Indivisible Upper Yellowstone – Weekly Journal
The Week of Saturday, September 5 through Friday, September 11, 2020 [Vol.2 No.8]
The Woodward Tapes
The Week’s Most Notable
Will the “Woodward Tapes” have the impact of the “Nixon Tapes” that dramatically tipped public opinion against Nixon? The revelations from Woodward’s recorded nine hours from 18 telephone conversations with Trump provoked the obvious question “Will this, finally, move the needle for voters?” After all there is, for example, Trump’s admission that he knew about the severity of the COVID-19 pandemic in January, did nothing, and in fact lied to the American public by claiming that it was a hoax. The Trump-GOP-right wing media can scream the usual “fake news,” but there are those recorded statements in Trump’s own voice. All true. However, keep in mind approximately 40% of voters will hear little or nothing about Woodward’s book or the tapes. Much of what they do hear will be defensive propaganda. In any case, most of them are not inclined to believe anything but their tribal media and Trump himself. So, no, this “smoking gun” won’t have the same impact as the Nixon tapes. Marginally, that is among the approximately 5% of voters who are still undecided, the Woodward book (Rage), the tapes, and up to two weeks of media coverage might be influential. Overall, Woodward’s work sings with the Democratic choir, which right now is a good thing.
The conflagration-nation: The look of climate crisis apocalypse. As anyone knows who has had to breathe smoke from a fire, even a campfire – watery eyes, choking, and coughing follow. Imagine this being the condition all day, for days on end. The images of orange skies and towering columns of flame are now daily background to news from the West Coast. Imagine living this, as across the west millions now do, and make that very small step toward imagining climate change as it affects weather in environmental conditions around the world. Could there be a more dramatic representation? (E.g., Will hurricanes in the East and South become more devastating?)
Saturday, September 5
[Coronavirus] U.S. Coronavirus Totals: Cases – 6,429,148; Deaths – 192,818
[Racism – Protest] New York AG Starts Grand Jury in Daniel Prude Case – Nearly 6 months after the incident in Rochester, New York – where the police arrested Prude, covered his head with a hood, and his subsequent death from the effects of suffocation – New York AG Leticia James announced a grand jury would be convened to investigate. Revelations this week concerning the case sparked street protests, highlighting yet another city where police violence triggered public outrage.
[Wildfire – California] California Wildfires Burn 2.1 Million Acres, Trap 224 Campers – As the state erupts in a record number and size of wildfires, campers at Mammoth Pool Reservoir had to be rescued by helicopter. The official fire season begins in October.
Sunday, September 6
[Climate – Crisis] Record High Temperature in Los Angeles – Breaking the old record by 2 degrees, temperatures reached 121°F. The record was indicative of fire conditions throughout California, Oregon, and Washington, which continue to suffer wildfires of almost apocalyptic proportions.
[Hurricane] Typhoon Haishen Slams into Japan and South Korea – The second major storm in two months has killed at least 14 and exacerbated the recovery from July floods.
Monday, September 7
[Election – 2020] Trump Continues Rhetorical Head-Butting with the Military – Apparently doubling down on the earlier revelations in The Atlantic (losers & suckers), “I’m not saying the military’s in love with me, the soldiers are, the top people in the Pentagon probably aren’t because they want to do nothing but fight wars so that all those wonderful companies that make the bombs, that make the planes, that make everything else, stay happy.” Polls show that more than 50% of all military, including soldiers, do not approve of Trump. His quasi-populist rhetoric is in conflict with his years of favoring military spending, foreign arms deals, and military shows of force.
Tuesday, September 8
[Coronavirus] Major COVID-19 Vaccine Trial Suspended – After a UK participant had a severe adverse reaction, the trial was routinely suspended for a review of safety data. The AstraZeneca vaccine, co-developed with Oxford University, is considered a leading candidate, one of three now in Phase 3 trials in the U.S. [Update: After an oversight panel ruling, the AstraZeneca trial continued this weekend.]
[Coronavirus] Sturgis Motorcycle Rally a COVID-19 “Superspreader Event” – As predicted, studies and surveys are coming in, showing that the monster rally with more than 460,000 people was a perfect environment for spreading the coronavirus. One study claims more than 266,000 cases were created. Although many cases have been documented, total numbers are estimates. Because of the magnitude, right-wing media vociferously began attacking the studies.
[Election – 2020] Trump Vows to Use His Own Money in Campaign – Persistent reporting indicates that the Trump campaign has spent more than $800 million of its $1.1 billion RNC fund (through July). Cuts in the advertising schedule and in the distribution of funds to states have also been reported. If significant, we’ll have to wait for the election postmortem for confirmation.
