Indivisible Upper Yellowstone – Weekly Journal
The Week of Saturday, August 8 through Friday, August 14, 2020 [Vol.2 No.4]
The Week’s Most Notable
It’s “official.” Statements by Trump and actions by his tool, former Republican National Committee lead fundraiser Postmaster General Louis DeJoy, are part of an orchestrated effort to sabotage the ability of the Postal Service to reliably manage the ballots of the general election. Very little effort is being made to cover this up. Trump seems so convinced that voting by mail will result in massive fraud (without any significant evidence) that he sees no need to disguise his position. For his part DeJoy has arrogantly “reassigned” 23 top administrators, changed overtime and other rules to slow the processing of mail, dropped ballots from being first-class mail, begun pulling strategically placed mailboxes and removing 500 automated mail sorters, and warned 46 states that ballots will be delayed. In the offing are executive orders making certain kinds of ballots and ballot handling illegal. For Trump this is win-win: it probably results in calling the general election invalid because of messed up mail voting, and it sets up the USPS as dysfunctional and in need of privatizing.
Trump may have miscalculated. He and his political advisers have no comprehension of the bipartisan support for the U.S. Postal Service. Particularly in rural areas, the local post office is iconic and frequently revered. The Postal Service is the only government agency required by the Constitution. Despite decades-long attempts to privatize, local Postal Service has been defended time and time again. The public wants hands off the post office, and in a time of coronavirus people have a gut understanding of why voting by mail is the best option. Any politician who opposes this becomes vulnerable. The Democrats are preparing to make the post office and mail voting a major campaign issue. The public is already taking to the streets. In Montana swift pushback from the entire congressional delegation forced the Postal Service to stop removing mailboxes not only in Montana but nationwide. In short, Trump’s kicked a hornets’ nest.
Kamala Harris for the Democratic VP nomination is a solid choice, and may be surprisingly effective. Early indications are that Harris is a better match for Biden than many thought after the Democratic primaries. Besides maintaining the growing momentum of support from the Black community, Harris has already demonstrated the energy and campaign aggressiveness that Biden may not be able to sustain. Better yet, she, like Biden, provides a hard and hardened target for the Trump/GOP/right-wing media goulash of lies, innuendo, and gaslighting. This is going to be an historically dirty campaign, mainly because fighting dirty is about all Trump and his party have left. It’s going to take skill and toughness to deflect the crap-blizzard, but there’s reason to hope that Biden and Harris can consistently turn negative campaigning to their advantage.
Saturday, August 8
[Coronavirus] U.S. Coronavirus Totals: Cases – 5,153,667; Deaths – 165,089
[Coronavirus] Trump Issues Dubious Executive Orders for Coronavirus Relief – Like fighting a forest fire with a squirt gun, Trump’s one executive order and three memoranda were almost instantaneously dismissed along a continuum from “unconstitutional slop,” to “completely inadequate.” Even the White House admitted most of it would be legally challenged and would not sufficiently deal with the problems of unemployment. The question remained, if these executive actions were absolutely no substitute for real legislation, what next? Next turned out to be Congress going home for summer vacation, leaving the fate of the economy and of millions of people unsettled until mid-September, or thereabouts.
[Racism – Protest] Portland Declares Riot – After protesters set fire to the police union building, Portland authorities declared “riot status” and brought in additional police. However, the fire was extinguished within minutes. The protesting crowd was much smaller than previous weeks. Outside of right-wing media, coverage of the event, and others like it, has been subdued.
Sunday, August 9
[Coronavirus] More Than 97,000 U.S. Children Test Positive for Coronavirus – According to a report by the American Academy of Pediatrics and the Children’s Hospital Association, this number was recorded in only the last two weeks of July. It’s estimated that at least 338,000 children have been infected since the beginning of the pandemic. By the latest scientific evidence, children do get infected and to one degree or another are carriers, but far fewer show symptoms or require hospitalization than do adults. The Trump/GOP/right-wing media continued to deny or misrepresent all of this.
Monday, August 10
[Coronavirus] Russia Registers World’s First Coronavirus Vaccine – Russia also admitted that this particular vaccine had not completed its Phase 3 trials, which means instant suspicion by the rest of the world. If the claim holds and the vaccine is safe, cost-effective, manufacturable at massive-scale, and deliverable then the world will rejoice.
