Indivisible Upper Yellowstone – Weekly Journal
The Week of Saturday, July 25 through Friday, July 31, 2020 [Vol.2 No.2]
The Week’s Most Notable
On Thursday many pandemic, economic, and political threads came together, not so much in attention-grabbing events as in revealing the underlying fabric of our multiple crises. [See Thursday’s entries.]
Saturday, July 25
[Coronavirus] U.S. Coronavirus Totals: Cases – 4,317,768; Deaths – 149,994
[Coronavirus] U.S. Seven-Day Average Highs per Day: 74,000 New Cases, 1,000+ Deaths – Florida alone accounted for more than 12,000 new cases, second only to California, which has had its own surge over the past couple of weeks.
[Hurricane] Category 1 Hurricane Hanna Makes Landfall in South Texas – Primarily a massive rain event with 6 to 12 inches in coastal areas around Corpus Christi, the storm will be most notable for complicating coronavirus mitigation in Nueces County, one of the worst epidemic locations in Texas.
[Racism – Protest] Protests Flare in Several Cities – Largely in sympathy with demonstrations against Trump’s paramilitary action in Portland, protesters took to the streets in Seattle, Los Angeles, Richmond, and Oakland. In some cases, they clashed with police. In Austin one man was shot and killed during a protest.
Sunday, July 26
[Racism – Protest] John Lewis’s Remains Carried over the Edmund Pettus Bridge – As the funeral cortege passed through Selma, Alabama, a “Final Crossing” ceremony marked Lewis’s narrow survival from a beating at the bridge by Alabama State Police during “Bloody Sunday,” March 7, 1965. The bridge will be renamed in his honor.
Monday, July 27
[John Lewis] Rep. John Lewis Lies-In-State in Capitol Rotunda – Lewis is the first black elected official so honored. He carried his role as one of the leaders of the pivotal 1960s civil rights movement into 34 years in the House of Representatives, where he became known as the Conscience of Congress. Mitch McConnell spoke in tribute, “But even though the world around him gave him every cause for bitterness, he stubbornly treated everyone with respect and love.”
Tuesday, July 28
[House – Investigations] Judiciary Committee Democrats Spar with AG Barr – When a committee uses the five minutes per member, alternating Democrat and Republican format, it rarely produces revealing exchanges. This is especially true when the person testifying is a legal weasel. Barr is particularly good at phumphering and rhetorical hairsplitting. Consequently, mainstream and liberal media highlighted the few good shots by Democratic representatives; right-wing media declared an all-out Barr victory. Upshot: This was an historically interesting session of no lasting effect.
[Coronavirus] Pandemic Drops International Tourism by 98% in May – Although not a surprise, such an utter collapse is an indicator of how deeply the coronavirus crisis will affect not only economics but human relations.
Wednesday, July 29
[Coronavirus] U.S. Death Toll Reaches 150,000 – The U.S. continues to have nearly 25% of worldwide COVID-19 deaths, the worst record of any country.
[House – Hearing] House Antitrust Hearing Questions Tech Leaders – With grumblings from both Democrats and Republicans about getting control of the big tech giants (that is, regulation), the questioning was split between Republicans complaining about the lack of coverage (“fairness”) for conservatives, and the Democrats attacking monopoly power and bad public policy. The four tech leaders (Zuckerberg, Facebook; Bezos, Amazon; Cook, Apple; and Pichai, Google) as expected defended their companies. The contentious six-hour session could serve as an opening bookend for a long-term realignment of U.S. laws concerning media monopoly, especially during 2021.
[Coronavirus] Rep. Gohmert Tests Positive, Pelosi Mandates Masks for House Floor – After several days of wandering the halls of Congress, playing his allotted role as village idiot and apparently with asymptomatic COVID-19, Gohmert (R-TX) forced viral tests for those he contacted, including AG Barr. Gohmert blamed his infection on his mask, which for the most part he deliberately did not wear or wore incorrectly. Pelosi’s response, though not entirely because of Gohmert, affects all House members and staff and, of course, triggered vociferous GOP whining.
[U.S. Military – Germany] U.S. to Move 12,000 Troops Out of Germany – Apparently (by most reports) mainly out of animosity toward German leader Angela Merkel, Trump ordered the reduction in troop strength, with some to be sent back to the U.S. and others redistributed in Europe. The move is seen as purely punitive, without benefit except for Vladimir Putin.
