Indivisible Upper Yellowstone – Weekly Journal
The Week of Saturday, September 19 through Friday, September 25, 2020 [Vol.2 No.10]
Get Rid of the Ballots
The Week’s Most Notable
[This was an exceedingly item-dense, significant, and complicated week. Even media professionals were left gasping by the weekend. There should be sympathy for the engaged citizen.]
“We’ll want to have – get rid of the ballots and you have a very – we’ll have a very peaceful – there won’t be a transfer, frankly. There’ll be a continuation.” With this word-salad began the most threatening Trump-meme of the week. He all but said, he can’t lose. Like almost all such memes, this one was designed to jab liberals and the media into a knee-jerk response. In other words, at least part of it was intended to be a distraction from Trump’s ongoing coronavirus and other failures. On the other hand, it was part of an orchestrated gaslight-the-vote barrage coming not only from Trump but from AG Barr and others. The intent is to set up a moment, post-election, when Trump can cry “Rigged election!” As White House Coronavirus Task Force escapee Olivia Troye said, “When you’re the president, words matter.”
The death of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg is a double shock: Her death is a palpable loss for the court and for women’s rights (among others things). It also produced a naked power-play by the GOP to immediately replace her with a Ginsburg antithesis. To the very core of his twisted ego, as Trump desires to undo the entire Obama legacy, so the conservative right yearns to undo the entire Ginsburg legacy, which is essentially the legacy of the once liberal court, including but not only Roe v. Wade. The Democrats will not be able to stop it; the question is what will they do afterward?
Saturday, September 19
[Coronavirus] U.S. Coronavirus Totals: Cases – 6,997,444; Deaths – 203,845
[Election – 2020] RBG’s Passing Prompts Massive Democratic Donations – As one measure of the response to the death of Ruth Bader Ginsburg, donations to ActBlue, the Democratic Party’s donation-processing site, broke all records with $91.4 million from 1.5 million donors in 28 hours. During the week the total exceeded $160 million, also a record. The significance: Most of this money, according to officials, will be targeted at down-ballot contests – especially Senate.
Sunday, September 20
[Supreme Court] Senate GOP Rushes to Fill Ginsburg’s Seat – Because they can. After waving-off two nonessential votes (Murkowski and Collins) and limiting their own party’s already sparse backtalk, Senate GOP leaders, especially McConnell and Graham, eagerly announced their plans to push through a nominee before the November election – the hypocrisy of earlier statements not to do something like this be damned.
[Belorussia] For the Sixth Sunday More Than 100,000 March in Belorussia – The protest against the rigged election for proto-dictator Alexander Lukashenko continues throughout the country. So far, Lukashenko with Putin support shows no sign of leaving, but the ongoing protest is shaking loose sanctions from the EU and even the U.S.
Monday, September 21
[DOJ] Barr Politics: Portland, New York, and Seattle Labeled “Anarchist Jurisdictions” – Let the cheap political games continue as AG Barr and his DOJ invoke the ridiculous in order to cover blocking funds to cities with Democratic leaders. This is what it looks like, empty rhetoric hash-tagged for the Trump-GOP right-wing media. None of this passes court muster.
[Coronavirus] CDC Pulls Airborne COVID-19 Guidance – Adding another incident to the list of discrediting “errors,” a guidance posted on Friday, which maintained the now almost universally accepted notion that COVID-19 can spread via aerosol (small droplets or particles, like mist), was pulled on Monday because “it does not reflect our current state of knowledge.” Of course, this is read as “the White House does not like to make the dangers of coronavirus obvious.” Within six months such maneuvers by the White House and their hand-picked CDC Director Robert Redfield have brought a world-class institution into a downward spiral of disrepute.
[Coronavirus] Trump Says CDC Director Made a Mistake – For weeks Trump has been saying a COVID-19 vaccine would be available very soon, “Maybe by the end of October” (i.e. pre-election). To his credit, CDC Director Dr. Robert Redfield told Congress that a vaccine might be approvable by early November but wouldn’t be available to the public until mid-2021. This is close to the generally held view among experts. Trump responded, Redfield “made a mistake.” Trump respects no one if it doesn’t help him. According to one poll, ABC/Ipsos, 69% say they don’t have confidence in Trump’s promises about vaccines.
