Indivisible Upper Yellowstone – Weekly Journal
The Week of Saturday, July 11 through Friday, July 17, 2020 [#52]
“Open the Schools”
The Week’s Most Notable
It was an ides of July with almost nothing but mixed coronavirus messages. Here’s a sample concerning masks:
- Protest: “Unmasking Tyranny Wisconsin: Mask mandates are a tool to spread fear.” Madison, WI 07/16/20
- Georgia’s governor and attorney general sue Atlanta mayor for disobeying no masks order.
- 5% of Americans agree with wearing masks in public. Post-ABC poll, 7/17/20
- Walmart, Target, CVS to require customers wear masks in stores nationwide.
In some ways it was an exasperating week, yet with no prominent events. The coronavirus surge, seen as a graph comparing April-May and June-July, looks positively grotesque – mountainous. It just keeps getting bigger, the voices clamoring for help grow louder, and the White House continues to concoct denials. There were many irritating reminders of the nation’s descent into political phantasmagoria, such as the surreal images of father and daughter Trump illegally hawking Goya food products from the White House. Apparently, AG Barr didn’t think that amounted to a hill of beans. Then there was Mary Trump, hawking her new book, and revealing in an interview that Uncle Don did, in fact, use racial and Jewish slurs. The media ran with that for about 18 hours.
In an argument that should have begun months ago as to if, when, and how to open schools was the week’s running topic. Unfortunately, while the topic is serious and complicated – there are more than 33,000 school districts and 8,000 institutions of higher learning, all needing plans for opening (August-September) – the heavy hand of the White House, which for re-election reasons demands students physically attend school and has completely disrupted the ability of the CDC to issue credible recommendations, created an almost serio-comic situation. In short: too little honesty, too late, too unhelpful (simplistic guidance, no money). The upshot: Every district/institution for itself. Most will ignore federal stipulations. The result will be, as is common for this crisis, a largely uncoordinated patchwork with some successes, some failures, and a lot of unidentifiable outcomes. Since effects of the coronavirus on children and young people are not yet well understood, there is also a risk for them and their communities. Polls heavily show that parents are not in favor of opening schools too early.
Saturday, July 11
[Coronavirus] U.S. Coronavirus Totals: Cases – 3,369,347; Deaths – 137,352
[Coronavirus] Trump Campaign Cancels New Hampshire Rally – The reason given: hurricane Fay. Fay was out in the Atlantic Ocean, New Hampshire had great weather. Real reason: Coronavirus killing attendance. Finding momentum in rallies will be difficult for Trump.
[Mueller Investigation] Mueller Protests Commutation of Stone Sentence – Breaking his unofficial silence, the former Special Counsel used a Washington Post op-ed to remind Americans that Roger Stone was found guilty of multiple serious crimes and remains a convicted felon. [Meanwhile: Lindsay Graham continues to make noises about bringing Mueller to the Senate Intelligence Committee as part of the “investigation into the causes of the Mueller probe.”]
[Coronavirus] Trump Seen Wearing a Mask – It had a presidential seal on it with possible political or cultural significance.
Sunday, July 12
[Coronavirus] Disney World Reopens – This could have been a cheerfully symbolic event. COVID-19 did not cooperate, using Florida to stage the largest surge in the country – a single day record of 15,300 new cases on Sunday. The park required facemasks, hand sanitizing, and social distancing, which tended to make the Disney experience something less than magical.
[Coronavirus] White House Unleashes Oppo on Fauci – With poltroon Trump hiding behind surrogates such as trade-economics poseur Peter Navarro, the attempt to discredit Fauci – in order to enhance Trump’s campaign of COVID-19 denial – flipped between Trump saying “Fauci and I are good friends” and Navarro’s shade; there was also a list of Fauci’s supposed failures. Fauci riposted with “it just makes them look bad.” It was more of the White House/GOP gaslighting science in the middle of a pandemic. Most of the country rallied behind Fauci, who is more popular than Trump by about 2 to 1.
Monday, July 13
[Supreme Court] Court Clears First Federal Execution in 17 Years – The execution was carried out on Tuesday.
Tuesday, July 14
[Coronavirus] Trump Orders Hospital Data to Bypass CDC – And so began a move both bungled and sinister. The CDC has been the repository of medical knowledge for decades. True, its systems are obsolete, inefficient, and in need of modernizing. However, though some action on CDC data collection was not a surprise, the Trump move to consolidate everything at the Health and Human Services department set off a flurry of red flags. HHS is known to be politically malleable, and not known to be particularly competent with timely data. [Update: Within days Trump’s order led to missing data from CDC websites, confusion about procedures, and enough political shading to warrant a House investigation. All this in the middle of an ongoing coronavirus surge. Lack of planning is painfully obvious.]