[Afghanistan – Bounties] Trump Admits He Did Not Ask Putin about U.S. Soldier Bounties – Consistent with his stance that claiming that Russians paid Afghanistan fighters to kill American soldiers is “fake news,” Trump said the issue did not come up in phone conversations with Putin (at least six conversations in all, that we know of).
[Climate Change] Soaring Heat in Middle East: Baghdad 125°F – Record temperatures in Baghdad, Beirut, and Damascus are part of a much hotter than normal summer (and normal is very high) throughout the Middle East.
Thursday, July 30
[Coronavirus] Coronavirus Cycle: Deaths Top: 1400+ Per Day – A month or two ago GOP coronavirus denialists were crowing about the drop in the death rate as clearly foretelling the end of COVID-19. Health officials and medical experts said, No: We are looking at massive increases of new infections; a couple of weeks later will see a sharp increase in hospitalizations; and a few more weeks will see a steady increase in deaths – probably exceeding 1000 a day. We now have reached 150,000 coronavirus deaths, and are averaging between 1,000 and 1,400 deaths a day, about one death per minute. To understand the magnitude: Florida’s average daily death toll is roughly equal to that of the entire European Union, which has 20 times the population. As a personal example, especially for Republicans, Herman Cain died from COVID-19 this week. He attended the Trump rally in Tulsa just before falling ill. Overall, states with terrible infection rates that have done some mitigation, especially masks, are beginning to level off. Eventually the death rate may decline for a while. But the ongoing problem is that “the surge” is moving from the south and west to the Midwest. This was predicted; the coronavirus is hopscotching around the U.S., landing hard wherever mitigation efforts are weak or nonexistent. Without a serious, disciplined national effort at mitigation this pattern will continue. Come late September into October the seasonal flu will join the coronavirus. That will not be a second wave but a new, combined wave.
[Economy] GDP Falls 32.9%: The Scope of the Economic Disaster Revealed – Most professional economists (not the White House poseurs) knew that the spring coronavirus shutdown, imperfect as it was, had a massive impact on the economy. It was there to see in the unemployment figures, which month after month continued to show 30 to 40 million people out of work. It was also obvious that because of the fear of COVID-19 customers were not flocking back to the stores and were not eager to spend their money, even after states began relaxing stay-at-home, stores-closed policies. So the new figures for the second quarter (ending June 2020) showing the worst economic decline since the Great Depression were not a surprise. The economy did not really lose 1/3 of its production, but the quarterly drop of 9.5% was real enough. We are already through the month of July – remember when Jared Kushner prophesied “the economy will be really rocking by July 7”? Well it’s not. It also won’t be a “V” shaped recession, short and sharp down, short and sharp back. The White House, and Trump in particular, are – among many other things – guilty of being cheerleaders when the score is 100 to 2.
[Economy] New Unemployment Insurance Claims: 1.43 Million – For the second week new unemployment insurance claims continue to hover near 1.5 million with around 15 to 17 million total unemployed receiving insurance, a sure sign that the “reopening economy” has plateaued. In fact, due to surging coronavirus cases, forcing some states to roll back their reopenings and impose further mitigation, it’s expected that some businesses that were barely hanging on will now give up in August. Their unemployed may also be joined by layoffs from local and state governments. The shape of this picture depends on what, if any, relief package Congress passes.
[Economy – Coronavirus] Unable to Formulate a GOP Relief Bill, Senate Republicans Go Home – Mitch McConnell called a weekend recess at the very same time the unemployment insurance extension of $600, the Paycheck Protection Plan (PPP), Forfeiture and Eviction forgiveness all come to a screeching end. The political optics of this are ineffable. Even if a new bill is developed, passes both houses, and goes to implementation, it’s estimated that 40 to 50 million people will be without support for at least a month. Pelosi, Schumer, Mnuchin, and Meadows will continue the highest-level negotiations on Saturday; this is the important backroom stuff. [See Economy (Crisis) Notes.]
