, 2020 [Vol.2 No.19]

Transition Begins

The Week’s Most Notable

This was the week that saw the more or less formal beginning of the presidential transition, which culminates January 20, 2021; but it wasn’t the only transition getting underway. One of the biggest transitions will be returning to the environmental regulations of the Obama era. Most corporations involved were aware that the GOP-Trump approach to regulations was not the “make it easier for competition and growth” policy, but the “no regulations are good regulations” policy. In short, the object was to remove as many regulations as possible, whether for the public good or not. In that setting, corporations understood that the result would be a free for all, a time of grab what you can. Now things are going to change again, and predictably companies are signaling their willingness to work within previous environmental regulations; for example, GM dropping out of the Trump-DOJ lawsuit against the state of California over vehicle emissions. Perhaps the biggest transition of all will be in us as we deal with the decline in Trumpian cacophony. How different will our individual lives be without the almost daily “unprecedented thing” that demanded our mental time? With Trump gone, will we transition back to political indifference, even while nation-changing issues are still very much with us? Or will we work to correct the wrongs?  The midterm elections of 2022 will tell us the story of how we made the transition.

Happy Holidays! Hello coronavirus! In science a “natural experiment” is frequently a good thing; it means that testing some proposition that no scientist or even scientific institution could set up as a test will yet be carried out by some. In this case the proposition is that if a significant proportion of the population ignores COVID-19 mitigation rules, travels all over the country, and mixes with people in small closed environments then the rate of infection will spike, and of course along with it, significantly increasing hospitalizations and deaths. Scientists should be able to glean a great deal of useful data from our fateful U.S. traditions of Thanksgiving-Christmas-New Year’s. Unfortunately, if the proposition is correct, the measured results will be terrible. It will also be a potentially important measure of how much illness, suffering, and death Americans will tolerate. Right now, we have a very confused populace concerning the approach to COVID-19. A significant percentage is still in some degree of denial. Another percentage, akin to anti-vaxxers, are opposed to mitigation on some kind of philosophical/ideological grounds. Finally, a big percentage are simply tired of dealing with coronavirus and, although they know there is a risk, choose to ignore it. Altogether these people likely equal something north of 50% of the population. If that number doesn’t decrease significantly, post holidays there is little hope that any vaccination program will achieve the roughly 75% coverage of the population necessary for common (herd) immunity.

Saturday, November 21

[Coronavirus] U.S. Coronavirus Totals: Cases   – 12,453,483; Deaths – 261,683

[Coronavirus] FDA Gives Emergency Approval to Regeneron – The experimental antibody cocktail, famously given to Trump during his bout with COVID-19, has been approved for emergency use in high risk patients (mainly those over 65 with underlying conditions). It is meant for use early in the infection and costs about $1,500 per treatment. Supply will be short until next spring. Keep in mind this is not a vaccine, not a cure, but a limited recovery aid.

[Election – 2020] Federal Judge Trashes Trump Pennsylvania Vote Certification Lawsuit – In a strongly worded decision, the conservative Trump appointed judge noted that in seeking to disenfranchise millions of voters, “plaintiffs seeking such a startling outcome should come formidably armed with compelling legal arguments and factual proof of rampant corruption, but instead the campaign presented strained legal arguments without merit and [with] speculative accusations.” [Update: Later in the week, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court ruled against the same case “with prejudice.”]

[G20 – Conference] Trump Addresses G20 Conference, Goes Golfing – Remotely speaking to the other delegates, Trump emphasized the U.S. economy, military prowess, and covid vaccine development; he did not mention Biden, of course, and then instead of attending further sessions on COVID-19 management, he went golfing. Trump’s disengagement from all but the most public of governmental duties is obvious.

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IUY Weekly Journal Vol. 2 No. 18 – Week of November 14 – 20, 2020

Indivisible Upper Yellowstone – Weekly Journal

The Week of Saturday, November 14 through Friday, November 20, 2020 [Vol.2 No.18]

250,000 COVID-19 Dead

The Week’s Most Notable

This week seemed to be much like the week before: Joe Biden was still President-elect, Trump-GOP-right-wing media still denied the validity of the election, and the coronavirus crisis continued heading towards 200,000 new cases and more than 2,000 deaths a day. In short, it was another bizarre and generally fearsome week. However, this penultimate week of November was at the end of a chain of significant developments.

First, we had to wait for the election results – from Tuesday night (Nov. 3) to Saturday morning (Nov. 7), when Pennsylvania was called for Biden and he was widely recognized as the President-elect. Then began the first phase of Trump-GOP-right-wing media denial – a propaganda blitz that the results were incomplete, inaccurate, illegitimate. Within a week, the second phase of denial began – more than 35 court cases were initiated by the Trump campaign in battleground states (essentially, Pennsylvania, Michigan, Wisconsin, Arizona, Georgia). By the end of this past week (Nov. 20) all but two of these cases had been withdrawn, thrown out of court, or ruled against. That triggered the final phase of denial – appeals to state legislators and boards of election certification to rule against the results and declare a state’s electors as having been won by Trump. By the end of this week, it was apparent these desperate maneuvers were also collapsing. If you had time to pay attention, the curve of Trump election fortunes showed ineluctable decline. This week was different, the show was winding down. Of course, the show is not officially over; that will probably happen around Dec. 15 when by federal law all states must record their certification of the election. Even then, Trump and the GOP will continue to do everything they can to wreck the functioning of the federal government for the new administration. Politically, expect it to be an extremely ugly December and January.

