Indivisible Upper Yellowstone – Weekly Journal
The Week of Saturday, June 27 through Friday, July 3, 2020 [#50]
“100,000 New Cases a Day”
The Week’s Most Notable
The surge is bigger than we think. When the medical community said “this is not your run-of-the-mill pandemic”, too many thought they were trying to dramatize. If only. Fox News and other conservative media scoffed when Dr. Fauci said we could see 100,000 new cases a day. By the end of the week, the U.S. had nearly reached 60,000 new cases a day. This happened for many reasons, but the apparent consensus of the medical community points to a combination of an exceptionally contagious virus and an exceptionally dysfunctional management of the crisis at all federal and many state levels. With sudden reversals (e.g., the Texas governor flipping from “no masks” to “mandatory masks” in one week), profoundly mixed messages from Trump and Pence, and the disastrous politicization of standard epidemic practices (social distancing, masks, and quarantine) it’s debatable whether most of the United States will be able to contain the spiraling COVID-19 numbers before they overwhelm hospitalization capacity and force further economy-damaging lockdowns. By week’s end 40 states were experiencing increasing COVID-19 infections, 16 of them at record levels.
Saturday, June 27
[Coronavirus] U.S. Coronavirus Totals: Cases – 2,596,537; Deaths – 128,152
[Coronavirus] Ten Million Coronavirus Cases Worldwide and 500,000 Dead – The U.S. accounts for more than 25% of the cases and of the dead, by far the worst record of all countries. This is the ugly bedrock of reality against which all excuses fail.
[Racism – Protest] One Killed at Breonna Taylor Protest in Louisville – Someone standing at the periphery of a crowd gathered to protest the police murder of Breonna Taylor fired more than a dozen shots, killing one, hospitalizing another, and injuring several more. Police arrested a man (for the third time in two weeks) and charged him with murder and wanton endangerment.
[Russian Bounties] Biden Excoriates Trump Over Russian Bounties – During a virtual town hall, Biden focused on the intelligence reports concerning Russian bounties for American soldiers and Trump’s lack of response: “His entire presidency has been a gift to Putin, but this is beyond the pale.” Biden’s sharp and rapid response signals the Democrats’ willingness to jump on this view into the wound left by the Mueller investigation and Trump’s relationship to Putin. Biden pointed out Trump recently had multiple phone calls with Putin, promoted returning Russia to the G7, and without notice pulled troops out of Germany (high on Putin’s wish list). This is an issue with wide impact on the military and veterans.
Sunday, June 28
[Racism – Protest] Mississippi Legislature Votes to Replace State Flag – The combined pressure of Black Lives Matter protests, changing state demographics, threatened sports sanctions, corporate disapproval, and an evolving national cultural shift brought about a change decades in the making – a new state flag without the Confederate “Stars and Bars.”
[Racism – Protest] Trump Retweets Video of Supporter Shouting “White power!”– Detonating another round of white supremacy criticism, it took the White House three hours to remove the profanity-laced video because Trump was out golfing. He claims to not have noticed the racist yelling. A few days later, Trump retweeted video of a St. Louis couple pointing guns at peaceful protesters walking down the street. It’s a burgeoning pattern from Trump to manipulate statements and images that reinforce his sotto voce approval of racism and white supremacy; in fact, it’s a new campaign strategy.
[Social Media] Starbucks Joins Corporate Social Media Protest – Alarmed by the prevalence of violence, hate-speech, and racism found on social media (Facebook, Twitter et al.), Starbucks decided to pause its social media ads. It joins nearly 400 corporations such as Coca-Cola, Unilever, Verizon, Patagonia, Eddie Bauer, REI, and Levi’s – some of which have formed a #StopHateforProfit ad-boycott campaign. The protest, though temporary, focuses on Facebook and its cynical tolerance of hate speech. Notably, while these “brand corporations” are numerous, they’re not the backbone of Facebook’s income, which includes Home Depot and Walmart. It remains to be seen if Facebook will make any substantial concessions to policing the propaganda rampant on its pages.
Monday, June 29
[Supreme Court] Court Rules Against Louisiana Abortion Law – This was Chief Justice John Roberts’ moment to assert his control of the court; in his majority opinion he held that since the court had rejected a 2016 Texas law that was functionally identical to the Louisiana law, by precedent the court should reject the Louisiana law. This decision clears a path for more piecemeal – and dissimilar – cases against abortion. Several such cases are already heading toward the Supreme Court. Meanwhile, the 5-4 decision gives the appearance of a PR black-eye for the Trump-GOP-Right-Wing.
[Russian Bounties] Links Found Between Specific U.S. Deaths and Russian Bounties – According to media reports, a 2019 roadside bombing attack near Bagram that killed three U.S. soldiers can be traced to bounty money. Former national security advisor John Bolton said that in March 2019 he verbally briefed Trump about an intelligence assessment that Russia was offering bounties to Taliban-linked militants to kill U.S. troops. Trump denies ever having been briefed.