[Election – 2020] Trump Muses About Delaying the Election – The media got this fairly quickly; it’s the classic Trump formula: one-third shock, two-thirds set up. The shock value – Can he change the election date? No, he can’t. – achieved its purpose, media buzz. The set-up is for attacking the Postal Service. Trump keeps asserting that voting by mail is somehow different from an absentee ballot (although both go by mail), and is open to massive fraud – without providing any evidence. Even White House officials admit that in terms of processing (distribution, validation, security) there is no functional difference between voting by mail and the absentee ballot. Nevertheless, Trump and many in the GOP are determined to use gaslighting on the reliability of mail voting to scare people away from using it. Voter suppression comes in many forms, this is a relatively new one.
[Election – 2020] USPS Manipulation Threatens Ballot by Mail – Only a couple of months ago Trump forced out the sitting Postmaster General and installed his loyal donor/fundraiser Louis DeJoy. By mid-July DeJoy issued operational changes, such as: leave mail at distribution centers if it delays letter carriers, reduce or eliminate overtime, ensure local postmasters have more limited staffing control. In fact, it seems clear that the Trump administration, under the cover of a funding crisis, is instituting a cultural change within the Postal Service that will make it less competitive, slower, and less responsive – setting it up for privatization. Meanwhile, the short-term effect is confusion – a slowdown – in the postal service just in time for the election, the census, and a response to the needs of the coronavirus crisis.
[Racism – Protest] Quiet Nights Substantiate Portland Debacle – What was the most active news story last week? Trump’s Stormtroopers in violent clashes with protesters in Portland. What did that look like on Thursday and Friday of this week? The Stormtroopers are gone from Portland and their ilk are not on the way to Seattle, or Detroit, or Philadelphia, or Albuquerque. AG Barr made it clear that if officers are sent to other cities, they will come from established agencies and under request. What then is all the rhetoric by Trump about sending in the National Guard or threatening more Stormtrooper actions by acting DHS director Wolf? Rhetoric, CYA rhetoric to be exact, covering the retreat from Trump’s “Law and Order” election gambit. This election cycle’s equivalent of the “migrant caravans” of 2018.
In one sense the paramilitary action was successful, it got national attention and provided right-wing media with a kickstart for their “violence in the streets of America” campaigns. However, it proved unsustainable. The paramilitary force put together by Barr, in this case using “uniforms” mainly purchased online from commercial sources wasn’t built to be a permanent outfit; a media “shock and awe” unit would be more like it. There were never many of them, perhaps around 200 in Portland. When confronted by hundreds of housewives, the “Wall of Moms”, and military veterans, the “Wall of Vets,”, the resulting images and reporting were not what Trump and Barr were looking for. Too much Wag the Dog show-making was turning people off and, at least in Portland, almost no Blacks for rioting highlights. That’s why by the end of the week, as soon as the Stormtroopers pulled out, peace and quiet generally returned. As has been contended so often, the main source of the violence was the police action. This does not mean the DOJ unit isn’t available for other showcase events, but it doesn’t appear to have the numbers or scope for nationwide action.
[John Lewis – Funeral] Three Former Presidents Eulogize John Lewis – Presidents Clinton, G. W. Bush, and Obama gathered at the Atlanta funeral for civil rights icon and forever Representative John Lewis. Their message about a man of peace who was militant for civil rights, who was personally almost a saint but more than willing to get into “good trouble,” and who represented the drive for civil equality among all Americans, could hardly been a starker contrast to the coded racist fulminations and fascist sentiments of Trump and the current administration. Obama’s eulogy picked up a main John Lewis theme: Turn protest into policy. Obama issued a call to action – create and pass a new voting rights act, pass statehood for Puerto Rico and the District of Columbia, and end the filibuster. John Lewis provided his own best last words – a remarkable op-ed in The New York Times (7/30/2020).
[Justice] Michael Flynn Case Sent to Full D.C. District Court – This marks round, umm, six, maybe? An en banc ruling from the court could take some time, a month or two perhaps. The betting is if the court comes out against Flynn, he will get a Trump pardon, posthaste.
[Space] NASA Launches Perseverance to Mars – It’s been a while since we’ve had a major space exploration event. Pity most of the world, including the U.S., is too busy with the coronavirus and economic crises to take much notice of a serious search for life on another planet, among the sixty other scientific explorations this combination of a rover and a drone can manage over its 14-year operational timeline. Mars touchdown is scheduled for February 18, 2021.
