IUY Weekly Journal – #36 March 21 – 27, 2020

The Week of Saturday, March 21 through Friday, March 27, 2020 [#36]

The Week’s Most Notable:

Looking back, this was one of the most important weeks in American history. That’s a big statement. Nevertheless, this was the week when the coronavirus situation began to feel really serious. The facts and figures had a monumentally bad look. We haven’t seen anything like this since the Second World War. The coronavirus crisis is nowhere near its peak. We know already that the huge number of cases have overwhelmed our health-care system, but will there be hundreds of thousands or millions of cases? Likewise, will there be tens of thousands or millions of deaths? We know that the economy has taken an enormous hit: Millions are unemployed, much of the economy is shut down, and we have no idea when it can be safely revived – hence the unthinkable sum of money, $2.2 trillion Democrats AND Republicans are throwing at coronavirus relief. As German Chancellor Angela Merkel said in a remarkable speech to her nation, “So let me say that this is serious. Take it seriously.”

We have a “Partisan Pandemic,” the first in U.S. history. In most times of great national threat and tragedy, the country pulls together – we seek unity. Not this time. In the beginning, January and early February, Trump denied the existence of a coronavirus threat and attacked media and Democrats as purveyors of a colossal hoax. His 40% of the population, the Trump/GOP base, followed that line. By mid-February, when it became impossible to sustain the hoax claim, Trump shifted for about two weeks into supporting what doctors and epidemiologists recommended, such as quarantine, self-isolation, and social distancing. This spooked Trump’s base and simultaneously shut him off from the oxygen of his political rallies. This week, rather than denying the crisis entirely, Trump shifted to blaming Democrats, especially Democratic governors, and media for exaggerating the crisis. This attack became part of his “get back to work quick” policy. Right-wing media took his lead in every possible direction – from a return to coronavirus denialism, to attacking Democrats and experts such as Doctor Fauci – casting blame for a fake emergency created by liberals. And thus, the country was divided, badly led, and apparently cannot muster an effective national response to one of the worst crises in its history.

Saturday, March 21

[Coronavirus] Globally, Pandemic Hits 300,000 Cases, 13,000 Deaths – Every day the world watches the morbid statistics, wondering how bad it will get. Italy is still the hardest hit and is now under a nationwide lockdown. During the week many nations followed its example.

[Coronavirus] Senate Adjourns for the Day without a Coronavirus Bill – As predicted, Democrats went after the Republicans’ first draft of the bill as being far too generous to corporations, and not nearly good enough to support the workers cast adrift by the economic crisis. At this point, it is expected the bill will exceed $1 trillion.

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IUY Weekly Journal – #35 March 14 – 20, 2020

The Week of Saturday, March 14 through Friday, March 20, 2020 [#35]

The Week’s Most Notable:

Here are some salient points that developed this week in the coronavirus crisis:

– Congress and the administration knew from intelligence reports in January that the coronavirus would become a major worldwide problem. Because of political considerations, Trump and the GOP chose not only to do no preparation, but also to mislead the public. Chief among the many points of misinformation, the lack of sufficient ability for coronavirus testing was not addressed for two months.

– The United States missed the opportunity to use information generated by coronavirus testing to do what South Korea, Taiwan, and Singapore did – identify the infected population, isolate it, and treat it without totally disrupting the economy.

– Not only are coronavirus tests lacking but also mundane medical supplies such as masks, personal protection equipment (PPE), and ventilators are in short supply. All of this put added pressure on hospitals and medical personnel, at some point exceeding their ability to treat patients. The dark shadow of Italy, approaching 1,000 deaths a day, may be in the near future for the U.S.

– Although the administration announced we were in a “war” against the coronavirus, there was no evidence of the kind of massive, systematic mobilization needed to conduct such a war. It became clear throughout the week that the Trump government could not or would not take the lead in coordinating an effort, but instead insinuated that it was a job for state and local governments. This guarantees an inconsistent patchwork response, resulting in unnecessary illness and death.