[China – Hong Kong] Chinese Congress Passes Hong Kong Security Law – In a move that abrogates the long-standing treaty governing the independence of Hong Kong, the Chinese government has legalized extradition of Hong Kong citizens to mainland China for criminal prosecution. This opens the door for widespread use of the law to arrest, transport, and imprison political dissenters. It signals the beginning of the end for Hong Kong independence 27 years before the end date negotiated in the Sino-British Joint Declaration. The U.S. has threatened sanctions; China retaliated by restricting U.S. visas.
Tuesday, June 30
[Supreme Court] Court Ruling on Montana Case: Inching Church Closer to State – At issue was a state’s ability to deny support (in this case scholarship money) to a religious school while making the money available to other private schools. In effect, the conservative five reordered the historic priorities of the Constitution – placing First Amendment (religious expression) above the separation of church and state. This decision overruled the Montana Constitution, which prohibits any form of financial support to religious organizations. In this reversal of position, the U.S. Supreme Court provides the legal grounds for wide variety of financial support for religious education. Given limited funds, this will eventually result in diminishing money for public education.
[Coronavirus] Fauci Stuns U.S. with Warning of Potential 100,000 New Coronavirus Cases Per Day – He told Congress that without following key recommendations (social distancing, masks, quarantine) the spread of COVID-19 could become exponential and virtually uncontrollable without a widespread lockdown.
[Elections 2020] McGrath Wins Primary in Kentucky, Hickenlooper in Colorado – Both Democratic candidates will take on incumbent Republican senators, McConnell in Kentucky, Gardner in Colorado. The candidates were damaged during their primary campaigns, McGrath by a close race with progressive Charles Booker and some of her own statements (e.g., support for Kavanaugh as Supreme Court Justice), and Hickenlooper similarly for a close primary and his own ethics issues. Hickenlooper is given the best chance to take the Senate seat; McGrath would take the Kentucky seat if McConnell goes down.
[Immigration] Judge Rejects Trump’s Third-Country Asylum Immigration Rule – The rule requires Central American migrants to apply for asylum in a third country, say Mexico, before applying to the U.S. D.C. District Judge Timothy Kelly (a Trump appointee) ruled that the Trump administration illegally sidestepped the federal Administrative Procedure Act (APA). He noted that courts generally defer to presidents on many issues, “but determining the scope of an APA exception is not one of them.”
Wednesday, July 1
[Coronavirus] Coronavirus Surge Passes 50,000 New U.S. Cases a Day – Most of the sun-belt states, Florida to California, set one-day records. Governors in some of the states are now rolling back reopening phases. Experts warn that the July 4 holiday presents a “perfect storm” for a COVID-19 spike, due to increased travel and many newly reopened businesses. (Remember that the effects of the holiday will not be seen until the end of July.)
[Racism – Protest] Seattle CHAZ Cleared by Police – The Capitol Hill Anonymous Zone (or CHOP) achieved celebrity with Fox News and other right-wing media, including Fox’s faked footage of occupation “violence.” Although there had been shootings and two deaths in the area during the previous weeks, the clearing action reported arrests but no serious injuries.
[Russia] Putin Wins Constitutional Changes Allowing Him to Stay in Power until 2036 – The election took place over two weeks due to the coronavirus. That opened numerous accusations of vote manipulation. Bottom line: Putin is still in charge, still relatively popular, and fundamental Russian problems – especially the economy – will continue as is.
Thursday, July 2
[Economy] New Unemployment Insurance Claims: 1.4 Million – This marks the 15th straight week of claims above a million. These figures were ameliorated by the news of 4.8 million jobs added to the economy, which Trump immediately trumpeted as a huge economic success. About half of these jobs consisted of reinstatement of jobs terminated at the beginning of the coronavirus crisis. They show an improvement, a drop in unemployment from 14.7% to 11.1%, but are still higher than in any previous period since World War II. The figures also do not take into account the impact of the COVID-19 surge after mid-June.
[Supreme Court] Supreme Court Will Take up Mueller Grand Jury Material Appeal – in October – Democrats in the House requested the material more than a year ago; now the case will not be decided until after the election and the grand jury material, if allowed, won’t be available until 2021.
[Epstein – Case] FBI Arrests Epstein Confidant Ghislaine Maxwell – In what will probably be a side story in the sordid Epstein child sex-abuse cases, there is a possibility that in a plea deal Maxwell’s comprehensive knowledge of Epstein’s operation could lead to exposure of prominent men – a “naming of names” to spice up the final months of the campaign season.
