Indivisible Upper Yellowstone – Weekly Journal
The Week of Saturday, August 22 through Friday, August 28, 2020 [Vol.2 No.6]
Alternate Reality Convention
The Week’s Most Notable
Propaganda vs reality. To paraphrase Lincoln’s Gettysburg address, “We are now engaged in a great civil war testing whether this media, apotheosis of mendacity, or that media, conceived in honesty and dedicated to facts, can long endure.” Has it come to that? Prime evidence: The Republican National Convention. The gavel-to-gavel propaganda forces us to confront a world constructed by Trump-Fox News-right wing media, the only significant source of information for roughly 40% of Americans. In this world Trump was utterly successful in controlling the COVID-19 virus and the pandemic is now behind us; he arranged the support for a dramatic economic recovery; he has identified violence in the streets as the preeminent national emergency; warned of the destruction of suburbs by people of color; and claimed that his Democratic opponent is led like a slave with a ring in his nose by radical left-wing Democrats. Without apology, it feels absolutely right that mockery and sarcasm is the appropriate coin of return for this inverted fantasy world.
Vigilante kills in Kenosha. Similar to the George Floyd incident in Minneapolis, the big impact of this incident began with a recording of a white policeman grabbing the shirt of a black man attempting to enter his car and pumping seven rounds into his back. Whatever the context, and it was complicated, this looked like murder and was more than enough to touch off rioting. Protests continued for several days and involved a shooting by a 17-year-old self-appointed vigilante who killed two people and injured a third. The facts of the event-sequence will probably take years to disentangle, but one salient observation is that while “mainstream media” continued to cover the origin and motivation of the protests, Fox News/right-wing media covered mostly the rioting (a.k.a. violent protests). From the Republican National Convention to routine right-wing pundit coverage, the incessant emphasis was on protester violence. By Tuesday this was headed toward a profoundly polarized perception of what was happening in Kenosha. Then the National Basketball Association entered the picture and, by causing a cascade of game cancellations in several leagues, forced all media to recognize the athletes’ emphasis on police violence and shooting of black men. It was a perfect media epitome for clash of cultures: Black man’s grievance versus white man’s defense. We knew this was coming. Unfortunately, In the short run, it can only get uglier.
Saturday, August 22
[Coronavirus] U.S. Coronavirus Totals: Cases – 5,797,599; Deaths – 179,200 [World deaths surpass 800,000]
[Post Office] House Passes $25 Billion USPS Bill – In addition to the money, which was originally requested by the USPS Board of Directors, the House legislation requires reversal of measures that slow down mail processing. The bill passed the House with some Republican votes, but in the Senate, McConnell rejected the bill before it even arrived. In any case, the Senate is not yet back in session. The Democrats contend the Trump linked USPS leadership has created a deteriorating Postal Service; the Republicans call it “a baseless conspiracy theory.” The Postal Service continues to have significant mail delivery delays. Expect news and political focus to move away from this issue during the week.
[Climate Crisis] Record California Wildfires to Grow with New Storm – A new “dry thunderstorm” weather system will increase the threat of fires for the next several days. [Update: Trump declared a major disaster for California fires; however, by the end of the week cooler, wetter weather allowed better control of fires.]
[Racism – Protest] Clashes Between Police and Protesters in Portland – The situation is complicated by armed far-right military groups such as the Proud Boys. There’s almost a rhythm to the ebb and flow of protesting crowds, confrontation among groups, and either police passivity or police pushback. Whatever the level of violence, it provides fodder for the right wing “chaos in America” campaign.
Sunday, August 23
[Coronavirus] FDA Authorizes Convalescent Plasma for COVID-19 – Trump and the head of the FDA announced this as an historic decision based on their claim that the plasma treatment could reduce mortality by 35%. However, no evidence was produced for that figure, and many scientists disputed the idea that this was some kind of breakthrough. [Update: Over the week the “breakthrough” fell apart as being a gross overstatement. Instead of firing the head of the FDA, two FDA staffers were released for having made the mistake.]
[Racism – Protest] Kenosha: Jacob Blake Shot in the Back by Police – In a sense, this is yet another video-documented police shooting incident with a black man; but it became the origin of the convoluted and convulsive story that crossed Black Lives Matter protesters with an anti-demonstration police force (headed by a police chief and sheriff, both apparently white supremacists), with vigilante forces, with a fatal shooting, with the National Basketball Association, with the White House and GOP “chaos in the streets” campaign.
[Government] Kellyanne Conway to Leave White House – The “Voice of Alternative Reality” and one of Trump’s longest-serving aides announced she would be leaving at the end of August. She and her almost as famous husband, George Conway III, decided to give up their day jobs, apparently under pressure from their daughter.