[Tropical Storm – Beta] Beta Makes Landfall in Texas – The very slow-moving, rain-soaking storm will progress up the Gulf Coast causing significant flooding for several days. It’s an area already waterlogged by Hurricane Sally.
[Climate Crisis] Arctic Ice Shrinks to Second Lowest Level on Record – This year’s ice pack melted to nearly 1,000,000 square miles below average. As one NASA official put it, “We are headed toward a seasonally ice-free Arctic Ocean, and this year is another nail in the coffin.”
Tuesday, September 22
[Coronavirus] U.S. Coronavirus Death Toll Officially Hits 200,000 – “200,000 deaths” will now be the phrase that characterizes this phase of the coronavirus crisis. It is the worst death record in the world, happening in the world’s richest country. Given that serious mitigation is still not a national priority, the number of deaths is predicted to double to around 400,000 by the end of the year. How this could be is not a mystery: It is a combination of crisis mismanagement, especially at the national level, often working at cross purposes with the advice of health experts, or more to the point, Trump making a health issue political for his re-election purposes.
[U.S. Government] Government Shutdown Averted – After a suitable period of grandstanding, Pelosi and Mnuchin agreed on a deal to fund the government through December 11. The House immediately approved it 359-57. The sticking point had been $8 billion for the Commodity Credit Corporation aid to farmers, which Trump had previously used to dole out money to his supporters. New language in the bill prevents this. The Senate is expected to pass the bill quickly.
[Election – 2020] Washington Post: Top-secret CIA Report Names Putin for Directing Operation against Biden – Confirming what is widely believed, the Russians are extremely active in subverting the 2020 elections in favor of Trump. Since this document was leaked, top-secret, and highly destructive of the Trump campaign narrative, it’s expected to kick up a lot of rhetorical dust. Impact on the election: probably nil.
[Election – 2020] Bloomberg Donates $11 Million to Top-up Aid to Felon Voting in Florida – the Florida Rights Restoration Coalition had raised about $5 million to help 32,000 Florida felons who are ineligible to vote unless they pay all fees and fines that they owe. (The Florida Supreme Court ruled in favor of this poll tax.) The Bloomberg contribution will make a big difference. Naturally the Florida GOP is calling for a state investigation of the funding
Wednesday, September 23
[Racism – Protests] Kentucky Grand Jury: No Charges for Shooting Breonna Taylor – No wonder the city of Louisville ordered a state of emergency the day prior to the announcement. The self-defense argument was sufficient to exonerate the two officers involved in the shooting. The third officer was charged with reckless endangerment for shooting up another apartment. Probable bottom line: Kentucky state laws favor officers in self-defense cases. Among other things, these laws embed institutional racism, and put another way, make it difficult to find a situation where an officer could be successfully charged. This form of injustice has become the chief target of BLM.
[Senate – Investigation] Senate Biden Investigation a Dud – This headline is actually accurate as a summary. After many months of investigation by the Republican-led Senate Homeland Security Committee, most of it redundant and remindful of the GOP Benghazi fiasco, the final report could find no wrongdoing by Joe Biden in his Ukraine dealings as vice president, nor anything of substance concerning his son, Hunter. Right-wing media will claim otherwise, for a while.
[Election – 2020] Trump Briefing: He Refuses to Commit to a Peaceful Transition of Power – Not for the first time, but seldom so directly, Trump pursued his top election strategy by reiterating that if he loses, it’s because the election is rigged. He claims it’s rigged by using mail-in voting; he provided no evidence, as there is no evidence for mail fraud voting at the national level. This time he sort of (in Trumpian language) nailed down his position with “Get rid of the ballots, and there will be a very peaceful – there won’t be a transfer, frankly. There’ll be a continuation.” The implied threat is that using the pretext of fraudulent mail ballots, he can deny that he lost the election. (By extension, he has also said that challenges to the ballots would go to court and eventually wind up at the Supreme Court – with his new super 6-3 majority.)
