Indivisible Upper Yellowstone – Weekly Journal
The Week of Saturday, May 23 through Friday, May 29, 2020 [#45]
“100,000 + George Floyd”
The Week’s Most Notable
And now there are three U.S. crises: COVID-19, the economy, racism/violence. These three crises have in some way touched everybody. This doesn’t happen very often; usually some group, region, or class escapes – but not this time. This was a week when the three crises found unusually stark representation: The milestone 100,000 dead by COVID-19, 40 million unemployed (about 25% of the workforce), and the video-recorded death of George Floyd at the hands of the police in Minneapolis, which touched off protest/rebellion/riot/violence in cities across the country. It is not realistic to be optimistic about this summer. While everybody wants the return of some kind of normality – less threat from COVID-19, going back to work, relaxed shopping, enjoying entertainment in crowds, not worrying about racism and inequality – none of these are realistic. In fact, to fill out the negative picture, add: A record hot summer, severe forest fires, a very active hurricane season, food and unemployment riots, and probably things as yet unconsidered.
Nevertheless, we persist. One step at a time, we do what we can, and any other cliché that helps. There is a focus – work to keep ourselves and the country together so we can vote five months from now.
Saturday, May 23
[Coronavirus] U.S. Coronavirus Totals: Cases – 1,666,823; Deaths – 98,678
[Election 2020] Biden Wins Hawaii Primary – Biden 63%, Sanders 37%. The balloting was entirely by mail.
Sunday, May 24
[Coronavirus] California GOP Sues State over Mail-in Voting – Republican National Committee Chair Ronna McDaniel called the order to expand mail-in voting “illegal,” “radical,” and a “recipe for disaster that would create more opportunities for fraud.” She herself has voted by mail in 11 of the last 14 elections. No evidence and no court rulings support the supposed danger of voting by mail. In other words, this and other GOP – especially the president’s – anti-voting by mail efforts are actually aimed at voter suppression.
[Israel] Netanyahu Goes on Trial – Under indictment on bribery, fraud, and breach of trust charges, Netanyahu becomes the first sitting Israeli Prime Minister to face criminal court. Publicly he is claiming the charges are “ludicrous.” He is currently serving his term in an 18-month power-sharing deal with his opponent Benny Gantz.
[Britain – Coronavirus] Johnson Defends Chief Advisor – Dominic Cummings, architect of Britain’s “Brexit” plan, flaunted British quarantine law to drive his wife (COVID-19 positive) and his son to his parents, 246 miles away. They also did some sightseeing, again contrary to the COVID-19 quarantine. The result has been an uproar from the British public and even the conservative media. Nevertheless, the Prime Minister refuses to fire his right-hand man. This flagrant “laws are for thee but not for me” will become a battle cry for the Labour Party.
Monday, May 25
[Police Racism] George Floyd Killed by Police in Minneapolis – Stopped for allegedly passing a forged $20 bill, witness videos recorded the minutes between police interdiction and Floyd’s death with a police officer’s knee on his neck. “I can’t breathe,” reappears as the refrain for this kind of occurrence. Because of the video documentation the incident is exceptionally incendiary. [Update: By the end of the week, this latest incidence of an African-American killed by police triggered the racial tinderbox that is America in the coronavirus pandemic-depression. Protests, and violence, occurred in cities all over the country.]
[Coronavirus] Memorial Day Ceremonies: Biden and McConnell Wear Masks, Trump of course not – For many if not most Americans, wearing a mask is a sometime thing, at best.
[Coronavirus] Trump Suspends Travel from Brazil – Brazil has taken over the “second worst record” (far behind the U.S.) in the impact of COVID-19. President Jair Bolsonaro still denies it is a serious problem.
[Coronavirus] WHO Halts Hydroxychloroquine Testing – Because, death. More precisely expressed: Trump’s favorite drug had a higher death rate among patients treated with it. The testing is now under review.