– During the week it also became clear that the economic damage done by coronavirus mitigation (such as restriction of movement, large-scale quarantine, voluntary isolation, and even social distancing) would be worse than anyone imagined. Other than the death count, the pain caused by a major recession and massive unemployment could prove greater than that of the illness itself. This highlighted a terrible trade-off: without testing and analysis as a guide, the effort to save lives damages the economy.

– Governments worldwide struggle to comprehend the magnitude of the coronavirus disaster and the necessary response. While epidemic specialists repeatedly said over-responding was necessary, leaders and legislators continue to think in terms of traditional budgets and “proportional” responses. Characterize this as too little, too late.

– While nobody knows the exact future of the coronavirus crisis, it’s likely to continue for 6 to 18 months. During that time, it will alter many patterns of life as we know them, perhaps permanently. As one headline put it, “The new coronavirus economy: A gigantic experiment reshaping how we work and live.”

Saturday, March 14

[Coronavirus] House Passes Coronavirus Relief Bill – While the legislation boosts unemployment insurance, paid sick leave, and Medicaid support, its coverage is very limited especially in the context of the ever-widening coronavirus crisis. The bill is expected to pass the Senate and be signed by President Trump, soon to be followed by far more expansive (and expensive) bills.

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April Monthly Meeting Cancelled

Indivisibles,

As most of you probably already know, meetings large or small are or will be canceled because of the coronavirus. Indivisible meetings are no exception. For one thing, the public library is closed. When meetings like ours can resume is anybody’s guess. Perhaps when the weather is warmer we could try an outdoor meeting or even a demonstration with six feet between protesters. Meanwhile, we do have a website: indivisible-upper-yellowstone.org, the email channel (this one) that includes the Weekly Journal, and unofficially the podcast apodcastrunsthroughit.com. We’ll stay in touch. The utmost priority is health, and avoiding infection by the disease. For many people this is followed closely by staying financially afloat. The next 2 to 4 months are certain to be tense. It’s almost needless to say this promises to be one of the most, what’s the word – bizarre, frightening, critical – political seasons and general election in our or anybody’s memory. Nobody knows for sure what months on (and sometimes off) quarantine will do to people – that is, us. Much will depend on how severe the outbreak becomes, the progress or lack of progress in dealing with it, and the prospect of treatment or vaccine. As we get closer to the Montana primary, probably in May sometime, we hope to up our game in terms of registration for voters (probably with a heavy emphasis on absentee ballot) and on forms of contacting voters without face-to-face. Whatever, a lot can happen in two months.

Meanwhile, stay safe, stay in touch, and stay informed.

Best wishes and cheers,
Nelson and Dixie

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IUY Weekly Journal #34 March 7 – 13, 2020

The Week of Saturday March 7 through Friday March 13, 2020 [#34]

The Week’s Most Notable:

Coronavirus. Is there anything else? At this stage, it’s useful to note that countries have strategies to deal with the crisis. One strategy is to do extensive testing to determine the who and where of the infection and then target countermeasures (South Korea). Another strategy is total involuntary lockdown coupled with triage treatment (China, Iran, Italy). Where extensive testing and lockdown are not viable, some countries have chosen to do very little except to push people back to work to minimize the economic impact, while leaving the 10-20% of the more vulnerable and severely affected to chance (U.S., U. K.). Many countries have neither a plan nor a strategy, which should ensure a steady supply of the newly infected for some time into the future.

Coronavirus economic impact predictions range from an unpleasant 2-month blip, to a 6-month recession, to a catastrophic 12-month beginning of a depression. Notice that the operative factor is how long the coronavirus crisis lasts. Most economists agree that a recession of some significance is likely. Too many supply chains have been broken, people put out of work, and consumer life disrupted for economies to recover quickly.  “Only” a recession presumes the world can get a handle on the coronavirus cycle or the cycle peters-out of its own accord; neither of which is a sure thing in the short run. Apropos, we still don’t know if the coronavirus will lie low during summer months.