[National Security] DHS: White Supremacists Are the Most Dangerous Domestic Security Threat – In something of a surprise, Chad Wolf, the acting Secretary of Homeland Security testified to Congress during his confirmation hearing that white supremacists and other right-wing extremists pose the greatest threat for domestic violence. In this he contradicted the party line (Trump-Barr) that the white supremacists were not much of a problem and that extreme leftists were the danger.
[Election – 2020] FBI Chief Testifies to Congress There Is No Evidence That Mail-In Balloting Will Result in Fraud – Christopher Wray’s statement flies in the face of Trump’s continued evidence-less allegations that the Democrats will rig the election with mail-in ballots. Needless to say, Wray’s testimony earned him some dark tweets and less than hidden threats of replacement. Only the short time to the election prevents that Trumpian coup de tête.
[Coronavirus] Johnson & Johnson Begins Phase 3 Trial of Single Shot Coronavirus Vaccine – As a spot of potential good news, the J&J vaccine, which unusually requires only one injection, making it far simpler for mass distribution, has passed far enough to enter Phase 3 trials. This will be a non-trivial undertaking, involving 60,000 participants and will not be concluding until the end of the year at the earliest.
[Climate Crisis] California Governor Bans New Gas-Powered Car Sales by 2035 – The move to promote sales of electric cars is characteristic of California’s response to the climate crisis. By contrast the White House commented “This is yet another example of how extreme the left has become.”
[New York – Trump Legal] Eric Trump Ordered to Interview in New York State Fraud Case – Demanding to be a special case citizen, Eric asked for an extension until after the election, claiming an “extreme travel schedule” and concerns for “political purposes.” A skeptical New York State judge found the arguments “unpersuasive,” and ordered the deposition to take place before October 7.
Thursday, September 24
[Economy] New Unemployment Insurance Claims: 825,000 – No change in the rate of new unemployment has become a clear indication of a loss of momentum in the labor market. In a way these numbers are lower than the 1 to 2 million during the first wave of coronavirus layoffs, but are still far above the 650,000 record of 1982; it probably indicates that the economy remains “soft” with lower overall consumer demand. Given that the unemployment rate is still around 8% and tens of millions are still unemployed, this is not good news for the economy. This could be why Pelosi and Mnuchin are talking about resuming a Coronavirus Relief Bill talks. (Does all this constitute a great talking point for Trump’s “fantastic third-quarter” promises?)
[Coronavirus] Fauci Says Masks Will Still Be Necessary after Vaccine – He’s making a crucial point: a vaccine, even a good one, won’t end the need to deal with COVID-19. No vaccine works for everybody and it will be a long time before everybody is vaccinated. Meanwhile we’ll still need to continue mitigation – handwashing, social distancing, and of course, masks. The need for these measures will probably continue for at least a year beyond the point where a vaccine becomes distributed.
[U.S. Census] Federal Judge Blocks Attempt to Stop Census Early – Judge Lucy Koh, U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California, barred ending the census a month early, pushing it back to October 31, and barring the demand for population data by December 31 instead of the planned April 2021 delivery date. The ruling has already been appealed and will probably go to a three-judge panel, although action is doubtful before deadlines have come and gone. The administration’s transparent attempts to affect the accuracy of the census have consistently resulted in judicial failure.
Friday, September 25
[Ginsberg] Ruth Bader Ginsberg Lies in State at the Capitol – She “lies in state” as the first federally-employed woman (Rosa Parks was the first woman; she lay “in honor”) and the first Jewish-American to be so honored. Meanwhile, reports of Trump’s pick for RBG’s replacement, Amy Coney Barrett, have already leaked prior to the official announcement on Saturday. She is the ideological antithesis of Ruth Bader Ginsberg.
