The Week of Saturday, January 18 through Friday, January 24, 2020 [#27]
The Week’s Most Notable:
Few things exemplify the “two-worlds” nature of American political tribalism better than the impeachment trial in the Senate. Not only do Democrats and Republicans tell stories with opposite premises and conclusions, which is not uncommon legal posturing for the media, but they appear to be working from two different sets of facts. The Democrats have drawn most of their facts from the House hearings’ documents and witness testimony, and accredited media reporting. Most of the Republican facts consist of denying the Democrats’ facts without specifying evidence to back their denials. Put another way, the Democrats appear to be building a case for history; the Republicans are building a case for Fox News.
Saturday, January 18
[Election 2020] Candidates Spar – As the Iowa caucuses draw nigh, the days are predictably spiked with various candidates attacking other candidates. The apparent rift between Sanders and Warren may or may not be personal but, in any case, seems to be a deliberate move to differentiate their candidacies. The spat between Biden and Sanders over what Biden claims is a doctored video on the subject of Social Security is typical misleading innuendo. And then there is Hillary attacking Bernie…
[Women’s March] Smaller Crowds Marked This Year’s Women’s March – Fewer than 10,000 marchers in Washington DC, compared to about half a million in 2017, was indicative. This can be interpreted in many ways, few of them encouraging.
Sunday, January 19
[Puerto Rico] Governor Fires Officials Over Disaster Supplies – Lurching from hurricane Maria to the latest round of earthquakes, emergency services in Puerto Rico again have problems. In this case an angry crowd broke into a warehouse of disaster supplies from Maria, because local officials refused to distribute the material to help with earthquake recovery. Like most things dealing with Puerto Rico and disasters, this story is complicated – federal, territorial, and local dysfunction all play a role.
[Election 2020] The New York Times Endorses Warren and Klobuchar – While the importance of print media endorsements is often questioned, this one did raise eyebrows. Presidential endorsements, when they have any effect, are usually beneficial; this dual endorsement may have just been confusing.
Monday, January 20
[Impeachment Trial] McConnell Lays Down His Rules – As predicted, the Senate majority leader proposed a set of trial rules that deliberately compress the process, such as giving opening arguments in 24 hours over two days (later changed to three). A number of the rules are designed to limit or prevent witness testimony and introduction of documents. Although Democrats will vociferously complain, most of these rules will pass the Senate on Wednesday.
[Impeachment Trial] White House Lawyers File Defense Brief – In essence, the brief outlines an absolutist defense that the entire impeachment process is unconstitutional and illegitimate, particularly since President Trump did nothing illegal. In fact, the brief states that Trump “has been the victim of an illegitimate partisan effort to take him down” and that the impeachment charges against him should be dismissed.
[Virginia Gun Rally] Over 20,000 Gun Rights Activists Demonstrate in Richmond – “Defiant but peaceful” characterized the anti-gun laws rally. It should be remindful that these people not only carry guns but vote.
[Coronavirus] China Confirms Virus is Human Transmittable – Over the weekend, the new coronavirus began to spread from its origins in Wuhan province. By the end of the week thousands of new cases, 41 deaths, and a world-wide spread threatened a pandemic panic. China has quarantined over 35 million people. Health authorities, the WHO in particular, have tried to dial back the concern; however, most people are keeping a careful eye on the outbreak.
Tuesday, January 21
[Impeachment Trial] First Working Day of the Impeachment Trial – Rules arguments dominated the day, with senators going at it hither, thither, and yawn.
[Climate Emergency] Thunberg Confronts Davos Attendees – It wasn’t her message, the ongoing climate emergency, but the audience – some of the world’s most powerful and wealthy individuals, that highlighted her effectiveness. Steven Mnuchin, US Treasury Secretary commented, “It’s a joke. After she goes and studies economics in college she can come back and explain that to us.” It was classic attack on the messenger not the message; nonetheless, many economists think it’s Mnuchin who got it wrong.