[Elections 2020] Trump Threatens to Move GOP Convention – He wants a full and live convention, 50,000 closely packed people screaming and yelling in the Charlotte, North Carolina arena. The state’s governor does not want to guarantee that kind of gathering, even by the end of August. Trump disagrees; to him, such risk is minimal.
Tuesday, May 26
[Police Racism] All Four Officers Involved in George Floyd Death Fired – The decision by the Minneapolis Police Department was quick and summary; but by then crowds in the thousands were already gathering in the street where the death occurred, at City Hall, and at the precinct police station.
[Social Media] Twitter Fact-checks Trump Tweets – For the first time Twitter put fact-check labels on tweets by President Trump. The trigger was tweets suggesting that mail-in ballots were fraudulent – not the tweets implying that Joe Scarborough murdered his secretary. Earlier, Twitter had received a letter from the widower begging it to delete the tweets, “[H]e has taken . . . the memory of my dead wife and perverted it for perceived political gain.” Trump immediately squealed, “stifling FREE SPEECH.” So began the running war of words, and an executive order, quickly issued by Trump as both a distraction and a divisive issue.
[Economy] U.S. Stock Market Surges – Provoking questions such as, “Bullish? Are they crazy?” Apparently, the stock exchanges believe in a short-run recession (“V-shaped”). The surge also highlights that the stock market is not the economy. Actually, the stock market is all about money – finance – and so far, the crises in progress haven’t taken down the financial markets, thanks in large part to $4.7 trillion pumped into the U.S. financial pool by the Fed. Check back in about six months.
[Corruption] DOJ Drops Investigation of Three Senators’ Insider Trading – It seems the DOJ bought the arguments from Sens. Feinstein, Loeffler, and Inhofe that “the advisor did it without my knowledge.” (How did the advisors know when to trade? And how did Loeffler not know about $8 million in trades in her name?)
Wednesday, May 27
[Coronavirus] U.S. COVID-19 Death Toll Reaches 100,000 – This milestone has become an enduring focal point. The number of deaths, along with 1.7 million cases, is the worst record in the world.
[U.S. Weather] Tropical Storm Bertha Soaks Carolinas – The first tropical storm of the year brought as much as 8 inches of rain to the Florida and Carolina coasts. The storm is early, moisture laden, and causing widespread flooding.
[Space Launch] SpaceX Astronaut Launch Delayed, Trump Goes Home – Sometimes great moments just don’t happen. Trump was planning on a triumphal TV event, but the nonpartisan weather didn’t cooperate. [Update: The launch was successful on Saturday.]
Thursday, May 28
[Racism – Violence] Minneapolis Police Station Set on Fire – Dramatic video turns the fire into an iconic statement. The killing of George Floyd, under the knee of a police officer, has ignited protests and violence in most American cities and internationally. When chided about civil rights violations in Hong Kong, the Chinese representative replied, “What about Minneapolis?” During the week, seven people protesting the police-instigated death of Breonna Taylor in Kentucky were injured by gunfire. The House Judiciary Committee, citing both the Kentucky and Minneapolis incidents, will investigate killings of African-Americans by police.
[Economy] Labor Department Reports 2.1 Million Applications for Unemployment Insurance – The weekly report also showed a drop of nearly 4 million in those receiving benefits. The net (42 million – 4 million + 2.1 million) remains about 40 million officially unemployed. Business is rehiring, but the loss of consumer spending continues to force layoffs.
[First Amendment] Trump Signs Executive Order against Social Media – Goaded by Twitter’s censure of his tweets, the executive order seeks to unleash the DOJ against social media giants such as Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube. Mainly a distraction, fallout from this, if any, goes straight to court.
Friday, May 29
[Coronavirus] U.S. Coronavirus Totals: Cases – 1,756,070; Deaths – 103,154
[Racial Violence] Former Police Officer Arrested in George Floyd Death – Ex-Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin was charged with third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter. The pressure for arrest was extreme, as much of the protest and violence of the preceding three days was said to be due to the lack of this action. The other three officers involved have yet to be charged. Unabated, protest and violence continued into the weekend, spreading nationwide and forcing at least six states to call out the National Guard.