Friday, July 3
[Coronavirus] U.S. Coronavirus Totals: Cases – 2,891,228; Deaths – 132,107
[Foreign Relations] Two U.S. Aircraft Carriers Sent to South China Sea – Explicitly labeled an “unambiguous signal to our partners and allies that the U.S. is committed to regional security and stability” – meaning that China better watch out concerning Hong Kong and other things the Trump administration might come up with for the election campaign. In fact, one carrier is a signal, two carriers are a threat, and the escalation will no doubt provoke a Chinese response.
[Racism – Protest] Trump Rallies the Right-Wing at Rushmore – A direct quote is indicative, “Our nation is witnessing a merciless campaign to wipe out our history, defame our heroes, erase our values, and indoctrinate our children. Angry mobs are trying to tear down statues of our founders, deface our most sacred memorials, and unleash a wave of violent crime in our cities.” This appears to be the new Trump/GOP campaign – racism, defense of the Confederacy, attacking Black Lives Matter and ignoring everything else.
Coronavirus (Crisis) Notes
Remember the kids. School, remember school? There are more than 13,500 school districts in the U.S., 5,300 colleges and universities, and about 76 million students. Each and every one of them, down to the very last student and parent, has to make decisions about schooling in a time of pandemic. Schools reopen in August or September – or do they? It’s become chapter and verse (from the non-Trump/GOP perspective) that we can’t solve the economic crisis until we have control of the COVID-19 crisis. Central to that reality is the necessity of getting children of all ages back to school. Until the kids are back in school, their parents struggle with the conflicting demands of childcare and of work, whether they work at home or elsewhere. That should make opening schools a priority for all levels of government. But it’s not. Raise your hand if you think Trump, the GOP Senate, and Betsy DeVos at the Department of Education are planning significant efforts to guide, coordinate, and help fund the reopening of schools across the country. For example, under the studied guidance of the CDC, what level of COVID-19 infection should be the rule of thumb for closing a school? Is it one student? 20? 5% of students? Support at the federal level might make the difference between success or chaos at the local school level. The broader question of childcare remains.
Economy (Crisis) Notes
Haggling over the next economic relief bill. While Republicans continue to make noises that any additional relief money is unnecessary or philosophically counterproductive (House Democrats’ $3 trillion relief bill, fuhgeddaboudit), it’s general knowledge in Congress this is temporizing and posturing. There will be a big relief package, almost certainly before the Congressional summer break (Aug. 7). The additional economic damage done by the June-July COVID surge makes a deal all but inevitable. Likely components will include unemployment help extended in some fashion, probably not an exact repeat of the $600 add-on. There will be big money for state and local governments, since Republican governors and mayors are clamoring for this as well. On the fully contentious side, for example, Republicans will demand liability protection for businesses, the Democrats will bargain to get money for mail-in balloting and the post office. Both sides will okay money for COVID research and medical support. Will there be stimulus money like the $1,200 cash payout? This sort of “detail” will be closely watched. Whatever happens, likely in the $2-3 trillion range, it will be messy. Of course, worst-case, Senate conservatives could prevent any significant federal aid.
Racism Protest (Crisis) Notes
These figures are rough but should be widely known: According to polls, 15 to 26 million people in the U.S. have participated in the recent protests. That makes Black Lives Matter the largest movement in U.S. history. These are the people who showed up in public demonstrations; other polls show 60 to 80% support from the general public. Any wonder politicians and corporations are shaken? (Except Trump of course, at least through his Mount Rushmore rally, he appears to be amplifying racist dog-whistles as a more explicit part of his campaign.)
What to make of the new Trump campaign? Sometime this coming week it should become apparent if the new Trump-GOP campaign is as resolutely racist, pro-Confederacy, coronavirus-denialist, and law and order belligerent as it appeared to be at the Mount Rushmore rally. The near-oxymoron “Stop far-left fascism!” was the rally cry which Fox News and other right-wing media are already broadcasting. Trump has subsequently said “Now we have tested almost 40 million people. By doing so, we show cases, 99% of which are totally harmless.” Will there be more of this? Will the GOP, that is the Senate GOP, become alarmed and force Trump to backpedal? If not, the Trump-GOP campaign becomes for all practical purposes a George Wallace campaign, fronting a sliver of the electorate, a racist denialist white party. In the face of an exponential growth in COVID-19 victims, the largest pro-multiracial political movement in American history, and the stalking shrinkage of the American economy, this will be the most well-defined and definitive election since before the Civil War.
Quote of the Week
“95% Approval Rating of President Trump in the Republican Party. I would imagine the 5% are the RINOS’ and stupid people who don’t want to see great Judges & Supreme Court Justice’s, a new & powerful Military, Choice for Vets, 2A Protection, big Regulation Cuts, Life, & much more!”
Trump Tweet (verbatim), 6/29/2020
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