Friday, July 31
[Coronavirus] Fauci Appears before the House Select Committee – The principal take-away message: The lack of a unified coronavirus response, i.e., a national plan, made the outbreak worse. The U.S. part of the pandemic was so severe largely because states did not shut down thoroughly enough and lockdown measures were rolled back too quickly. Fauci: “I think there was such a diversity of response in this country from different states, that we really did not have a unified bringing everything down.” He also was cautiously optimistic about a vaccine by the end of the year.
[Environment) Trump Administration OKs Pebble Mine – The long fought-over Alaska mine got the stamp of approval from the administration, despite concerns for bears, salmon (both spawning and the fishing industry), groundwater contamination, earthquakes and dam failures, to name but a few.
[Coronavirus] U.S. Coronavirus Totals: Cases – 4,705,889; Deaths – 156,775
Coronavirus (Crisis) Notes
We know more about children and the coronavirus, but we don’t know enough. American schools are going ahead with plans for the fall, opening or not opening, in person or remote, and so forth. Most of them are ignoring the blather coming from the Trump administration and even the CDC, which is too confusing and too late. What schools don’t know, for the most part, is some of the latest research showing that while 1 to 9-year-olds may harbor the coronavirus, they’re not particularly affected; however, 10 to 19-year-olds are not only more affected but may communicate the virus as effectively as adults. Moreover, another study has shown that even the youngest children may carry an astonishingly large coronavirus “load,” the amount of virus in their upper respiratory system. These studies and others underway should be underlining our policy decisions about schools, but not yet. This highlights the risks of reopening our schools.
Economy (Crisis) Notes
Republicans in the Senate are divided about the size and scope of the next coronavirus relief package. Some don’t want any relief package at all. The media routinely makes far too much of this. Just like the fight over “Repeal and Replace” for the Affordable Care Act, the Republican votes in the Senate are already apportioned. McConnell keeps count; he knows exactly how everyone intends to vote. If – and that is a big if – the Republicans and Democrats can hack out some kind of compromise relief bill, say somewhere between $2.25 and $2.75 trillion, then all but three or four Republicans will vote against it, all Democrats will vote for it, and VP Pence is available to make it pass. However, just as John McCain stepped out and put his thumb down on the ACA killer, there could be a spoiler among the Senate GOP. The pressures, especially from the coronavirus crisis and the economic crisis, are intense. Can the Republicans force the Senate into a recess to the middle of September without passing a bill? Probably not, but. . . .
Racism Protest (Crisis) Notes
The many ceremonies and events on the death of Rep. John Lewis did another great service for the country. At a time when the right-wing media and Trump were busy banging drums about violence in the streets and law and order, with their coded racial subtext, the peaceful, uplifting eulogies and ceremonies for John Lewis reminded Americans all week about the essential dignity of the civil rights and Black Lives Matter movements. We needed that.
Toxic Trump? Talk is accelerating that as Trump’s fortunes decline, he will take the down ballot with him. So goes the conventional wisdom. It’s true that some candidates, such as Steve Daines, the senator from Montana running against the current Montana governor Steve Bullock, have bound themselves by the hip to Trump and Trumpism. They may be the most vulnerable.
Trump-bits. Trump is no-show at capitol rotunda for historic Rep. John Lewis ceremony; ditto for the Atlanta funeral. Out of pique with Dr. Fauci for being asked to throw out a first pitch, Trump invited himself to throw out the first pitch at Yankee Stadium on Aug. 15, but didn’t tell the Yankees. He then declined his own invitation, saying he was too busy. Trump retweeted a video Trump Jr. called a “must watch,” which features Houston doctor Stella Immanuel claiming that a combination of hydroxychloroquine, zinc, and Zithromax was a “cure” for the coronavirus and that “you don’t need to wear a mask.” There’s more to this story – Demon Seed anyone? But it’s too tawdry for now. On a happy-happy note, Melania is going to redo the Rose Garden.
Quotes of the Week
He’s [Dr. Fauci] got this high approval rating. So why don’t I have a high approval rating with respect — and the administration — with respect to the virus?”
The President of the United States, White House Coronavirus Briefing, 7/28/2020.
“I am happy to inform all of the people living their Suburban Lifestyle Dream that you will no longer be bothered or financially hurt by having low income housing built in your neighborhood.
Trump Tweet, 7/30/2020
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