Indivisible Upper Yellowstone – Weekly Journal
The Week of Saturday, August 15 through Friday, August 21, 2020 [Vol.2 No.5]
The First Virtual Political Convention
The Week’s Most Notable
The Democratic National Convention, held electronically from everywhere in the country, wound up demonstrating so many advantages for the format that presentations of convention events such as roll call of the states, support speeches, and testimonials may never again be done in the old convention hall tradition. As a mode of presentation, it was both intimate and yet conveyed the sense of isolation appropriate for the coronavirus era. It allowed for more cohesive storytelling, a focus on a long list of individuals, and an element of variety or even surprise that made for, improbably, mostly entertaining political theater. Whether it has significant impact on voter opinions remains to be seen. In this highly polarized world, no event is likely to move the needle very far; but certainly, this did no harm to the Democrats or to the Biden-Harris team. For the most part, it also made Democrats feel very good.
Under the circumstances (conventions, post office scandal, coronavirus crisis, etc.) the final Senate intelligence committee report on Russian interference in the 2016 election seemed like a muffled blast from the past. What it actually did was to provide the evidence and rationale for proving that the Trump campaign colluded with the Russians. To a certain extent “collusion” is in the eye of the beholder. As a legal term, the Mueller report had difficulty establishing criminal cases. This report augments criminal grounds for collusion, but more amply lays out the broader story, with evidence of the many, many times the Trump campaign knew about and actively encouraged Russian interference. By itself the report should present a post-election guide for investigation. However, in a month or so, AG Barr will present the Durham Report impugning the origins of Mueller’s investigation. These two documents, along with their actual or implied indictments, will then set the stage for both pre- and post-election legal wrangling. Who will care?
Saturday, August 15
[Coronavirus] U.S. Coronavirus Totals: Cases – 5,533,733; Deaths – 173,157
[Coronavirus] FDA Authorizes COVID-19 Saliva Test – Issued on an emergency authorization basis, the new test developed by the Yale School of Public Health and with the participation of the National Basketball Association, does not require a swab or any specific collection device. It will cost around $10, turnaround time about 24 hours, with an accuracy range of 88-94%. It’s already being used by the NBA and, so far, appears to have a good track record. If that holds up, as the NBA would say, it could be a game changer.
Sunday, August 16
[Coronavirus – Japan] Japan Suffers Worst Economic Decline on Record – The Japanese economy shrank at an annual rate of 27.8% in the second quarter (GDP fell 7.8% in the quarter). The economy is now officially in recession. As with most other countries around the world, the causes for the recession are business closings, drop in manufacturing, and the sharp drop in consumer spending due to the threats and restrictions associated with the coronavirus.
[Belarus] Massive Protest against Lukashenko – Following widespread charges of election rigging, more than 200,000 Belarusians took to the streets in the largest political protest in the country’s history. Lukashenko is the last “classical style dictator” in Europe, in contrast to the oligarch style dictator Putin. Whether this will be another regime changing protest, à la Ukraine, depends on whether the protest can be sustained and whether Putin chooses to intervene.
[Weather – Climate Change] California Record Heat, Death Valley 130°F – The Death Valley record may be one of the top three ever recorded worldwide. [Update: The rest of California has become a tinderbox with over 500 fires burning an area larger than Rhode Island. Smoke, rolling blackouts, blocked roads are becoming everyday occurrences.]
Monday, August 17
[Elections 2020] Democratic National Convention Day 1 – The U.S.’s first “virtual political convention” opened today as a grand experiment in online communications. The “remote talking head” technology is already commonplace, if not foolproof. Other than being horrendously complicated to orchestrate, the production proceeds rather like a variety show. Broadcast networks and most audiences are happy because they only need to cover two hours. Net result: pretty good watching, occasionally brilliant. This format favors narrative and individual speeches far more than information and issues, but when did a conventional convention ever do justice to the issues? Some of the speeches transcended the event. Bernie Sanders delivered the most policy content, in his own inimitable style, but Michele Obama delivered the important message of the day. “Donald Trump is the wrong president for our country. He has had more than enough time to prove that he can do the job, but he is clearly in over his head. He cannot meet this moment. He simply cannot be who we need him to be for us. It is what it is.” For someone who avows dislike of politics, she’s really good at it.
[Environment] Trump Administration Finalizes Arctic Refuge Drilling Plan – Alaska’s Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, the largest remaining wildlife wilderness in the U.S., has been a target for development for decades. Now with a global glut of oil and gas, it’s a perfect time for the administration to begin leasing land by the end of the year and producing within eight years. Of course, every step of the way will be contested in court.