A new baseline reality – 250,000 dead. Whatever the politics, propaganda, and deliberate or self-inflicted confusion, COVID-19 has claimed more than a quarter million lives. Like all such figures, the number is inexact but unless people choose to disbelieve all medical records (and quite a few do) those who have lost wives, husbands, children, parents, friends, and coworkers know the truth of it – COVID-19 has killed a lot of people and continues to do so. The other big reality, and unfortunately the easiest to deny, is that the dreadful statistics did not have to be. The U.S. is not alone in politicizing public health aspects of COVID-19, but we have arguably been the worst. The result, the worst COVID-19 pandemic record in the world; and going forward the worst chances of mitigating the crisis between now and the time when vaccines become generally available in five to eight months.

Saturday, November 14

[Coronavirus] U.S. Coronavirus Totals: Cases – 11,542,250; Deaths – 251,220

[Election – 2020] Violent Post-Election Demonstrations in Washington D.C. – Pro- and anti-Trump demonstrators clashed in the streets of Washington, where there were fistfights, a stabbing, and at least 20 arrests. There were other demonstrations in cities around the country, although overall the scale and level of violence, given the circumstances, was minimal.

[DACA] Judge Rules against Stricter DACA Renewals – In the fifth such ruling to strike down changes in the government’s DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals) program, this one prohibited limited renewal on the basis that the changes were ordered by the acting head of Homeland Security Chad Wolf, who has been ruled to be illegally holding his position.

[Asia Trade Group] 15 Asian Countries Sign Asia-Pacific Free-Trade Agreement – As part of a concerted effort to create an Asian trade zone similar in nature to the European Union, this first step included China, Australia, New Zealand, Japan, and South Korea. Notably, because the U.S. withdrew from the Pacific trade group negotiations, it played no role in this new association.

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IUY Weekly Journal Vol. 2 No. 17 – Week of November 7 – 13, 2020

Indivisible Upper Yellowstone – Weekly Journal

The Week of Saturday, November 7 through Friday, November 13, 2020 [Vol.2 No.17]

Coup or Not Coup?

The Week’s Most Notable

By midweek, depending on where you looked in the media, it might’ve been difficult to decide who won the election, Biden or Trump? Many Americans couldn’t tell, to use an old expression, whether they were afoot or horseback. On the one hand, Biden clearly won: 306 electoral college votes, exactly the number Trump had in 2016 (270 are needed); and by this time Biden’s lead in the popular vote was over 5 million, heading for something in the range of 6 million. Not a landslide but a substantial victory. On the other hand, Trump, most Republicans, and the right-wing media screamed “Stolen election!” They were claiming massive electoral fraud. To that effect they were filing dozens of lawsuits, calling for rallies and demonstrations, and using the right-wing propaganda machine to repeat endlessly that Trump was victorious. When Trump started messing with the Pentagon by removing the Secretary of Defense and additionally installing three of his own deracinated loyalists, the word “coup” hit the news. However, by the end of the week most of this spin war was beginning to unspool. Because of universal lack of evidence, none of the Trump lawsuits had succeeded, in fact most had been laughed out of court. Various sources, especially secretaries of state, reported that the election had been one of the cleanest and least error-prone of all modern elections. Even some Republicans and parts of the right-wing media, notably Fox News, were beginning to admit that Biden won. It appeared the legal coup was a failure, and what other aspects of a coup that Trump might’ve had in mind were not doing well. And yet he, and most Republicans, and the right-wing media persisted in pushing a PR coup, something based entirely on media propaganda. By the end of the week the situation remained unsettled and Trump had not conceded, leading some people to call it a “coup-coup situation.”

While Americans were being distracted by the election, the COVID-19 virus continued to do its thing – explode. Back in April of this year, if 190,000 people had fallen ill with the coronavirus in a single day, there would’ve been panic both public and official. In this current “wave,” the U.S. added 1,000,000 new cases in a week, and the number of hospitalizations jumped to a record 68,000. Deaths increased to bring the average above 1,000 a day. These are by far the worst statistics in the world, and the U.S. is still literally pulling ahead. All the experts are saying that this is only the beginning – winter is coming. It seemed during the week that about half the population understood the magnitude of the crisis intellectually, but didn’t really feel it unless they happened to have a relative or somebody they knew who got sick, went to the hospital, or died. The other half of the population either denied the crisis entirely, or brushed it off as overhyped. In any case, the situation is becoming the epidemiologists’ worst nightmare – inconsistent to nonexistent mitigation efforts, coupled with, at best, lackadaisical compliance. Effective vaccination for a large number of people is still at least six months away. Where will the virus numbers be at that time? 500,000 dead?