[Coronavirus] U.S. Coronavirus Totals: Cases – 7,244,184; Deaths – 208,440
Coronavirus (Crisis) Notes
It’s been widely ignored in the U.S. but Europe and other regions of the world are officially recognizing a “second wave” of coronavirus infections. Anyone who thinks that is not about to happen here has their head in a notoriously dark and malodorous location. No official is making precise predictions, but the betting is a few weeks from now – in other words, pre-election. Infection rates are already climbing, once more above 50,000 per day. How long can the Trump administration deny the figures? As Trump would say, “We’re going to have to see what happens.”
Economy (Crisis) Notes
Wealth inequality expands, as reported by the Federal Reserve, despite the COVID-19 caused economic crisis, the net worth of U.S. households rose by nearly 7% (April-June) to a record $119 trillion. This gain went almost entirely to the wealthiest 1% and high-income workers, while unemployment for lower income workers hovered around 20 million. The artificially enhanced stock market (trillions in Federal Reserve money) and the relative ease of maintaining or rehiring white-collar workers gets most of the credit for the widening wedge in the wealth gap.
Racism Protest (Crisis) Notes
Just when there hasn’t been any fresh police – BLM ruckus for several weeks, the grand jury results in Louisville, Kentucky were like picking open a nasty scab. It exposed the brutally obvious injustice that can result from laws designed to favor the police. The ensuing uproar, which is likely to continue for some time, served as a timely pre-election reminder that inequality, injustice, and racial protest are still big issues.
Constitutional, Political, Election (Crisis) Notes
How does the fight over replacement for RBG change the election? That’s become a key question for 2020. Does the prospect of an immediate replacement by an ultraconservative jurist promote turnout among Trump’s base? Or does it piss off even more women, especially college-educated women in the suburbs, motivating even more of them to abandon the GOP? How about both? How does it play out? Let’s talk down-ballot: Senators. It didn’t take the Democrats long to figure out that instead of all-out fighting the Trump-GOP nominee or the mostly inevitable confirmation process, it would be more effective to focus as much as possible against the Republican senators who permitted this travesty to take place. As happens on occasion, the Democrats have found discipline; it’s as if the talking point script was distributed efficiently. The point: Emphasize healthcare, especially the post-election loss of the ACA from a Supreme Court ruling. Secondarily, tie the incoming nominee with a probable end of Roe v Wade. Take all of this into the campaigns against vulnerable Republican senators. This week the list of “Senate seats in play” expanded from 13 to 16 with surprises: Mississippi, Alaska, and Kansas.
The threat of a highly contested, legally drawn out, and potentially violent end to the 2020 election has deeply stirred the American electoral scene. It’s been a long time (back to 1860, just before the Civil War and again in 1876 for the Tilden/Hayes election), since we’ve seen the specter of an intractable standoff on election results. Some of this is Trump’s posturing, but knowing that doesn’t necessarily help. It still carries the threat and possibility of a collapse in the American democratic electoral system. And that scares the hell out of millions of people. It also scares the Pentagon, where senior leaders have already discussed what to do if Trump invokes the Insurrection Act using the military to quell post-election incidents. It’s being called the “Apocalypse Scenario” and it says a lot that is being taken seriously by serious people. (Probable solution: A landslide vote against Trump and GOP senators.)
Trump-bits. T: the coronavirus “affects virtually nobody.” T’s “I am not leaving the White House” claims are now up to eight. Reportedly, Trump gets “a real kick” out of making the press “go crazy” with his refusal to commit to a peaceful, orderly transition of power.
Quotes of the Week
“My most fervent wish is that I will not be replaced until a new president is installed.”
Ruth Bader Ginsburg, just before her death, recorded by her granddaughter. (Trump and right-wing media say this is fake.)
“This is what Americans don’t understand. They’re waiting to get personally punched in the face while ash falls from the sky. That’s not how it happens. If you’re waiting for a moment where you’re like ‘this is it’, I’m telling you, it never comes. Nobody comes on TV and says ‘things are officially bad’. There’s no launch party for decay. It’s just a pileup of outrages and atrocities in between friendships and weddings and perhaps an unusual amount of alcohol.”
Indi Samarajiva, New York Intelligencer, 9/26/20
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