[Coronavirus] Florida and Miami Become National Coronavirus Epicenter – Reporting a new high of 132 deaths in a day and more than 15,000 new cases, the entire state is “spiking.”
[Immigration] ICE Retracts International Student Visa Ban – This was predictable. After a firestorm of corporate anger, academic institutions’ ire, and instant litigation, this bone tossed to Trump’s anti-immigration base was quickly retrieved, another example of grandstanding and distraction.
[Elections – 2020] Biden Presents $2 Trillion Climate Plan – Almost lost in the coronavirus hubbub, Biden called for massively increasing the scale of Obama’s energy plans and shortening the schedule for bringing the U.S. to 100% clean energy by 2050. Biden worked out many of the details with Bernie Sanders and other advisors.
[Elections – 2020] Trump Converts Rose Garden Press Event into Rally Speech – By all accounts it was one of his more discombobulated presentations featuring a precedent breaking (no politics in the Rose Garden) long-winded attack against Biden and the new Democratic climate plan. “They want to destroy the suburbs.” The supposed topic, sanctions against China for Hong Kong, was mentioned.
[Elections – 2020] Trump’s Revenge: Sessions Loses Alabama Primary – After incessantly attacking his former Attorney General and biggest supporter, Trump savored the win by Trump-endorsed Tommy Tuberville. It wasn’t close (60.7% to 39.3%).
Wednesday, July 15
[Coronavirus] Georgia Gov. Kemp Bans Local Mask Requirements – Leave it to Gov. Kemp to not only buck trends, but to stand out like a sore thumb doing it. More than 25 states have issued statewide mask mandates. Kemp doubled-down a day later by taking the mayor of Atlanta to court for resisting his edict. His rationale: He loves masks, just not mandatory masks, which he thinks are unnecessary; people will voluntarily wear masks because it’s the right thing to do. Apparently, he is unaware of the Trump base rejecting masks on political grounds. Georgia has some of the highest infection and death rates in the country.
[Election – 2020] Trump Displaces Campaign Manager – Somebody had to take the fall for Tulsa, and it was widely assumed that Brad Parscale would do the honors. He was demoted back to his old job among the computers. Recall similar timing in 2016 when Trump tossed out Paul Manafort as campaign boss. It’s always a chaos campaign because Trump is the only one truly in charge.
[Trump Investigation] Trump Lawyers Back in Manhattan Court over Tax Records – As expected, Trump is challenging the subpoena for his records by Manhattan DA Cyrus Vance. Since the recent Supreme Court ruling in Vance’s favor, the only question is how quickly the court(s) will move the case along.
[Environment] Trump Limits Public Review for Environmental Impact on Large Federal Projects – His rationale: Speed up the approval process for vital infrastructure projects in the time of COVID-19. It fits the pattern of attempting to hide federal contracts and grants from public scrutiny, congressional oversight, and Inspectors General. For specific projects this will be challenged in court, given the potential for substantial environmental harm.
Thursday, July 16
[Economy] New Unemployment Insurance Claims: 1.3 million – No significant change from last week, which in itself is a bad sign; there is no letup in the economic slowdown even with the “reopening” of businesses in most states. Approximately 32 million people are receiving some form of unemployment aid.
[Coronavirus] U.S., U.K., and Canada Accuse Russia of Attempting to Steal Coronavirus Research – Apparently, the same group of hackers (APT29) that attacked the Democratic Party back in 2016 are responsible. The lack of White House response to this news probably indicates another presidential monkey-not-see, monkey-not-do.
[Election – 2020] Republican and Democratic Conventions Adjust to Coronavirus – As the spread of COVID-19 in Florida and elsewhere reaches record proportions, circumstances are forcing both parties to adjust their convention plans, mostly toward remote or outdoor participation. Expect more changes before the conventions in late August.
Friday, July 17
[Coronavirus] U.S. Coronavirus Totals: Cases – 3,770,012; Deaths – 142,064
[Coronavirus] U.S. New Cases in One Day Reach 75,000 – We are apparently on the way toward Dr. Fauci’s prediction of 100,000 cases a day by August. The average daily death rate has now moved up just short of a thousand a day.
