Indivisible Upper Yellowstone – Weekly Journal
The Week of Saturday, May 16 through Friday, May 22, 2020 [#44]
“Identified by Masks”
The Week’s Most Notable
Some people call them the battlefront of the culture wars. Others call them “PPE as fashion statement.” Trump seems to conflate them with a lack of masculinity. Some simply call them “a mask.” Doctors and nurses shake their heads and wonder how wearing a medical mask became a political issue. Thanks largely to Trump, masks are now emblematic; people have been assaulted for wearing them. In some parts of the country not wearing a mask is considered noble resistance. They are emblematic of a second great failure to deal with COVID-19. The first failure was to not start mitigation efforts (social distancing, etc.) as soon as possible. The second failure is happening now – too many states are reopening their economy without a workable plan. Among other things, too many people are unclear about what to do. For example, should they wear masks? Some states require them. Other states don’t even mention them. Most states recommend them for certain circumstances. Meanwhile, learning from experience, epidemiological experts say masks are important for this virus, which transmits primarily through the air as droplets from breathing, talking, coughing, singing, and so forth.
Saturday, May 16
[Coronavirus] U.S. Coronavirus Totals: Cases – 1,347,000; Deaths – 89,370
[Election 2020] Obama’s Televised Nationwide Commencement Speech – Presidents always do commencement speeches; they don’t often use the speeches to launch a critique of current administrations. Trump’s escalating attacks (“Obamagate”) seem to have crossed a line for Obama, provoking him to say, “Doing what feels good, what’s convenient, what’s easy – that’s how little kids think. Unfortunately, a lot of so-called grown-ups, including some with fancy titles and important jobs, still think that way – which is why things are so screwed up.” Obama will not be on the sidelines during this campaign season.
Sunday, May 17
[Coronavirus] Fed Chair Says Economic Recovery May Take 18 Months – In a CBS 60 Minutes interview, Chairman Powell reiterated that recovery from the pandemic-induced economic collapse will be slow – a massive long-term effort. He also noted an important qualifier: “assuming that there is not a second wave of the coronavirus.”
Monday, May 18
[Coronavirus] Trump Taking Hydroxychloroquine – In a surprise revelation, Trump admitted to taking the FDA disapproved drug for two weeks, repeating his mantra “What have you got to lose?” To which Fox News anchor Neil Cavuto yelled, “It will kill you!” Four days later, a major UK global study of 100,000 people reiterated what other studies have found – hydroxychloroquine has no effect on COVID-19 and carries a serious risk of cardiac side effects, including death.
[Elections 2020] House to Investigate State Department IG Firing – The controversy surrounding Secretary of State Pompeo continues to escalate. It was first said the firing of the IG was because of irregularities in using department staff for Pompeo’s personal errands. Now it appears the IG was also investigating U.S. military sales to Saudi Arabia with the State Department acting as intermediary. As the fourth recently fired IG, and the direct connection to Pompeo, this has assumed top priority for Democrats. Unfortunately, in the current environment there may not be enough media focus to put major pressure on Pompeo unlike, for example, the pressure that removed Scott Pruitt from the EPA.
Tuesday, May 19
[Coronavirus] Navajos Have Highest COVID-19 Rate – Overtaking the state of New York (1, 806 cases per 100,000), the Navajo Nation has 4,002 COVID-19 cases per 100,000 people. Arizona, the primary home of the Navajos, does not include their COVID-19 statistics because “they are a sovereign nation.”
[Justice] Barr Sloshes Cold Water on Biden, Obama Investigation – Just when Trump appeared to be cranking up the GOP for a rousing Biden-Obama attack, his own Roy Cohn, AG Barr, piped up with “[There are] Increasing attempts to use the criminal justice system as a political weapon. . . .The legal tactic has been to gin up allegations of criminality by one’s political opponents based on the flimsiest of legal theories. This is not a good development. . .. As to President Obama and Vice President Biden, whatever their level of involvement, based on information I have today, I don’t expect Mr. Durham’s work will lead to a criminal investigation of either man. . . .” Which AG Barr will pipe up next?
Wednesday, May 20
[Coronavirus] All 50 States on Path to Reopen – Bowing to the obvious, governors in all states recognize that the public cannot be kept at home indefinitely. Unfortunately, there are 50 states mostly on their own trying to figure out how best to navigate reopening (going back to work) without stoking the ongoing COVID-19 crisis. Problem is, almost none of the states are ready, according to the CDC guidelines to reopen.
[Dam Failures] Michigan Dams Fail – Following heavy rains, two dams in central Michigan breached and flooded Midland, a city of 40,000, under nine feet of water. More than 10,000 people have been evacuated, compounding the ongoing difficulty of dealing with COVID-19. Other dams in Michigan are said to be in similar condition, which the governor blames on faulty infrastructure maintenance; she has threatened legal action.
[Coronavirus] An Inconvenient Study – According to models developed by Columbia University, if the coronavirus lockdowns had begun one week earlier, 36,000 fewer people would have died. If begun two weeks earlier (March 1), nearly 53,000 people would not have died. Trump: “Columbia is an institution that’s very liberal. I think it’s just a political hit job, you want to know the truth.”
[Election 2020] Trump Threatens Funding for Michigan, Nevada Over Mail-in Voting – With little regard for the facts, Trump attacked Michigan for mailing absentee ballots (they mailed applications for absentee ballots, perfectly legal). He made a similar threat to Nevada, which like 17 other states has gone to an all-mail ballot for 2020. In any case, Trump has no authority to cut funding for any such purposes. What this is, of course, is a nakedly authoritarian appeal to quash voting by mail, which Trump has already said “will be the end of the Republican Party.” It’s also part of coordinated efforts to make the Postal Service dysfunctional, discredit voting by mail, and be in position to claim voting fraud if he loses the election. (Oh, the irony! Trump votes by mail.)