Monday, August 24
[Elections 2020] Republican National Convention – Day 1 – Opening day of America’s first alternate reality convention – a platform-free, policy free, almost fact-free, prime time political propaganda binge. The actual convention was held Monday morning and nominated Trump/Pence. In the evening, first-scion Donald Trump Jr. headlined the Trump Royal Family Show™. He was upstaged by what became a quintessential rant from his girlfriend and former Fox News host Kimberly Guilfoyle, dressed in flaming red and speaking with the volume cranked up for such ephemeral lines as “They want to steal your liberty, your freedom. They want to control what you see and think, and believe, so that they can control how you live! They want to enslave you to the weak, dependent, liberal, victim ideology, to the point that you will not recognize this country or yourself!”
[Coronavirus] Florida Judge Rules School Reopening Unconstitutional – The judge sided with Florida’s Education Association, finding that reopening schools in a coronavirus environment “arbitrarily disregards safety.” It would deprive state school boards of the right to decide when to reopen classrooms based on local conditions. Previously, Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) and Education Commissioner Richard Corcoran threatened to withhold state funding from any school that didn’t reopen. The ruling will probably be appealed but time is running out and schools are making their own decisions anyway.
[Post Office] Postmaster General DeJoy Testifies to House – In a rancorous and sometimes circus-like atmosphere, where Democrats accused DeJoy of deliberately causing postal delays, and Republicans called everything a hoax, there are more questions than answers about what has happened and will happen at the Postal Service, despite assurances that mail handling for the November election will be adequate. Serious postal delays continue. The problem is, Congress, specifically House Democrats, have very few actual levers of power to affect postal activity in the short run.
[Religious – Education] Jerry Falwell Jr. Resigns from Liberty University – The high-profile conservative religious educator resigned after a purported sexual-trinity affair with his wife and a pool boy.
Tuesday, August 25
[Racism – Protest] Kenosha: “Militia” Shooter Kills Two, Injures Another Protester – Armed with a military-grade rifle and permitted by the police to mingle with protesters (all after curfew), the shooter engaged in a running struggle with unarmed people, killing two and injuring one. Then under police observation and with people yelling “He’s the shooter!” he walked back to his car and drove home to Illinois, where he was later arrested. [Update: The shooter turned out to be white, an ardent Trump supporter, and a believer in doing vigilante duty. His extradition from Illinois is being fought by a crack team of attorneys, and he has become a cause célèbre of the right-wing and Fox News, who – rather unbelievably, if not unsurprisingly – are openly defending his right to shoot and kill protesters.]
[Elections 2020] Republican National Convention – Day 2 – Melania Trump, Eric Trump, Tiffany Trump, and Donald Trump presided over a number of speeches, and an illegally staged naturalization ceremony. Takeaway: Democrats are too radical.
Wednesday, August 26
[Climate Crisis] Hurricane Laura Slams into Louisiana – After strengthening very rapidly in the Gulf from a category three to a near category five hurricane, Laura hit coastal Louisiana with 155 mile-per-hour winds. It was one of the strongest storms to ever hit the Gulf Coast. Storm surge, rainfall flooding, and declining but still strong winds followed the path of the storm inland. Six U.S. deaths have been attributed to the storm; twenty people were killed in Haiti and three in the Dominican Republic.
[Coronavirus] Trump Administration Apparently Pressured CDC to Change Coronavirus Guidelines – When the CDC updated its guidelines to state that it was no longer necessary to test people who didn’t have symptoms, it quickly became clear that the CDC had been told to make the change by “higher-ups,” meaning the White House. It fits with Trump’s dictum that if you don’t do testing, you don’t have cases. Experts immediately denounced the dangerous idiocy of this position, and several states announced they would not follow the guidelines. Does it inspire confidence to have politicians dictate top level medical policy?
[Racism – Protest] Bucks Boycott Spreads to NBA, MLB, MLS, and NHL Teams – To protest the shooting of Jacob Blake in Kenosha, Wisconsin, the Bucks canceled their Wednesday playoff game. The league quickly endorsed the action and expanded it to other teams and other days. Very quickly teams from other professional sports joined in the protest. They provided counterweight to the Trump media theme of violence in the streets by emphasizing the cause for the violence – police brutality against black men. As these things go, with many athletic icons speaking out, the protests had effect. [Update: Regular schedules resumed on Saturday. The political statement was made and noted.]
[Elections 2020] Republican National Convention – Day 3 – VP Pence echoed, and echoed, and echoed the Trump talking points about law and order. He also praised Trump’s projection of leadership in the world. (Reality check: most of the world, when not purely appalled, either laughs at or ignores Trump.)
Thursday, August 27
[Economy] New Unemployment Insurance Claims: 1.0 million – This brings the total claims over the run of the coronavirus crisis to 58 million. Although down slightly from last week, the extraordinarily high level of more than a million new claims indicated that the “bump” from people returning to work after March-April-May lockdowns was definitely leveling off, signaling a slowdown in the economy. Indicative of the situation, United Airlines announced an October furlough of 21% of its pilots, unless Congress passes additional aid.