[DOJ] DOJ Takes Over in Carroll v. Trump Defamation Suit – Acting as Trump’s law firm, the DOJ has replaced Trump’s lawyers in a filing that contends the suit by author E. Jean Carroll cannot continue because Trump was acting in an “official capacity” when he denied knowing her during a press conference. (Trump’s denial was in answer to a question concerning the author’s accusation that Trump had raped her during the 1990s.) The DOJ cited the Federal Tort Claims Act that federal employees are entitled to a DOJ defense for alleged actions while performing federal work. This will probably stick, despite being overtly partisan, highly unusual, and a distortion of the law. In other words, a typical Bill Barr maneuver.
Wednesday, September 9
[Election – 2020] Washington Post Scoops Woodward’s Book and Tapes – Bob Woodward, dean of the American school of bombshell journalism, has a much-heralded book, Rage, which the Post obtained in an advance copy. This initial sally, which normally would be considered a “teaser leak,” starts with a headline for the history books: “Trump says he knew coronavirus was ‘deadly’ and worse than the flu while intentionally misleading Americans.” The book has this in Trump’s own words, and much more significantly, Trump’s voice on tape. (Thanks to echoes from the Nixon tapes, these will be forever known as the Woodward tapes, even though no tape was involved since these are digital recordings from phone conversations.) Woodward built the book around nine hours of conversations with Trump, which makes it difficult to deny without flat out lying – and the key points are in Trump’s own voice. The book also covers race relations, diplomacy with North Korea, assessments of Trump’s performance, and other topics by numerous observers. When it is officially published on Tuesday, September 15, there will be another massive round of coverage.
[Coronavirus] DHS Whistleblower: Analysts Told to Suppress Russian Election Meddling and White Supremacy Reports – The formal whistleblower complaint names acting Homeland Security Secretary Chad Wolf as the source of orders to modify intelligence assessments. They were told to emphasize China and Iran while downplaying the Russian threat. This was consistent with ongoing White House policy to bury anything related to Russia and Putin and, on the domestic front, anything to do with white supremacy.
[Nobel Peace Prize] Trump Nominated for Nobel Peace Prize, Again – A far-right, anti-immigrant Norwegian legislator filed the nomination based on the “possible peace in the Middle East” from the Israel-UAE agreement to normalize relations. As last year, the nomination was engineered for U.S. domestic public relations and propaganda. This year’s conservative prize committee could conceivably give the award to Trump.
[Supreme Court] Trump Shortlists Potential Supreme Court Nominees – Trump already has an earlier list of 25 nominees; this one adds names such as Ted Cruz (R–TX), Tom Cotton (R-AR) and Josh Hawley (R-MO). As is apparent, all nominees are highly partisan, which is now standard practice for Trump-GOP.
Thursday, September 10
[Economy] New Unemployment Insurance Claims: 884,000 – Virtually unchanged from the previous week’s 900,000, the number continues to signal that the recovery of jobs after the coronavirus shutdown has largely ended. Roughly half of the 22 million jobs lost at the beginning of the crisis have been recovered.
[Woodward– Tapes] Trump Claims Lying about Coronavirus Was to Avoid Panic – The problem with this explanation is twofold (at least): he continued bald-faced lying (“it’s a hoax”) for two months and he currently continues lying-misleading (“it’s over”) and, secondly, creating fear and panic is what Trump does; it’s the most consistent component of his campaign. The shock waves from the Woodward tapes promise to be enduring and in some sense diverting.
[Coronavirus] Republican “Skinny” Relief Bill Fails in Senate – The bill was not only skinny, read insufficient, but loaded with “poison pills” such as exempting employers from coronavirus-related lawsuits; no way could Democrats concede this vote. They were offering a bill for $2.4 trillion (a compromise from their $3.4 trillion May bill), the Republicans $650 billion, which contained no money for state or local governments among other things. The failure of this vote signals a complete impasse; there will be no other relief bill until after the election, if ever.
[Election – 2020] Microsoft Identifies Russian Hackers of 2020 Election – Claiming that “foreign activity groups have stepped up their efforts,” Microsoft fingered Russia for targeting 200 U.S. groups, and China or Iran for targeting specific people, especially Biden. The significance of the Microsoft report is that there will be no repercussions from either the White House or Congress.
[Census] Court Rulings on Census Go Against Trump – A federal three-judge panel based in New York blocked a Trump memorandum excluding undocumented immigrants from being counted. The ruling will be appealed to the Supreme Court, but it’s an uphill argument since the Constitution is extremely explicit – all residents must be counted. Hours before this ruling, another federal judge ordered the Trump administration to produce documents about the sudden decision to end the 2020 census a month early.
[Environment] Bipartisan Senate Agreement to Limit Greenhouse Gases – In a surprise amendment to the omnibus energy bill, senators agreed to phasing out planet warming chemicals commonly used in air conditioners and refrigeration (chlorofluorocarbons). Thanks to widespread business support, this slim piece of environmental good news may become law sometime in 2021.
