Indivisible Upper Yellowstone – Weekly Journal
The Week of Saturday, June 13 through Friday, June 19, 2020 [#48]
The Week’s Most Notable
Juneteenth and Tulsa. Although the week was chockablock with portentous events – Supreme Court rulings, more COVID-19 deaths than U.S. casualties in World War I, violent action at the Koreas and India/China borders, police reform bills, Jon Bolton’s traitorous book, and the Friday night botched firing at SDNY – the ongoing leitmotif was the interplay of the commemoration of the final day of emancipation, “Juneteenth,” and the approaching Saturday Trump rally in Tulsa. It was often repeated that Tulsa was the site of the worst massacre of a black community in American history. Yet Trump chose Tulsa. He also originally chose June 19 for the date, Juneteenth. Because of the ongoing Black Lives Matter protests, Juneteenth took on greater significance than ever with many events planned for Tulsa. All week the media speculated about the confluence of all the current major issues with the confluence of BLM protesters and MAGA members. Bring together tens of thousands, stuff them into small spaces, make them steam and shout – would violence erupt? Maybe. Would COVID-19 do a super spread? Maybe.
[Update: In the actual event, Trump filled scarcely two thirds of the auditorium; the pictures were very remindful of the blank spaces in his inauguration crowd. There was some violence outside the hall, but very little. The vast deflation of the situation sounded like a big sigh of relief; mostly people went home. We’ll see what the coronavirus does in the next few weeks; by then we’ll also know what this monster cow-flop event did to the Trump campaign.]
Saturday, June 13
[Coronavirus] U.S. Coronavirus Totals: Cases – 2,142,852; Deaths – 117,527
[Coronavirus] Trump Addresses West Point Grads – The event had two notable features: Cadets had to be called in from all over the country, undergo quarantine, and be tested for COVID-19 so that Trump could have his speech. In terms of optics, Trump was recorded fumbling with a glass of water and having difficulty walking down a shallow ramp. [Update: A week later at his Tulsa rally, Trump was still explaining what happened – for ten minutes.]
[Racism – Protest] Rayshard Brooks Killing Accelerates BLM Protest – As new details emerged, such as the police kicking and standing on the dying Mr. Brooks, anger following this incident fed directly into the ongoing protests. The first fallout was the resignation of the Atlanta police chief. Later in the week both officers involved were arrested and charged with multiple crimes. The shooting officer was charged with murder.
Sunday, June 14
[Coronavirus] Beijing, China Renews Some Restrictions – A total of 79 new cases of COVID-19 were confirmed in Beijing, which prompted closing some schools, markets, and business areas. There was concern that this might be a new strain of the virus, which makes the occurrence worth watching.
[Racism – Protest] Thousands Gather in DC BLM Square for Faith-Based Protest – As an indicator of how different the protests have become, this one brought mostly African-American worshippers to a service/ceremony. The event coincided with a marked level of calm and persistence to the continuing nationwide protests.
Monday, June 15
[Supreme Court] Landmark LGBTQ Civil Rights Decision – In a stunning 6-3 decision, the court ruled that gay and transgender people are protected from workplace discrimination under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act. The key to the ruling, as spelled out in the majority opinion by Justice Neil Gorsuch: “an employer who fires someone for being gay or transgender fires that person for traits or actions it would not have questioned in members of a different sex. Sex plays a necessary and undisguisable role in the decision; exactly what Title VII forbids.” The ruling will have wide application. The decisive role of two conservative judges, Gorsuch and Chief Justice Roberts, has thoroughly gaslit the right-wing religious community.
[Coronavirus] New Projections: U.S. COVID-19 Death Toll around 200,000 by October – The model prepared by the University of Washington Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation takes into account the failing COVID-19 mitigation, especially in states that ignored warnings about reopening too early.
[Coronavirus] FDA Pulls Emergency Approval of Hydroxychloroquine – The drug heavily promoted by Pres. Trump is, according to the FDA, “unlikely to be effective in treating COVID-19.” The government is left with about 80 million probably useless doses it had purchased.
Tuesday, June 16
[Korea] North Korea Destroys Border Embassy – Bombing by air flattened the joint North/South Korea liaison office in a mostly symbolic end to any rapprochement. It also signals an ignominious end to any Trump peace effort.