[Coronavirus] Midwest Is New Coronavirus Hot Spot – Iowa, Minnesota, North Dakota, and South Dakota reported their biggest single-day increases in infections. Infections, hospitalizations, and deaths are in a slow decline nationwide but officials believe that the reopening of schools will create another surge. Soon enough, seasonal flu will join COVID-19 cases.
[Elections 2020] Republican National Convention – Day 4 – With a stage prop of the White House as background for the presidential nomination acceptance speech, Trump used the opportunity to repeat four days’ worth of calling Joe Biden a radical, “Your vote will decide whether we protect law-abiding Americans or whether we give free reign to violent anarchists, agitators, and criminals who threaten our citizens.” His Good Daughter, Ivanka, introduced her father as “the People’s president.”
Friday, August 28
[Coronavirus] There Is Life in New Coronavirus Relief Bill – The White House proposed a $1.3 trillion relief bill, to which Pelosi said “not enough.” She repeated her compromise offer of $2.2 trillion. McConnell offered $500 billion for a plan, a bunch of ill-fitting numbers with almost no programmatic agreement whatsoever. Still, they’re talking; and Trump’s executive orders have more or less vaporized. Don’t expect anything significant until the Senate reconvenes in mid-September. Even then it looks like Republicans will remain intransigent, at best. How do you sing ‘flirting with Depression’?
[Racism – Protest] Washington DC BLM Demonstration – Tens of thousands gathered, more or less properly spaced and masked, for a long planned “Get Your Knee off Our Necks” March. It coincided with the 57th anniversary of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” speech.
[Japan] PM Shinzo Abe of Japan to Resign – Having just become Japan’s longest serving Prime Minister, he is leaving because of illness. He suffers from ulcerative colitis with complications and was recently hospitalized. Since the Liberal Party has no immediate replacement, he’s agreed to stay on until one is found.
[Coronavirus] U.S. Coronavirus Totals: Cases – 6,096,235; Deaths – 185,901
Coronavirus (Crisis) Notes
There is a survey that shows 57% of Republicans are okay with the current level of coronavirus deaths. That’s currently more than a thousand deaths a day. Ghouls? Not really. The key point is that those who drink from the Trump-Fox News-right wing media Kool-Aid don’t believe the death figures; they just can’t believe it’s that bad. They’re told the fake-news media is hyping the situation for Biden’s political benefit. Since COVID-19 victims aren’t dropping like flies everywhere and always, it’s hard to convince such people – even when they see friends, neighbors, and relatives getting sick – that the pandemic is serious. They have a different set of facts and a very different interpretation.
Racism Protest (Crisis) Notes
Now that armed right-wing militias have been encouraged to mix it up with BLM and other protesters, it’s almost guaranteed there will be more incidents like the one in Kenosha. The extra brutal part is that Trump-Republicans will immediately turn around and say “See what the Democrats are doing! It’s violence in the streets all the time.” As Andrew Sullivan and others have noted, the law and order issue favors the Republicans. The Democrats really need to figure out how to respond and then move beyond the response.
Constitutional, Political, Election (Crisis) Notes
The Hatch Act kerfuffle. The laws forbidding federal employees from engaging in or supporting political activity while at work were ignored with impunity during the RNC. Of course, the laws have no teeth, except in relatively isolated cases where enforcing the laws serves some political purpose. Certainly not in a political situation that involves the president and literally hundreds of people. Some laws for you, no laws for me and mine.
Trump-bits. T: “deep state, or whoever” at FDA is slowing vaccine trials. [Only drug companies are in charge of trials.] T: mail drop boxes are “not COVID sanitized.” Sister Maryanne (the once federal judge) on brother T: “The change of stories. The lack of preparation. The lying. Holy shit.” T response: “Every day it’s something else, who cares.” The intelligence community confirmed that no foreign country, including Russia, is attempting to undermine the mail-in vote. Thanks to T: They don’t need to. On the NBA cancelling games as protest, T: “I know their ratings are very bad.” Speaking of ratings: the DNC had better ratings every night than the RNC. T’s response: not hard to imagine.
Quotes of the Week
[Democrats will] disarm you, empty the prisons, lock you in your home, and invite MS-13 to live next door.
Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-FL), Speaking at the Republican National Convention, 8/24/2020.
[Trump on a 2nd term]: So I think, I think it would be, I think it would be very, very, I think we’d have a very, very solid, we would continue what we’re doing, we’d solidify what we’ve done and we have other things on our plate that we want to get done.
Peter Baker, “Instead of Evolving as President, . . .” The New York Times, 8/27/2020.
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