Saturday, November 7

[Coronavirus] U.S. Coronavirus Totals: Cases – 10,064,196; Deaths – 243,263

[Elections – 2020] Biden Declared the Presidential Winner – People literally took to the streets to celebrate on Saturday morning as Fox, CNN, NBC, CBS, ABC, The New York Times, and the Associated Press simultaneously announced that Biden had won Pennsylvania, giving him 273 electoral votes and therefore was about to become the 46th President of the United States. Some added the state of Nevada as well. [Update: by the end of the week Arizona and Georgia were also declared for Biden, giving him a total of 306 electoral votes.]

[Elections – 2020] Biden and Harris Give “Unity” Victory Speech – In their address to the nation, the President-elect and the first woman-black-Indian/Asian VP-elect pledged to unify Americans. Since at that moment about 70 million Americans didn’t agree that Biden actually won the election, this unification seems to be more rhetorical than real; but a necessary sentiment anyway.

[Biden-Government] Biden Campaign Discloses Executive Order Plans – It was reported that the incoming Biden administration has already assembled a plan for issuing executive orders to, among other things, reverse the controversial Muslim Travel Ban, end the crackdown on DREAMERS, rejoin the Paris Climate Accords, and rejoin WHO. The implication is that Congress will be largely a stalemate, especially in the Senate, and that like Trump and to a certain extent Obama before him, executive orders will be necessary to get many things done.

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IUY Weekly Journal Vol. 2 No. 16 October 31 – November 6, 2020

Indivisible Upper Yellowstone – Weekly Journal

The Week of Saturday, October 31 through Friday, November 6, 2020 [Vol.2 No.16]

Election Week 2020

The Week’s Most Notable

Election 2020 – bottom line, so far: Trump is on his way out, repeat, he lost; but between now and the time when it’s official, let’s just say a lot can happen. The Democrats still control the House but unexpectedly lost seats. At the moment no party controls the Senate, but it looks like the Republicans will win in the end. The Republicans maintained control of most state legislatures, meaning that, among other things, reapportionment after the census is still in Republican hands. The most succinct summary: Trump was rejected but a large minority of 70 million Americans appeared to approve of the Trump-GOP agenda and, thanks to the Senate, in the U.S. the minority rules. At the federal level there will be gridlock on major legislation. There will be no spectacular “first 100 days” of the Biden administration, but it might be a good time for rebuilding the machinery of government, especially the dangerously corrupted federal departments and agencies. Caveat: The Senate must approve most major administrative appointments; don’t expect that to be “normal.” What was described above is from the 30,000-foot view of politics. Down on the ground we still have the second worst epidemic in U.S. history, a shaky economy, a simmering cauldron of racial unrest, more extreme weather events prompted by climate change, a restive and violence prone ultra-right-wing, and a damaged democracy badly in need of repair. These are very real issues and pressing emergencies, which will be difficult to manage with the kind of divided government configuration that resulted from the election. It’s hard not to be pessimistic, but it is also fair to say that in the parade of likely crises, present and future, there will also be opportunities. Biden’s going to need lots of help, but there are reasons for optimism. Let’s leave it as generalized as that.

Do not undervalue the importance of defeating Trump. The presidential race was about him. The Trump-Republican Party was about him. Most of the headlines of the last four years have been about him. He is the head of the cult, his base. The unanswered crises in this country were unaddressed by him. Removing him from the center of power, placing him on the sidelines where he can scream and yell without authority, changes many things. Trump will no longer be able to set the narrative, Biden can; this is a big deal. The country is deeply divided, the political dynamics still favor the GOP, the right-wing propaganda machine cranks on (though sounding wheezy). Without the daily recharge of rhetoric and scandal from the president of the United States, his followers may sustain less enthusiasm. Without the narcissist-in-chief, the forces within the Republican Party are centrifugal – pulling it apart. Maybe now other messages can get a word in edgewise with his millions of voters.

Saturday, October 31

[Coronavirus] U.S. Coronavirus Totals: Cases – 9,433,209; Deaths – 236,525

[Coronavirus] Fauci Breaks with White House – Saying that the U.S. “could not be positioned more poorly” heading into the fall and winter flu season, he apparently meant that due to the by now semi-official “herd immunity” approach practiced by the administration, there would be no preparation for the out-of-control spread of the virus. In his remarks, Fauci put his finger on an issue that will be central to the 2020 general election: “Trump is more focused on reopening the economy.” Democrats, along with the medical community, understand that controlling the virus has to come first; Republicans, about 70 million of them, don’t believe that. For Fauci’s forthright comments, Trump vowed he would fire him and Steve Bannon suggested somebody cut off his head and put it on a spike in front of the White House.

[Elections – 2020] Biden Bus in Texas Surrounded by Trump Caravan – It was at least headline catching, a display of thoughtless political machismo as a fleet of pro-Trump trucks and cars attempted to push the Biden bus off the road. Trump thought it was great; the FBI’s investigating for criminal activity.

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