[Racism – Protest] Chicago: Police Shooting Triggers Looting, 100 Arrests – The public reaction was more criminal than protest related. Other than by right-wing media there was little reaction, including from the White House, which seems to have largely abandoned its strident law and order campaign from previous weeks.
Tuesday, August 11
[Elections 2020] Biden Names Sen. Kamala Harris VP Pick – Harris, long seen as the front runner, will be the first woman of color on a major party ticket. The former district attorney, California Attorney General, and current U.S. Senator has demonstrated an impressive array of skills – legislative, legal, and political – and should be an asset to Biden in the campaign and in governing. Born in Oakland, she is the daughter of an Indian mother and Black Jamaican father; right-wing media – and Trump – immediately gaslighted her with birtherism, as if native-born children from immigrants couldn’t be president or VP. (As per the Constitution, they of course can.)
[Elections – 2020] Primaries: Rep. Ilhan Omar Wins, Q-Anon Supporter Wins in Georgia – As a prominent member of “The Squad” and against well-financed opposition, Omar won handily, 58-38. In Georgia Marjorie Taylor Green, among her other ultra-right-wing positions, is an avowed Q-Anon supporter [Democrats are Satan worshiping saboteurs who traffic children for sex]. Trump applauded her victory. She Is likely to become the congresswoman from her deep-red district.
[Coronavirus] Trump Announces Another Billion Dollar-Plus Coronavirus Subsidy – In purchasing an additional 100 million doses of the experimental Moderna coronavirus vaccine for $1.5 billion (on top of a previous purchase of $2.5 billion), the government continues its agreements with pharmaceutical giants Pfizer, Johnson & Johnson, and others to subsidize the development and testing of coronavirus vaccines.
Wednesday, August 12
[Coronavirus] Coronavirus Test Shortages Multiply in U.S. – It appears that Trump’s stated goal of “doing less testing” is happening. Not only has the total daily administration of coronavirus testing dropped by 15%, but shortages of basic testing supplies and test processing sites are appearing all over the nation. This is bad, right now, but for the coming fall season this could be the harbinger of something catastrophic.
Thursday, August 13
[Economy] New Unemployment Insurance Claims: 963,000 – Good news: This is the first time since March that the total has been under 1 million. Not so good news: About 15.5 million people are receiving benefits compared to the pre-pandemic record of 6.6 million. Altogether 35 million people are receiving some form of support, and many of these have lost the $600 additional unemployment payment.
[Post Office] Trump Admits Blocking Postal Service Funding to Prevent Mail-In Voting – Fairly often Trump says out loud what others only whisper in private. That’s because he believes that what he says is okay. He says mail-in voting is ipso facto fraudulent, which it is not, and that funding the post office would allow universal mail-in voting. It does not occur to him, or doesn’t matter, that he is manipulating the election, which is illegal.
[Coronavirus] Biden and Harris Call for Americans to Wear Masks – They made no mention of a nationwide mandate, but stressed that governors should issue orders making masks mandatory. Trump immediately countered that Biden was politicizing the coronavirus crisis and that the federal government should not impose on “law-abiding Americans to have this goal, Americans must have their freedoms.” This clarifies who is and who is not on the side of medical science, and also the rampant rhetorical misrepresentation used by Trump and the right-wing media.
[Foreign Relations] United Arab Emirates and Israel Announce Normalization of Relations – Becoming the third Arab country to establish diplomatic relations with Israel, the UAE announced an agreement for Israel to forgo further annexation of the West Bank. In exchange, trade, tourism, and governmental relations will be negotiated and gradually phased in. Jared Kushner largely brokered the agreement, without participation by the Palestinians.
Friday, August 14
[Post Office] Postal Service Warns 46 States Mail Delays Could Affect Voting – This is an incredibly brazen statement about the current condition of the Postal Service, when it is obvious concerted efforts are underway to make processing mail dysfunctional. Complaints about late deliveries, especially of medicine and Social Security checks, are already common.
[Post Office] Obama Urges Fight against Trump’s Attacks on the Postal Service – In an unusual and very specific appeal, Obama warned of the attack on the integrity of voting and the need for Congress and the public to prevent it.
[Coronavirus] New Benchmark: CDC Says Post-COVID-19 Infection Carries Three-Month Immunity – This is not good news. Many seasonal flu varieties have immunities that stretch out for years. Three months, a figure which is still without solid confirmation, is a dangerously short period. People can easily slip out of immunity without being aware, and the immunity itself may be inconsistent between individuals.