The carnival of coronavirus confusion continues at the federal level. Books, documentaries, movies, and compendiums will no doubt memorialize the past weeks of contradictory statements, misinformation, and cringeworthy action-crippling happy talk. References to “like a Chinese fire drill” are not only ethnically maladroit, but don’t actually cover the serious failures and omissions of the Trump administration and its “perfectly coordinated and fine-tuned plan.” Most of the coronavirus response is now devolving with inadequate national coordination to the states and municipalities. It may mean you survive or die depending on where you live.

Saturday, March 7

[Saudi Arabia] Mohammed bin Salman (MBS) Consolidates Power – Using the pretext of a coup plot against King Salman, MBS appears to be removing rivals and troublesome relatives.

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IUY Monthly Meeting Wednesday March 11

    EVENT    

First: There will be a regular monthly meeting for Indivisible Upper Yellowstone this Wednesday, March 11, 2020 at the Livingston-Park County Public Library 6:30 PM in the Teen Room (main floor).

It looks like this is going to be a pivotal week. That’s been said before; it will be said again, but this week there are three monumental pivots: public health, the economy, and presidential politics. 

Some have already called it “Plague Monday” because trends that have been gathering in the spread of the coronavirus around the world are beginning to coalesce into visible, tangible, and more than disturbing reality. Italy is quarantining about one fourth of the country, 16 million people. Such dramatic mitigation efforts were taken in China and South Korea, and experts believe many other countries will follow suit – possibly including the United States, if we ever get our act together. There is a growing sense in the U.S. (everywhere but the White House) that the coronavirus is of course real and deadly and must be taken seriously. How does that translate into action?

It looks like we can expect increasing impact in the way people go about their lives. Not the least of this will be the impact on the way people work, the availability of everything from consumer-products to healthcare, and in fact the functioning of the entire economy. As of this morning (Monday) the stock markets around the world are having one of the worst days ever because they are reflecting the impact of the coronavirus on rapidly decreasing oil consumption. As we know, fossil fuels regrettably still lead the world economy, and when oil prices plummet economies crash. 

And then there is politics, which in some respects seems the least of our problems, except that when it comes to the coronavirus our political problem is Trump and his party; replacing them is at the head of the queue for our politics. There are primaries on Tuesday (Michigan, Mississippi, Idaho, Missouri, North Dakota, and Washington – representing 352 delegates). The key states Michigan, Washington, and Missouri could well determine the contest between Joe Biden and Bernie Sanders. Particularly if Sanders loses Michigan.

We’ll know a lot more by Wednesday night, by the time of our meeting at 6:30 PM. If you’re curious about what to make of what’s happening; we urge you to attend. The provisional agenda is reproduced below. We have some important things to consider, such as what do we do when the coronavirus comes to our corner of the world.

See you soon,
Nelson and Dixie
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IUY Weekly Journal – #33 Feb. 29 – March 6, 2020

The Week of Saturday, February 29 through Friday, March 6, 2020 [#33]

The Week’s Most Notable:

The coronavirus will be around for a while. Outside of China the spread of the virus is nowhere near its peak. Even with effective mitigation (quarantine, etc.) it takes months to run through an infection cycle. While it’s possible this virus may decrease its spread in hot summer months, it then typically reappears in the fall. What many epidemiological specialists are saying is that this coronavirus strain has the potential to become endemic. That is, like the common cold, this virus can become a permanent resident among the human population. It may ebb and flow, but it never goes away. Unfortunately, the coronavirus has a much higher death rate than the common cold. The only long-term solution is a vaccine.

Meanwhile, most of the countries in the world will go through a period of rising infection with varying degrees of mortality. This causes fear, and fear causes personal and governmental responses. As we see in the U.S., such as with the almost criminal shortage of coronavirus testing kits, the responses may make the problems worse. In addition to the fact that some people get very sick and some people die, the interruption of social and economic life – worldwide – may cause a recession. The stock market knows this, and has gyrated accordingly. It’s important to stay informed about what’s happening to the economy.

