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.
Sunday, March 1
[Coronavirus] Trump Announces Tighter Screening – Departures and arrivals of passengers from designated “high risk countries” will be subjected to intensified screening for the coronavirus, although so far none of the ports of entry (air or sea) have been provided with coronavirus testing kits.
[Immigration] Judge Rules Cuccinelli Appointment Invalid – As acting U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services Director, the immigration hardliner Cuccinelli’s appointment violated the Federal Vacancies Reform Act. The ruling automatically suspended policies and directives from Cuccinelli. For his part, Cuccinelli announced he would defy the court ruling.
[Syria] Turkey Escalates Retaliation Against Syrian Attacks – The semi-official war continues to take lives at or near the northwestern Turkish/Syrian border. The war is generating tens of thousands of Syrian refugees flooding into Turkey and presumably heading for the EU (with Turkey’s help).
Monday, March 2
[Stock Markets] U.S. Stock Markets Rebound – In a week anticipated to be highly volatile for the stock markets, the opening day ended with both the Dow (5.1%) and NASDAQ (4.6%) up record amounts.
[Election 2020] Buttigieg and Klobuchar Drop Out, Endorse Biden – At a well-timed rally in Dallas, Klobuchar, Buttigieg, and Beto O’Rourke sang Biden’s praises and gave him a good liftoff for Tuesday’s Texas primary.
Tuesday, March 3
[Election 2020] Super Tuesday Turned into a Tsunami for Biden – In a stunning reversal of trends, Biden dominated primaries in all but Vermont, Utah, Colorado, and California. It was also clear that if it hadn’t been for early voting in some states (especially California and Colorado) people who voted on Tuesday favored Biden by a wide margin. His victory in Texas was unexpected and considered potentially significant for the general election.
[Federal Reserve] Fed Cutting Interest Rates ½% – In a move intended to bolster the economy against the economic effects of the worldwide coronavirus epidemic, it was widely interpreted as an emergency act, the first such since the 2008 financial crisis.
[Tennessee Tornado] Nashville Tornado Kills 25 or More – Spread across four counties, more than 140 buildings were destroyed and more than 120 people are still missing.
Wednesday, March 4
[Election 2020] Bloomberg Drops Out and Endorses Biden – More importantly, as promised he committed some of his vast resources to Biden’s campaign.
[Coronavirus] Fed Survey Shows Businesses Already Hit by Coronavirus – Sudden drops in tourism, airline bookings, manufacturing output, and business meetings confirm that coronavirus mitigation and public apprehension are beginning to affect the economy.
Thursday, March 5
[Election 2020] Elizabeth Warren Drops Out – Tulsi Gabbard is the last woman candidate standing, and she is all but forgotten. Among the many bland encomiums for Warren’s campaign, there is bitterness, particularly from women, about her treatment by the media. According to a new DNC ruling, only two old white men will appear in the next Democratic debate.
[Coronavirus] House and Senate Pass $8.3 Billion Coronavirus Spending Bill – Trump had requested $2.5 billion, which Congress considered woefully inadequate. He is expected to sign the bill.
[U.S. Senator, Montana] Governor Bullock to Run for U.S. Senate – After a couple of years saying noway was he going to run for U.S. Senate, Bullock changed his mind. Three things: Obama called him; Chuck Schumer visited him; and it looks like Joe Biden will be the nominee and has a good chance to win – with coattails. Bullock would be potentially the fifth seat to flip, giving the Democrats control of the Senate. That makes his contest with Daines one of the most important in the country.
[Mueller Report] Federal Judge to Review AG Barr’s Redactions of Mueller Report – In a blast from the past, the judge wrote “The court cannot reconcile certain public representations made by Attorney General Barr with the findings of the Mueller report. These circumstances generally, and Attorney General Barr’s lack of candor specifically, call into question Attorney General Barr’s credibility.” In short, Barr slanted his summary to help Trump. Unfortunately, it worked. However, this judge may reveal just how and exactly what was done.