[Mueller Investigation] Durham Investigation Finds FBI Lawyer Falsified Carter Page Information – With the results of U.S. Attorney John Durham’s probe into the origins of the Mueller investigation putatively scheduled for October, this “leak” of a probable indictment is a sneak preview and set up for what is coming.
[Government] GAO Reports Acting Director and Deputy of Homeland Security Ineligible for the Jobs – Coming from the Government Accounting Office this is a nonbinding but influential finding. It means that DHS Director Chad Wolf and Deputy Director Kenneth Cuccinelli were appointed to their positions “out of the order of succession.” Since these are two of Trump’s most loyal and ruthless supporters, it will be interesting to see what, if anything, happens.
[Coronavirus] U.S. Coronavirus Totals: Cases – 5,476,266; Deaths – 171,535
Coronavirus (Crisis) Notes
To cite an historical parallel: The coronavirus crisis in the U.S. is like the Blitz in Great Britain during World War II. There is a continual attack, depressing daily casualties (in total 58,000 UK dead), widespread damage to the economy, a severe alteration of daily life, and the need for guidance and inspiration. Fortunately, for leadership the UK had the incomparable Winston Churchill. The comparison ends there.
Insofar as the coronavirus crisis is a public relations issue, this week represents a perilous phase. Overall, the U.S. looks as bad as it did in mid-May, particularly with COVID-19 deaths continuing to average around a thousand a day. Fortunately, in many states where various levels of mitigation are in progress, the rate of infection is dropping. Unfortunately, the hopscotch spreading of the pandemic is making the mitigation impact seem less dramatic. With the exception of Florida and perhaps Texas it seems that the status of the virus is bad but not catastrophic. There’s room for the deniers to continue making their false claims and gaslighting the public.
This is perilous because, in the first place, the pandemic is still very much with us, lethal, and spreading. Secondly, as public health officials such as the head of the CDC keep telling us, “this could be the worst fall [season] from a public health perspective we’ve ever had.” Between the large pockets of the population not observing coronavirus precautions, the customary resurgence of seasonal flu by October, a probable increasing COVID-19 spread, and a more open general environment (open schools, more people at work, more mobility) the U.S. will be dangerously relaxed and vulnerable.
Despite continued bleating from Trump and the White House, roughly 90% of U.S. schools have already decided on their basic approach to opening, with or without CDC guidelines. Most are remaining flexible between online and in-person education.
Economy (Crisis) Notes
Little known fact: During negotiations over a new relief bill between the White House and congressional Democrats, the Democrats offered last week to reduce the price tag on their “Heroes Act” by $1 trillion. The White House rejected the obvious negotiating offer out of hand, and Trump/GOP/right-wing media continued to claim the Democrats were unwilling to negotiate. No wonder the entire Congress went home for a summer break with no progress.
Despite the fakery of Trump’s executive orders, the White House is still in charge of negotiating a new coronavirus relief bill. Until the situation makes it clear the executive orders are empty, the economic situation is dire, and tens of millions of people are losing their homes, going hungry, and have no money, it looks like it may literally be a month or more before serious negotiations resume (this time including the GOP Senate). Few believed this negotiation farce was a possibility; the consequences to the economy are devastating to fathom.
Constitutional, Political, Election (Crisis) Notes
On top of messing with an American icon, the post office, Trump has also embraced the “third rail of American politics,” Social Security and Medicare. “If I’m victorious on November 3, I plan to forgive these taxes and make permanent cuts to the payroll tax.” The payroll tax funds Social Security and Medicare. Trump has handed the Democrats two very powerful issues.
Trump-bits. Trump had the White House staff investigate adding his face to Mount Rushmore. Trump was unable to answer a reporter’s question, “Do you regret all the lying you’ve done to the American people?” Trump claimed that Americans will have to learn Chinese if Biden wins. According to Trump, the Spanish flu occurred in 1917 and ended the Second World War. Clearly, for Trump college football is far more important than COVID-19. Trump and Melania are voting by mail.
Quote of the Week
As somebody who has presented my fair share of arguments in court, the case against Donald Trump and Mike Pence is open and shut.
Kamala Harris, in first appearance as Biden’s VP Pick, 8/12/2020
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