Saturday, February 29

[Election 2020] Biden Wins South Carolina Primary in a Landslide – Capturing almost 50% of the vote (48.4%) and far ahead of runner-up Bernie Sanders (19.9%), it appears that black voters made an emphatic statement about Joe Biden. On Friday, with his campaign considered all but dead by the media, Biden pinned his hopes on South Carolina. His cause was bolstered by the endorsement of Jim Clyburn (D-SC), the most influential black politician in the state. The scale of Biden’s victory sent ripples through all the remaining campaigns. Tom Steyer, despite having spent millions in South Carolina, finished a distant third and dropped out of the race.

[Coronavirus] First U.S. Coronavirus Death – The death of a 50-year-old man in Washington state prompted the governor to declare a state of emergency.

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IUY Weekly Journal – #32 Feb. 22 – 28, 2020

The Week of Saturday, February 22 through Friday, February 28, 2020 [#32]

The Week’s Most Notable:

The Coronavirus (COVID-19) becomes the lead story. Two months ago, some people kept an eye on developments in China. A month ago, the virus officially escaped China and many people began keeping an eye on it. This week stock markets began crashing, thousands have died, and 56 countries report cases. Next week?

Because it aggressively affects the lungs and is relatively contagious, the more people know about coronavirus the more disturbing it seems. The fatality ratio still hasn’t been precisely determined but looks to be about 2%. That’s way above common flu (0.1%) but far from the worst. Nevertheless, because it spreads readily and the fatality risk is real, the coronavirus provokes drastic reactions – businesses close, people are quarantined en masse, transportation crawls, and events are canceled. It can have a big impact on the life of a community and a country.

To be completely realistic about it, the most far-reaching impact may be economic. By disrupting work and transport patterns all over the world, the relatively fragile links between supply chains (especially just-in-time systems) may get out of synch, if not broken. When that happens, economies slow down, possibly for months. In fact, if it truly turns into a pandemic the coronavirus could cause a global recession. That’s why stock markets worldwide are “adjusting” (which looks a lot like crashing).

Saturday, February 22

[Election 2020] Sanders Handily Wins Nevada Caucuses – The clear victory, with the second-place Biden and third-place Buttigieg receiving less than half his vote, puts Sanders in a strong national position. Expect that he will take a heavy attack from corporate and establishment Democrats leading up to the South Carolina primary.

[Syria] Fighting Between Turkish and Syrian Forces – Russian backed Syrian forces attacked Turkish troops in northwest Syria, reportedly killing 33 soldiers.  Turkey threatened retaliation. Putin, Merkel, and Macron will meet in March with Erdogan to discuss the situation. Meanwhile, after threatening to do so for several weeks, Turkey is now sending Syrian refugees into the EU, claiming that it is not getting enough support, as in being paid (more) to keep the Syrian refugees.

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IUY Weekly Journal – #31 Feb. 15 – 21, 2020

The Week of Saturday, February 15 through Friday, February 21, 2020 [#31]

The Week’s Most Notable:

Is Trump conducting a purge or draining the swamp? The question encapsulates the national schizophrenia, perhaps better known as polarization. To somewhat more than half the public, who have heard about Trump’s firing and attacking his perceived enemies this week, it seems that he is conducting a purge; using his presidential powers to damage or remove his opposition while lending support and succor to his friends and loyalists. In short, he is conducting an authoritarian-style campaign that undermines the rule of law and democratic principles. The others, somewhat less than half of Americans, are cheering him on – especially the Fox News and talk radio sycophants – as the defender of law and democratic principles by following his righteous path given by the Constitution and God to remove and condemn un-American or traitorous people.