[Coronavirus] White House Blocks CDC Testimony at House Hearing – According to a White House official, “Dr. Redfield has testified on the Hill at least four times over the last three months. We need our doctors focused on the pandemic response.” While characteristic stonewalling, this is another piece of evidence concerning the White House’s apparent policy to sideline the CDC. Once considered the world-class gem of American scientific institutions, its reputation and its role are in decline with the rise of MAGA.
[Racism – Protest] Unidentified Feds Gas and Arrest Portland Protesters – In a show of force, federal officers took over from local police and temporarily arrested anti-racism protesters. These uninvited forces used uniforms and equipment without name badges as well as unmarked tactical vehicles. This story has many ominous overtones and with rising state and local furor, it will be a major topic in the coming week. (Apparently, but without confirmation, these are some of the same federal agents employed in the Washington DC protests – mainly from the Customs and Border Patrol. It appears to be part of a coherent unit, separately trained, outfitted, and transported, and likely under the command of AG Barr. They were said to be operating under orders from Trump, who promised to clear terrorists/protesters if city officials did not. Portland appears to be the test case.)
[John Lewis] Rest in Peace: John Lewis (1940 – 2020) An extraordinary Black Life.
Coronavirus (Crisis) Notes
We think because we’ve seen the COVID-19 cycle before, we understand it. We don’t. The pattern is the same: Infections increase, then hospitalizations, and finally deaths – at an interval of about three weeks between each increase. However, the scale of the surge in terms of cases and geographic dispersal is much bigger. It covers 40 states. It has moved new cases from 50,000 a day to 75,000 a day in less than three weeks. Hospitalizations are now in a steep rise, almost reaching the levels of April. Death rates are beginning to follow, with the telltale sign of morgue trucks. How bad can it get? As ever, it depends on the mitigation efforts. First time around, mitigation – lockdown – was rapid and fairly comprehensive. This time? States will be very slow to resort to lockdown, if at all. In rueful fact, there is organized resistance to mitigation; it starts in the White House and has spread to many statehouses. Unmitigated, surge numbers could be catastrophic: 100,000 new cases per day, 60,000 total hospitalizations each day, and an average of more than 1,000 deaths per day. Between now and November 3, we could see as many as 150,000 additional deaths. At a rate of around 3,000,000 newly sick people per month, imagine what that does to the workforce and the economy.
Economy (Crisis) Notes
On Monday Congress returns, hopefully to work. With the coronavirus surge now double the size of the initial COVID-19 event, signs that the “reopening recovery” has already run out of gas and the impending termination of federal relief money, the question is not whether but how big and how comprehensive a new relief package will be. Will it be the $3.7 trillion House “Heroes Act” or some heavily watered-down GOP compromise?
Racism Protest (Crisis) Notes
Breaking News Portland, Oregon – Protests continue and the Feds step in. While the number of anti-racism protests has, not unexpectedly, declined; there are a few cities with ongoing protest activity. Portland has a continuous record of 47 days of protests, which apparently attracted Trump’s attention. It appears that a specially trained unit provoked a more dramatic and violent conflict with protesters, resulting in many (temporary) arrests. It had all the earmarks of a staged event including media coverage.
The Dems are getting ready to govern. Of course, the chickens haven’t even hatched much less crossed the road. It’s also not in the spirit of optimism, as the lesson of 2016 taught the Democrats. It’s more of a seldom spoken understanding: if the Democrats capture the White House and the Senate, they will have a massive repair job for the institutions of the country and, at the same time, the opportunity to improve some of these institutions. The greater sin is not in being optimistic but in not being ready take advantage of the opportunity. Whatever party-active Democrats are saying among themselves; the public face of the preparation is in Joe Biden’s speeches and working papers. He has been forging coalitions with Sanders, Warren, and other Democrats – which the media has already picked up as a “leftward swing” and has the GOP screaming “Socialism!” – coalitions resulting in some remarkably detailed and progressive policy goals, such as a big minimum wage increase, free college for most, enhanced Affordable Care Act, transformation of federal housing policy, a major financial boost to schools with low income students, a labor-friendly climate agenda, a commitment to union organizing, and a comprehensive immigration reform. An ambitious, even transformative, agenda, only if.
Quotes of the Week
And I was just in the Oval talking to him about that; when he says open, he means open in full, kids being able to attend each and every day in their school. The science should not stand in the way of this.
Kayleigh McEnanay, press briefing 7/16/2020
Now Trump and Chad Wolf [acting DHS Secretary] are weaponizing the DHS as their own occupying army to provoke violence on the streets of my home town because they think it plays well with right-wing media.
Senator Ron Wyden (D-OR) tweet, 7/16/2020
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