[Supreme Court] Supreme Court Punts Disclosure of Trump Financials – By granting the DOJ more time to pursue its case, the court effectively put off serious consideration until after the November election. There was no dissent.
Thursday, May 21
[Coronavirus] Unemployment Insurance Claims Up By 2.4 Million – Total reaches 38.6 million, well on the way to 40 million by June 1. Simultaneously, GOP calls for rolling back enhanced unemployment insurance.
[Hong Kong] China Cracks Down on Hong Kong – Using the coronavirus crisis as a cover, the Beijing government is imposing a new national security law on Hong Kong that effectively ends its independence, undoing the “one country, two systems” agreement from when the British relinquished control. The chaos to come will be a terrible mix of rioting by the people of Hong Kong trying to save their dying democracy; by the Chinese military to assert control; by the fear of losing one of the great world economic centers by leaders around the world – especially Trump – whose policies hamstring their efforts to respond effectively. The Chinese will get their control, but Hong Kong will be a canker on their body politic for a long, long time.
Friday, May 22
[Coronavirus] U.S. Coronavirus Totals: Cases – 1,645,000; Deaths – 97,600 – The United States is on track to reach 100,000 deaths by late Sunday or early Monday. During the week, the COVID-19 pandemic will become second only to the great Spanish Flu pandemic of 1918 as the worst in American history.
[Coronavirus] Maskless Trump Visits Michigan Ford Plant – He claims he did wear a mask some of the time and that there are pictures, but when it counted for all America to see – to set the example – no mask.
[Government] Senate Confirms John Ratcliffe as National Intelligence Director – In a party line vote of an extremely controversial candidate, the Republican Senate approved the most partisan and least qualified person ever to hold command of all the nation’s intelligence agencies. His job – Trump apparatchik.
[Coronavirus] Trump Declares Churches “Essential” and Demands They Open Immediately – In a transparent appeal to his fundamentalist base, he not only called for all churches to open, but that he would also “override the governors” in states where churches are still closed. Two points: Trump does not have the authority to override governors and churches are notorious for generating COVID-19 outbreaks.
[Coronavirus – Economy] Hertz Files for Bankruptcy – After accruing $24 billion in debt and laying off 14,000 workers. This is only the beginning.
[Election 2020] Biden Makes Racial Gaffe – “If you have a problem figuring out whether you’re for me or Trump, then you ain’t black.” Arguably, this falls under the category of a “tut-tut distraction” that is not likely to have legs. Plenty more of these to come from both candidates.
Coronavirus Crisis Notes
While the U.S. continues to lead the world in everything bad about the COVID-19 crisis, it’s worth noting that the next three worst – Brazil, Russia, and Great Britain – are all led by right-wing populist governments. The running thread is a denial of either the reality or the scope of the COVID-19 crisis, leading to catastrophic inaction. As the southern hemisphere enters its wintertime, it’s expected that cases in Africa and especially South America – led by Brazil – will explode.
In the northern China provinces of Jilin and Heilongjiang, scientists are tracking what may be a new strain of the COVID-19 coronavirus. While the common COVID-19 virus is infamous for having a long latency, the time between infection and appearance of symptoms, this strain appears to also have a long residual of active virus after symptoms have ended. This strain, if it is a new mutation, appears to focus on the lungs more than COVID-19. The Chinese have been open about the limited outbreak and very quick to jump on its quarantine/lockdown. Keep eyes on it, this possible COVID-20.
We haven’t seen the COVID-19 economy yet. There are signs, of course: The lines are beginning to form at public food sources. Although loss of income from unemployment has been buffered by unemployment insurance and drawing down personal savings, the sheer number of people out of work is unmistakable. Between sudden drop in demand, layoffs, and quarantine many if not most producers are cutting back on their production – leading to spot and sometimes permanent shortages in stores. As more and more small producers fold, we can expect to see some luxury and niche products become scarce or disappear altogether. The “list price” (MSRP) is making a comeback, gone or going are the days when price tags routinely had a list price and an actual price. Big-time sales are few and far between, as retailers wait for the economic situation to stabilize. Will the economy stabilize? Probably not until we’ve adjusted to a pattern of outbreaks of the COVID-19 virus. In other words, 1 to 2 years depending on the hopeful development of treatment or vaccine.
What’s that sound, like popcorn popping all over the place? Why that’s Republican heads exploding. Michele Obama. A woman! A black!! An Obama!!! Running for Vice President! You read it here first (possibly). The most popular woman in the U.S. and possibly the world; whose stature (literal, figurative, and moral) o’ershadows the pygmy in highest office; who is the triumphal author on world tour of Becoming – and a just released documentary; who, along with her well-known husband, operate a high-profile Netflix production company; with a new ’committee to draft her as VP nominee’; with multiple ’speculative articles” (placed by $) in the media since the end of April; and who just signed on as co-chair of the non-partisan When We All Vote (whenweallvote.com – her first foray into 2020 politics). Of course, she continually denies aspiration to public office. (Why draw more right-wing demonizing?) But, to paraphrase from an episode of The West Wing, “The future president has asked you to serve . . . and everything else is crap.” Think about it – what constituencies would she ignite?
Quotes of the Week
“What we are seeing is whether this tribalism can be sustained even when it costs tens of thousands of lives, even when it means exposing yourself to a deadly virus, even when it is literally more important than your own life. We are entering the Jonestown phase of the Trump cult this summer. It is not going to be pretty.”
Andrew Sullivan, NYMag.com, 5/22/2020
“We’re going after Virginia with your crazy governor. . .. They want to take your Second Amendment away. You know that right? You’ll have nobody guarding your potatoes.”
President Trump, to Virginia farmers at the White House, 5/19/2
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