[Wall Street] Coronavirus Entertainment and Internet Use Surge Big Tech to NASDAQ Record – At least somebody’s making money during the multiple crises; in this case companies producing infrastructure and content for the Internet. Given that the stock market is awash with literally trillions of dollars in liquidity pumped into the financial system by the Federal Reserve, the money is happy to find profitable targets. Again, the stock market does not reflect the overall economy.
Tuesday, August 18
[Elections 2020] Democratic National Convention Day 2 – A transition day featuring past presidents (Clinton and Carter) as they more or less gracefully ride off toward the horizon; a parade of former Republicans headed by the last-minute insert of Colin Powell; and a number of issues of Democratic priority culminating in Jill Biden’s keynote speech, which didn’t have rhetorical fireworks but put the spotlight on this coronavirus era, and for any era, on our children and education.
[Elections – Russian Interference] Senate Intelligence Committee Issues Final Report Outlining Russian Interference in the 2016 Election – The fifth and final report, almost a thousand pages, concluded that the Trump campaign had regular contact with Russians and welcomed their help. It singled out Trump’s campaign manager, Paul Manafort, as a “grave counterintelligence threat” for his sharing of information with Russian agents. The report also rejects Trump’s claim that the FBI had no reason to investigate his campaign’s contacts with Russia. The Republicans on the committee signed their names to the full document but in a spectacular CYA maneuver, most also signed an appended statement that they believed the document did not show collusion between the Trump campaign and the Russians. It was a bald-faced contradiction of nearly everything in the report, but provided right-wing media a counter story.
[Post Office] Postmaster General Suspends Operational Changes – Louis DeJoy tends to maneuver his words, much like Bill Barr or a practiced defense attorney. In this case, highlight the word “suspend,” meaning that procedural things that slow down postal delivery will not be continued – but not reversed. In other words, the damage has already been done. No wonder Nancy Pelosi immediately replied “not good enough.” His rationale, no doubt based in transactional business terms, will be examined on Friday by the Senate and far more rigorously by the House Oversight Committee on Monday.
[China – Floods] Massive Upper Yangtze River Floods – More than 100,000 evacuated as waters reached above flood protection levels of 16 feet or more. This, despite a gigantic flood control system associated with the Three Gorges Project, which is already above high-water warning levels and which may actually be contributing to the flooding problem.
Wednesday, August 19
[Elections 2020] Democratic National Convention Day 3 – The headline for the day was the official nomination of Kamala Harris for VP, but the headliner was really Obama’s address to the convention. For Obama, actually for any politician of his stature, it was an extraordinary get-out-the-vote speech backed by a very strong undertone of emotion. For many Americans “our democracy” is a knee-jerk “uh-huh.” A “threat to our democracy” is used by all political stripes and barely elicits a grunt. Knowing that, Obama worked his rhetorical wonders to convince Americans that this time democracy really is in trouble. It was one of his most powerful speeches and one of the darkest.
[QAnon] Trump Soft-Signals QAnon Approval – When it’s super controversial, Trump often “jokes.” QAnon is a conspiracy theory with several million adherents that believes, among other things, that liberals and Democrats are led by a deep state criminal band of pedophiles and satanic worshipers who sex traffic children and drink their blood. Trump quipped about going after such people, “Is that supposed to be a bad thing?” If this sounds incredible, it is. This is the President of the United States, “So I don’t really know anything about it other than they do supposedly like me, which I appreciate.” Expect the flagrant insanities of QAnon beliefs and predictions to resonate not only at the White House but in the halls of Congress.
[Foreign Relations] Trump Demands U.N. Revive Iran Sanctions – Having already withdrawn the U.S. from the Iran nuclear deal and refusing to negotiate with either Iran or the EU members involved, this dog has no teeth – the Security Council rejected the demand. Still, the bark may set up a last-minute pre-election foreign crisis gambit.
Thursday, August 20
[Elections 2020] Democratic National Convention Day 4 – It was not foreordained, but Joe Biden’s presidential nomination acceptance speech was the highlight not only of the day but as the kickoff for the final round of the 2020 campaign. Rock solid might be the final characterization of his speech. That is to say, exactly what the situation required – tightly written, crisply presented, and showcasing Biden’s strongest characteristics of empathy and decency. It allowed little room for even slightly legitimate right wing/Trumpian criticism of Biden (not that that will stop them).