[Racism – Policing] Trump Signs Largely Symbolic Executive Order on Policing – Designed to get the PR jump on Congress, Trump signed the order banning chokeholds (when the officer’s life is not in danger, a big loophole) and recommends following “guiding principles” without mandating anything and never mentioning systemic racism or police brutality.
[China-India] 20 Indian Soldiers Killed in Border Clash with China – As a reminder that the U.S. is not the only hot spot, this border friction may not escalate – but it could.
Wednesday, June 17
[Racism – Policing] Senate GOP Unfurls Police Reform Bill – Following a joint strategy with the White House, Republican senators introduced a bill to make “recommendations” and provide “incentives” rather than any actual laws concerning chokeholds and no-knock warrants – much less anything like a sweeping reformation of police procedures to prevent racism and police brutality. The idea was to provide the semblance of action in a situation where the Democrat’s bill, already developed by the House, was likely to get most of the attention.
[Trump Scandals] Bolton Book “Leaks” – Though technically unpublished, the publisher distributed thousands of copies to the media and others. All week Trump and the DOJ fulminated about Bolton’s political tattler, including filing a lawsuit against its release. By week’s end the presiding judge ruled “the horse was already out of the barn” and declined to prevent publication. In fact, major media already had published reviews, which declared the book mostly boring and badly written, but containing useful confirmation about Trump and his nefarious foreign activity – like entreating China to help his campaign. One quote was often repeated: “Obstruction of justice was a way of life.”
Thursday, June 18
[Economy] New Unemployment Insurance Claims: 1.5 million – This was higher than expected and, as one analyst put it, “It’s a sustained hemorrhaging of jobs unlike anything we’ve seen.” It was the 13th straight week with job losses above 1 million.
[Coronavirus] California Mandates Use of Face Masks – With the pending Trump Tulsa rally, where not wearing masks will be de rigueur, California is trying to combat its spiking case numbers by requiring the use of masks by everyone when in public. Ten other states have similar requirements, which leaves the other 39 with either nonexistent or voluntary mask provisions. A legacy of earlier confusion about masks combined with the Trump politicization of their use leaves health officials vocally distraught about the public’s lackadaisical attitude – and the lives it will cost.
[SCOTUS] DACA Decision Buys Time – In another surprise ruling Chief Justice John Roberts, writing the majority opinion, held that the Trump administration violated the law in ending DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals), thus preventing the threatened deportation of some 650,000 “Dreamers.” The terms of the ruling made it clear that the administration could clean up its act and resubmit a lawsuit with a “reasoned explanation.” However, in reality this could not be accomplished before the November election and is not likely to be pursued.
[Elections 2020] Polls Show Biden Widening Gap Over Trump – Even after the coronavirus crisis began, Trump’s poll numbers and fundraising continued very much as they had for the past several years. Now, following the Bible incident in D.C. and ongoing crises, especially the racism-police violence protests, it appears that Biden is making significant inroads, with two national polls (including by Fox News) showing him ahead nationally by 12 points. Democrats take notice but are wary of commenting. There are still five months to go.
[Racism – Protest] Key State Dept. Official Resigns on Principle – Mary Elizabeth Taylor, Assistant Secretary of State for Legislative Affairs and the first black person to hold the job, resigned, saying “The president’s comments and actions surrounding racial injustice and black Americans cut sharply against my core values and convictions.” Taylor was formerly an aide to McConnell and worked closely with the Senate on administrative nominations.
Friday, June 19
[Coronavirus] U.S. Coronavirus Totals: Cases – 2,297,190; Deaths – 121,407 This remains the worst record in the world.
[Coronavirus] One Day and 33,000 New COVID-19 Cases – The nationwide figures reflected record spikes in states such as California, Arizona, Nevada, Oregon, Texas, Oklahoma, Arkansas, Georgia, Florida, North Carolina, and South Carolina. Numbers this high have not been seen since May 1; and most occurred in states that opened earlier and more completely than health officials recommended. [Update: 33,000 new cases again on Saturday.]