[Coronavirus] Merkel Declines Trump G7 Invitation – As the leader of the free world, German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s decision is expected to hold for most of the other members. Given the lack of preparation for the June conference, many felt this G7 was being rushed as staging for Trump’s reelection campaign.
[Coronavirus] Trump Signals U.S. Termination of Relationship with WHO – Since the WHO still plays a vital role in fighting the COVID-19 pandemic, the disappearance of U.S. leadership and participation means Europe and the Chinese will take the role. Trump’s politically motivated move becomes another argument in favor of ignoring the United States on the international stage.
[Supreme Court] Supreme Court Rejects Challenge to California Limit on Church Attendance – Led by Chief Justice John Roberts, the 5-4 decision tilted in his view on, “The Constitution principally entrusts the safety and the health of people to the politically accountable officials of the states.”
[Economy] Notable (and Odd) Consumer Spending Report – Consumer spending dropped 13.6% in April, a record. (Predictable, and probably worse in May.) Personal savings rate hit 33%, another record. (This reflects consumer fears about the economy.) In the real shocker, personal income increased by 10.5%. (Consumers plowed their government relief money into savings, largely nullifying the stimulus intended.)
Coronavirus Crisis Notes
A few weeks ago, the U.S. started an ill-advised splurge of reopening the economy. This is happening state-by-state, locality by locality, usually with some staging by type of business, and not usually with a campaign to maintain mask-social distancing discipline. It is still too early to tell what this will do to COVID-19 infection rates. (There are some indications that the national rate of cases and mortality may no longer be declining. At current levels, about a thousand deaths a day, this remains disruptive.) By the end of June, the picture should be much clearer, and probably quite a bit more painful. Meanwhile, many other countries are doing their “reopening” thing, with mixed success. The UK, like the U.S., unequivocally ineligible to reopen safely, is plowing ahead without a plan. Japan, New Zealand, and Germany all have nuanced and medically sound plans, which seem to be working. If only the U.S. could learn from other countries but (1) Trump’s “America first” doesn’t leave room for contributions from elsewhere, and (2) the Trump administration is in no condition to process or implement any plan, foreign or domestic.
Too little too late? During the 2008 financial crisis, arm-twisting Congress – essentially the Republican part of Congress – was barely successful in wringing out an $800 million “bailout” package. It might’ve saved the economy, but the consensus now is that it was not enough to propel the economy, which led to a very slow recovery. It did create a mindset among conservative congresspeople – fork over just enough money to keep the economy alive (especially the big corporations) and let consumer demand recover on its own. Many of these same people are still in Congress, and are bringing this mindset to the current crisis. Hence, the reluctance to formulate bigger and more frequent “rescue packages.” “Wait on it,” are the watchwords. Apparently, Republicans still don’t understand, THIS IS THE BIG ONE. This is the crisis, actually combined crises, of a once-in-a-century kind. Mess this up, underfund repair and recovery, and the U.S. economy may never be the same.
The racism underlying COVID-19 deaths, mass unemployment, and police killing of African-Americans has finally become an overt political issue – part of election 2020. Racism has always been part of the Trump-GOP political campaign, sub rosa; how much will it now be forced into the open? Who will this motivate more to vote – white supremacists, or people of color? It depends, of course. How long will the protest/violence continue? Will voters understand that the pandemic, economic collapse, and racial conflict are intertwined? Lots of questions, no fully credible answers.
Quotes of the Week
A president’s impeachment, demonstrations over police killings, and even global pandemics all have precedents. But their confluence in such a short span of time — under this president, who consistently pushes the boundaries of historic norms associated with his office — has exacerbated the nation’s sense of unease.
The original sin of this country still stains our nation today. And sometimes we manage to overlook it. We just push forward with a thousand other tasks in our daily life. But it’s always there. And weeks like this, we see it plainly that we’re a country with an open wound.”
Joe Biden, Video Address to the Nation, 5/29/2020
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