[Supreme Court] At the Supreme Court – The court declined to fast-track a decision on Obamacare, which will now be taken seriously sometime after the 2020 elections. That takes the sting out of the Democrats’ arguments about Republicans destroying the Affordable Care Act. The court also ruled that the Flint, Michigan water-crisis lawsuit can go forward.
Wednesday, January 22
[Impeachment Trial] Senate (Republicans) Approve McConnell’s Rules – In the process, they voted down numerous Democratic amendments to allow witnesses and documents. In actuality, the more binding vote(s) will occur after the opening arguments, probably Wed. or Thurs. of next week. Democrats will again call for specific witnesses and documents, which the Senate must approve by majority vote, or not. That will be an historic day of reckoning.
[Phone Privacy] MBS Hacks JB’s Phone? – This kerfuffle between two of the world’s most wealthy men, Mohammed bin Salman and Jeff Bezos may seem bizarre, but given that MBS is a staunch Trump ally and Bezos most definitely is not, there are significant political ringtones to hacking phone data.
[Impeachment Trial] First Day of House Prosecutors Opening Arguments – The first day was mostly about presenting the arguments for Article 1, Abuse of Power. Democrats attempted to strike a dignified tone with appeals to the Constitution, and were probably cognizant of Chief Justice Roberts’ rebuke of partisan rhetoric. Trump, tweeting from Davos, called Schiff and Nadler “major sleazebags.”
Thursday, January 23
[Impeachment Trial] Second Day of House Prosecutors Opening Arguments – The prime-time crux of the day was a rather detailed timeline of the president’s abuse of power, starting with Rudy Giuliani’s Ukraine exploits in April 2019, through the fateful July 25 Trump/Zelensky phone call, to Giuliani’s exploits in December. Schiff closed the session with an eloquent heartfelt peroration.
[Environment] Trump Removes Clean Water Regulations – Regulations that protect about 60% of US waterways and wetlands will be emasculated to allow energy companies and land developers to dump pollutants during construction projects.
Friday, January 24
[Impeachment Trial] Final Day of House Prosecutors Opening Arguments – This day was largely devoted to the Second Impeachment Article: Obstruction of Congress. As they had throughout the arguments, House prosecutors demanded documents and witnesses and attacked the use of executive privilege to hide wrongdoing or impeachable misconduct.
[Human Rights] Trump Marches for Life; Soprano Actress Accuses Weinstein of Rape – Trump becomes the first president to publicly demonstrate for ending Roe v. Wade. Annabella Sciorra, backed by fellow actress Rosie Perez, provided striking evidence of Weinstein’s pattern of abuse.
Witnesses and documents: will they, or won’t they? “They” being the handful of Republicans; four are needed to join with the Democrats and approve subpoenas by majority vote. McConnell and Trump are counting on them to stay seated. Nancy Pelosi, having given up the advantage in withholding the articles of impeachment, apparently believes they will stand up. Notably, Senators Murkowski and Collins were shocked, shocked by Rep. Schiff’s “head on a pike” comment (which was a quote from a White House source) and threatened to forgo their potential yes votes on witnesses and documents – a set up?
Did the prosecutors’ arguments move anyone? If they listened, and this goes for the public as well as for senators, maybe, just a teensy bit, subliminally. It’s all too easy to be cynical about this. After all, under the McConnell rules it was likely the presentation of arguments would need to be exhaustive and exhausting. Not many people had the free hours to listen. Without dramatic witness testimony or bombshell new documentation, it’s unlikely that the Democrats can command attention and change opinion. Meanwhile the Republicans push the “snoozer” meme (nothing to see here folks; take a nap).
[The IUY Weekly Journal assumes readers are passingly familiar with names and events. For more details, check with internet search (Google it).]
Quote of the Week
[I] saved America’s black colleges.
Pres. Trump, speaking at the Davos World Economic Forum Annual Meeting, Jan. 21, 2020.