[SDNY] DOJ Corruption: Friday Night Firing Bungled – Without providing cause, Atty. Gen. Barr announced that Geoffrey Berman, U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York, was resigning. Barr said he would be temporarily replaced by Craig Carpenito, until Trump’s new nominee Jay Clayton (chair of the Securities and Exchange Commission with no experience in prosecution) could be confirmed by the Senate. Berman said no, he wasn’t resigning. This forced Barr to go to Trump, the only one who could fire Berman. However, because of the firing, Barr could not name Carpenito as replacement. Instead, according to protocol, the second in line, Deputy U.S. Attorney Audrey Strauss, would replace Berman. Strauss is not a Trump loyalist. The importance of all this is that SDNY handles a number of cases involving Trump and/or his associates, such as Giuliani. The story is rapidly unfolding and will probably have wide political ripples, especially in the Senate during the coming week.
[Government] Voice of America Putsch in Progress – It began with the new head of the U.S. Agency for Global Media, Michael Pack. He showed up for work this week and immediately fired all the chiefs and leaders of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, Radio Free Asia, The Office of Cuban Broadcasting, Middle East Broadcasting Networks, and the Voice of America. He also dissolved all of the governing boards. Pack gave no reason other than he had the authority. As a protégé of Steve Bannon, Pack is said to want right wing guru Sebastian Gorka to head up the various agencies. It has all the signs of a plan to create a right-wing/populist media empire. However, the House funds these agencies; it will be interesting to see Democrats’ reactions in the coming week.
[Coronavirus] Treasury and SBA to Release Recipients of PPP Loans– After a week of saying they wouldn’t release the information, bipartisan pressure from Congress forced a reversal. It is widely suspected that some of the names on the list are, at best, questionable. This concession covers only businesses receiving $150,000 or more, leaving unidentified about 25% of borrowing businesses.
[Racism] Thousands Commemorate Juneteenth – The anniversary date of the final abolishment of slavery in the U.S. in 1865 was marked by conjoining with the ongoing Black Lives Matter protests and calls for Congress to create a national holiday.
Coronavirus (Crisis) Notes
COVID’s southern breakout: Cases -> Hospitalizations -> Deaths. Until May most of rural and southern America looked upon the coronavirus crisis as something that happened to Yankees, or at least to folks that lived in big cities. Not anymore. COVID-19 is finding the vulnerabilities (personal, political, medical) that characterize most of the southern and southwestern states. Record new cases, including more than 3,000 cases a day in Florida, are occurring in states such as California, Arizona, Texas, Arkansas, Oklahoma, Alabama, Georgia, and the Carolinas. Two states, Arizona and Texas, are already showing strains on hospital capacity. It’s disheartening to see governors and right-wing media talk about the spike in cases while noting “our death rate is still low.” As if we didn’t know by now that a percentage of all cases wind up in hospital, and a percentage of those in hospital wind up in a coffin. The reality of COVID-19 is beginning to overwhelm the political denial. Watch trends in mask wearing for signs of changing public opinion.
Economy (Crisis) Notes
Beware the Ides of August. If Senate Republicans refuse to extend or augment crisis relief money (unemployment insurance extensions, PPP etc.) by the middle of August previous monies will have run out. At that point it’s probable that public protest, a wave of business bankruptcies, food lines, (etc.), will significantly escalate into September. However, conventional political wisdom says that Republicans will claim “public pressure” and permit a multitrillion dollar relief package, just in time to goose the economy to benefit Trump through the elections.
Racism Protest (Crisis) Notes
Big protests move politicians and corporations. In case you hadn’t noticed, the surprisingly large and persistent Black Lives Matter protests have caught the attention of politicians and corporations. Or is it because corporations are paying attention that the politicians are paying attention? In particular the big retailers – Walmart, Target, Amazon etc. – have begun churning out “multicultural – multiracial” advertising that in some cases overtly favors issues and memes of the protest movement. This should not be surprising. Corporations study demographics. Blacks, Latinx, Asians will be the dominant consumers within a decade or two. There is no margin for corporations to alienate these groups (also include LGBTQ people). Many if not most politicians get their political parameters from corporate leaders – donors. The same could also be said for many justices of the Supreme Court (here’s looking at Gorsuch, Roberts, and Kavanaugh). As usual, follow the money.
(Pssst! Biden’s leading.)
Quote of the Week
“I would not so readily dismiss the allegation that an executive decision disproportionately harms the same racial group that the President branded as less desirable mere months earlier.”
Associate Justice Sonia Sotomayor, in Donald J. Trump v. NAACP, 591 US ___ (2020)
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