Friday, March 6
[Coronavirus] The U.S. Started the Week with One Coronavirus Death – The week ended with 19 recorded deaths and more than 400 cases. So far 29 states are affected, with states of emergency having been declared in Washington, California, and New York. The influential Austin SXSW festival has been canceled, a harbinger for other major public events. Off San Francisco Bay a cruise ship with 3,500 passengers became the scene of a coronavirus testing emergency, highlighting the precarious situation of U.S. epidemic management. The Trump administration promised more than a million coronavirus testing kits by the end of the week and has apparently delivered about 75,000 of them. White House economic advisor Larry Kudlow said the coronavirus is “relatively contained” and Americans “should stay at work.” Trump has a “hunch” the WHO-determined fatality rate is too high. Media and health professionals have widely noted the seriously harmful administration doublespeak.
[Stock Markets] U.S. Markets Close Down in Roller Coaster Week – In the yo-yo between bad coronavirus news and mildly encouraging political news (Biden), stock markets closed the week down around 2%.
[White House] Trump Replaces Mulvaney with Meadows – Rep. Mark Meadows (who previously announced he would retire at the end of his term) becomes the fourth Trump White House Chief of Staff. Mulvaney moves on (and out) as special envoy to Northern Ireland. Meadows, a founder of the ultra-right-wing “freedom caucus” in the House and Trump loyalist, is expected to have more campaign duties than White House functions.
[Afghanistan War] U.S./Taliban “Deal” to End War is Shaky – On Monday the U.S. signed an agreement with the Taliban whereby the U.S. will pull out troops in 14 months and the Taliban agreed to sever ties with Al Qaeda. The Afghani government was not involved in the negotiations and immediately objected to some of the terms. Moreover, on Friday the U.S. conducted an airstrike on Taliban forces and U.S. intelligence officials reported that the Taliban have no intention of honoring their part of the deal. Call the deal a fig leaf for removing U.S. troops, come what may.
From Saturday to Tuesday, four days, the Democratic Party experienced a what should not have been a stunning reminder – black voters matter to Democrats. On Friday all the polls said Bernie Sanders was the nationwide leader. On Saturday the black Democrats of South Carolina voted in a landslide that said, “Biden’s the one.” By Monday Steyer, Buttigieg, and Klobuchar collapsed to Biden. On Tuesday millions of Democrats unexpectedly voted for Biden; he won 10 out of 14 states, in some of which he had not campaigned. Before the week was over Bloomberg was out. and then Warren also bowed out, to the dismay of women everywhere. How did all this happen so fast? In those four days Biden didn’t do anything. The media didn’t do anything. Pundits and polls failed. But the word got out, Biden’s the one. Nationwide.
The speed of this huge movement in public opinion was breathtaking. It meant Democratic voters were paying attention all along; they were ready to be triggered. All it took was the South Carolina message, almost subliminal, “Biden’s the one” and millions of voters felt this was right and knew what to do on Tuesday. No propaganda necessary. No media discussion necessary. It seems that intuitively Democrats got it: Biden is an imperfect candidate but after two years of campaigning he’s still the most likely to beat Trump. For Democratic voters that appears to be priority-one in this election.
Expect to see a lot of Biden jokes in the next nine months, and many of them will not be funny. Trump and the GOP will spend heavily to blacken Biden’s reputation, including a painfully obvious politically motivated Senate committee (re)investigation of Barisma stuff. Biden himself will inevitably contribute a gaffe or two, or more. Democrats will keep their fingers crossed all the way to November.
Bernie hasn’t finished; he might stay in the fight up to the convention because the progressive perspective still needs championing. However, if Bernie takes a drubbing in next Tuesday’s primaries, especially in Michigan, that may force a reappraisal.
[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
[Asserting that If Biden wins the presidency his staff would actually do the governing]: “They’re going to put him into a home, and other people are going to be running the country, and they’re going to be super-left, radical crazies. And Joe’s going to be in a home and he’ll be watching television.”
Trump, at a campaign rally, 3/2/2020