[Post Office] Fourteen States Sue USPS – While the vote by mail issue seems to be simmering down, the states filed a motion in D. C. District Court to order the USPS to treat all election mail as First Class, to end the “leave behind” policy, and to replace or reinstall any removed sorting machines needed to ensure timely processing. The presiding judge is expediting the process.
Friday, September 11
[9/11 Anniversary] U.S. Marks 19th Anniversary of 9/11 – Bipartisan ceremonies, altered by coronavirus requirements, were held at various locations.
[Wildfire] Western Wildfires Continue at Record Pace – The aggregate numbers for California, Oregon, and Washington are so far: 23 dead, 100+ major fires, hundreds of destroyed homes, 7,000 square miles burned (almost the size of New Jersey), and tens of thousands of people evacuated. In Oregon 500,000 people have been warned they may need to evacuate. Nine other Western states report significant fires. Meanwhile, the smoke from the fires, the disruption of transportation and normal services – in a time of COVID-19 – are taking a heavy toll on the economy, both locally and nationally, and on the health of millions.
[DOJ] Top Prosecutor Quits Durham’s Investigation – Former assistant U.S. Attorney and top aide to John Durham, Nora Dannehy, quit her post in part because she felt AG Barr was pressuring the investigation into the origins of the Mueller probe to produce a report before the election. It is expected Barr wants indictments of “name people” in October to help Trump’s campaign.
[Climate – Crisis] Wild Fire Threatens Portland Suburbs – The week in Portland began with protesters throwing fiery Molotov cocktails and ended with Mother Nature burning its way through more than a million acres in Oregon alone. The threat of violence in the streets seems minuscule compared to the burgeoning effects of climate change.
[Coronavirus] Fauci Warns of a Challenging Fall and Winter – Although shunned by the Trump administration, Dr. Anthony Fauci continues to be the go-to person for COVID-19 evaluation. “We need to hunker down and get through this fall and winter because it’s not going to be easy.” The combination of COVID-19 and seasonal flu are likely to test medical capacity in many parts of the country.
[Coronavirus] U.S. Coronavirus Totals: Cases – 6,636,247; Deaths – 197,421
Coronavirus (Crisis) Notes
To hear the Trump-GOP tell it, “we are rounding the corner,” the coronavirus crisis is all but over. The medical community says no, it’s not over. We are on a plateau, a particularly high and bad place with more than 45,000 new cases and a death toll of more than 1,000 a day. What comes next is fall and winter with a probable spike in COVID-19 cases made worse by a confluence with the seasonal flu. It’s becoming increasingly apparent that a credible coronavirus vaccine or treatment won’t be identified until the end of the year, and probably not widely available until mid-2021.
Economy (Crisis) Notes
Now it looks like a slow building economic crisis. Most economists were convinced by the hit to the economy back in March and April, with unemployment reaching 30%, that the U.S. and indeed the world was headed toward a sudden deep recession-depression. It hasn’t panned out that way. Thankfully. For one thing, the U.S. Federal Reserve prevented a corresponding financial collapse by pumping $7 trillion of liquidity into the stock market. The U.S. Congress, to everyone’s surprise, responded quickly with $2.4 trillion in a coronavirus relief package. These measures, plus the novelty of a pandemic lockdown, diffused the tendency toward economic collapse. However, the coronavirus crisis is not over, with no significant action by either Congress or the White House until after the election, a rapidly deteriorating financial situation for state, county, and local governments, and continued high unemployment.
Constitutional, Political, Election (Crisis) Notes
Some ill-advised macrolevel prognostication about factors in the coming general election: Coronavirus and seasonal flu numbers will be rising by November 3, but probably not at emergency levels. Economic hardship, particularly evictions, bankruptcies, and public hunger will be receiving more attention but probably not yet causing riots. Political shocks, such as the AG Barr and John Durham report (with probable indictments) will not have much effect. In short, it’s likely that whatever the voter breakdown is by the end of September, it will not change substantially by November 3.
Trump-bits. T on Prince Mohammed bin Salman: “I saved his ass.” T campaign advisor: “Hard to say fake news when there is an audio of his comments.” T on refusal to meet with Democrats on the next relief package: “I am taking the high road. I’m taking the high road by not seeing them.” T at gravesite of John Kelly’s son in Arlington Cemetery: “I don’t get it. What was in it for them?” T: Biden is a “stupid person.” Harris is “not a competent person.”
Quotes of the Week
[Biden would perpetuate] policies that have literally led to violence in our major American cities.
Pence campaigning in LaCrosse, WI, 9/07/2020.
People don’t like her. Nobody likes her. She could never be the first woman president. She could never be. That would be an insult to our country.
Trump campaigning in Winston-Salem, NC, 9/08/2020.
[The IUY Weekly Journal assumes readers are passingly familiar with names and events. For more details, check with internet search (Google it).]