[Economy] New Unemployment Insurance Claims: 1.1 million – After dipping below 1 million in the previous week, the numbers of newly unemployed are back with a clear message that the economy is no longer recovering, and instead appears to be faltering in light of renewed coronavirus activity and the end of federal emergency relief.
[Russia – Politics] Alexei Navalny, Russian Opposition Leader Poisoned – In the all too obvious and common means for disposing of Putin’s opposition, Navalny was rushed to the hospital desperately ill from apparently drinking poisoned tea. [Update: After a protracted medical-legal fight, the critically ill Navalny was flown to Germany for treatment.]
[Bannon – Arrest] Bannon Arrested on Fraud Charges – The former White House chief strategist was arrested under indictments from the Southern District of New York for using the online “We Build the Wall” campaign, which raised $25 million for Trump’s border wall, to siphon more than $1 million into the pockets of organizers, including Bannon.
[Trump – Financials] Judge Throws out Attempt to Block Trump Financials Subpoena – Having bounced back from the Supreme Court decision that Trump’s tax information could be subpoenaed, his lawyers argued that the subpoena from the District Court of Manhattan was too broad. The judge ruled that they failed to prove the subpoena was issued in bad faith. He also ruled against a last-minute emergency appeal. It is likely the subpoena will be honored by the defendant, Trump’s law firm Mazars USA, before further appeals can be applied. The materials are destined for the grand jury and will not be available to the public any time soon.
Friday, August 21
[Post Office] Postmaster General Testifies before Senate Committee – The Senate Homeland Security Committee, headed by Republicans, turned out to be a congenial environment for Louis DeJoy’s testimony. His basic thesis: Everything he did was to make the post office more efficient along the lines of standard business practice. He avowed that difficulties in delivery schedules would be taken care of and that “the USPS is fully capable and committed to delivering the nation’s election mail securely and on time.” Skepticism of his position and its corresponding lack of specifics would have fallen to Democratic committee member Kamala Harris, but she was unavailable. On Monday DeJoy moves to the House Oversight Committee, where his questioning, especially by Rep. Katie Porter, is expected to be more comprehensive and incisive. There’s a big story lurking here but it may be months, if ever, before we know how it all fits together.
[Coronavirus] U.S. Coronavirus Totals: Cases – 5,796,727; Deaths – 179,200
Coronavirus (Crisis) Notes
Can Trump and the right-wing propaganda machine make the coronavirus issue disappear? The tactic has changed from denial to ignorance (pun intended). Like Trump’s “if you don’t test it, it isn’t there” argument, ignoring the coronavirus crisis is, to put it mildly, a risky approach. People are likely to notice that friends, family, and neighbors are getting sick and occasionally dying. We’ll see what shows up at the Republican National Convention, but even Mike Pence said on Thursday “expect a miracle.”
Constitutional, Political, Election (Crisis) Notes
Expect a paroxysm of propaganda. By rule of thumb, good propaganda always contains a kernel of truth or at least believability. Trump and GOP minions don’t care about good propaganda. They are flooding the media with variations on “radical leftists have taken over Joe Biden,” and “there will be chaos in the cities.” As the ship is going down, they pump out the apocalyptic bilge. Biden’s acceptance speech went some of the way to blunt the personal attacks, but the right-wing media made sure most of Trump’s base didn’t get that message. All this makes the upcoming debates crucial.
Trump-bits. T: Pardons Susan B. Anthony, ironically for her illegal voting. T: New Zealand had a “big surge” in coronavirus cases; that was 9 cases, after four months of 0 cases. Add to list of wingnut candidates T supports, Laura Loomer, Islamophobe in the extreme (no airplane hit the Pentagon on 9/11; “Fox News has been completely taken over by the liberals” ).. T: “I haven’t been dealing with him [newly indicted Steve Bannon] for a very long period of time.” T: The deep state is delaying the coronavirus vaccine, T: Don’t buy GOODYEAR TIRES – They announced a BAN ON MAGA HATS. T: Michelle Obama: “was over her head” and “had the wrong deaths”.
Quotes of the Week
It’s illegal to intentionally interfere both in an election and a person’s right to vote. We’re analyzing every possible legal claim and avenue for relief to make sure that the election is fair and accurate.
William Tong, CT AG on state Attorneys General plan to sue USPS or the Administration, 8/16/2020.
I hardly ever saw Donald Trump read a document he was handed, but he did love pictures. He loved pictures, and there were many occasions where we had to go see the president and we figured out that the best way to convince him of something was to get a really good graphic of it.
Miles Taylor, former DHS Chief of Staff, on CNN, 8/20/2020.
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