It’s easily noted that phrases frequently used by Democrats, such as “observing the rule of law,” and “defending the Constitution,” Trump/GOP repeat verbatim. This “propaganda mirroring” technique was perfected by the Russians decades ago, finding it easy (whatever your opponent says, just repeat it, only to your own benefit) and effective (because it introduces a confusing echo and requires often difficult counter arguments). The mirroring isn’t necessarily word for word. Keeping in mind that a mirror image is not a copy but a reversal, this week’s example might be the arguments made by Democrats against voter suppression, which Republicans turn around (mirror) by saying, “they are trying to rig the game with frivolous lawsuits that do nothing but create electoral chaos, waste taxpayer money, and distract election officials in an attempt to advance the Democrats’ voter suppression myth because they know they can’t beat President Trump at the ballot box.” Other examples, anything Kellyanne Conway says. We’re talking propaganda technique here, but it belies deep emotional commitment.

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IUY – Weekly Journal – #30 February 8 – 14, 2020

The Week of Saturday, February 8 through Friday, February 14, 2020 [#30]

The Week’s Most Notable:

The Current Assault on the Rule of Law could also be called an authoritarian transmogrification of the Department of Justice inspired by the wishes of President Trump as executed and adumbrated by the high priest of the Imperial presidency, Attorney General William Barr. We’ve known for some time that Trump wanted an Attorney General to be his fixer, his Roy Cohn. Barr has done better than that; he has spent much of his time devising ways to alter the nonpartisan mission of the DOJ to serve a political master. We’ve hazily known about some of his efforts, but this week provided clear information about multiple specific instances – interference in the Stone sentencing, insertion into cases in the Southern District of New York, investigations into Hunter Biden and the origin of the Mueller probe, a special prosecutor for the Michael Flynn case. These are indicative of an orchestrated widespread politicization. In short, an effort to turn a portion of the Department of Justice into a law firm serving the needs of an imperial president. In this scheme, the president is not only above the law but can bend the law to his purposes, such as helping his friends and punishing his enemies – the classic authoritarian profile. We know more about this now because Trump is in a vindictive mood and has used his tweets to highlight his repurposing of the DOJ.

Saturday, February 8

[William Barr’s DOJ] DOJ Has “intake process” for Giuliani Information About Bidens – While Barr maintained the “intake” was intended to vet Giuliani’s information, it also revealed the pattern of internally connecting not only Giuliani’s but all sources of information that could be useful in cases involving President Trump.

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IUY – Weekly Journal – #29 February 1 – 7, 2020

The Week of Saturday, February 1 through Friday, February 7, 2020 [#29]

The Week’s Most Notable:

It was a bad week for Demos – Democrats, democracy, and in Greek, the people. From the Iowa debacle, to the Trump acquittal, and by week’ s end the beginning of Trump’ s revenge, we saw a dispiriting panoply of political failure. As is often the case these days, some of the details were a surprise; but most of what happened was of a piece and anticipated. It turns out, failure of the vote tally software in Iowa didn’t surprise some people, but the failure of the organizers to plan effective backup looked and was very bad. Democracy was poorly served. Wednesday’ s pusillanimous GOP vote in the Senate to acquit Trump was long expected but then Mitt Romney’s stunning cri de courage was an unexpectedly significant detail because it robbed the Trump narrative of a claim to purity. Yet, as expected, Trump immediately launched his exoneration crusade, claiming complete innocence while at the same time beginning to crush his perceived enemies with further abuses of his power.

In any case, the principal impeachment saga is over. Elements of it will be carried forward: The House will continue investigating, Democratic campaigning must never let Republicans off the hook for what they have done, and Trump will continue to generate impeachment-worthy offenses. The final test is, as it arguably always has been, the general election.

Saturday, February 1

[Middle East] Arab Foreign Ministers Reject Trump Peace Plan – Basically, no Palestine participation, no peace plan. As expected, the Trump/Kushner plan is DOA except for domestic Israeli and U.S. politics.

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