Indivisible Upper Yellowstone – Weekly Journal
The Week of Saturday, October 17 through Friday, October 23, 2020 [Vol.2 No.14]
“People are tired of Covid”
The Week’s Most Notable
We were warned. Experts we trust such as Dr. Fauci and even those we’re not sure about like the CDC, warned us that the fall would see a major outbreak of the pandemic. It has begun. On Friday, new coronavirus infections hit 85,000 for the day, far outstripping the records for both the first (April-May) and second (June-July) waves of the virus. Already several states (Wisconsin, Utah, Idaho, North Dakota) are reporting crisis situations with hospital capacity. As a lagging indicator, deaths are now predicted to reach 2,000 a day in November. The situation is surreal: On the one hand, we are heading into a nationwide, this time including rural, outbreak bigger than anything we’ve seen before, and on the other hand Trump, the White House, the GOP Congress, and the right-wing media are denying that anything significant is happening. (Or worse, that the explosion of cases is a good thing by reason of herd immunity.) We are heading toward a quarter million dead around the time of the election with no viable, widely available vaccine or treatment for months. No wonder the coronavirus crisis is the issue of this election.
Biden’s got it!/Trump’s gonna steal it! How does anyone who is not a Trump voter feel about the coming election? Right now, the mainstream media is providing a cacophony of contradictory political messaging and analysis, much of which seems focused either on the good news for Biden in the polls, or the bad news from all the voter suppression efforts of the Trump-GOP. In terms of mood, it’s understandable that people are conflicted, if not outright schizoid. Some of this is normal for any consequential election, but this election Is way beyond consequential. There is hope for Biden, but mostly there is fear, anxiety, or even dread invoked by all the coverage that says there will be violence associated with the election, that voter suppression will be effective, that the mail will fail, and that ultimately the Supreme Court with its newly installed 6-3 conservative majority will undo any electoral results that don’t give Trump the win. The worry is particularly intense in battleground states, where the dirty tricks are concentrated and will persist beyond Election Day into what is now being called Election Fortnight. That is, if the election is close. If Biden rides a landslide, then the suppression efforts become marginal, irrelevant. So, what remains to be done is basic: Get. Out. The. Vote.
Saturday, October 17
[Coronavirus] U.S. Coronavirus Totals: Cases – 8,354,585; Deaths – 224,303
[Election – 2020] Early Voting on Track to Break All Records – With more than 26 million people having already cast a ballot, projections put the number of early votes at between 70 to 80 million, or almost 2/3 of the total expected vote. It appears the majority of these voters are Democrats, avoiding coronavirus exposure, which prompts the observation that, as expected, most Trump-Republican voters will physically go to the polls on November 3, most probably without masks.
[Supreme Court – Protest] D.C. Women’s March Against Judge Amy Coney Barrett – There were coordinated marches throughout the country. Truth be told, these marches were a pale shadow of the original 2017 Women’s March. Speculation: The knowledge that Barrett will become a Supreme Court justice no matter what, combined with a general feeling of “vote and be done with it,” reduced the enthusiasm for mass demonstrations.
Sunday, October 18
[Coronavirus] Trump Campaign Pivots to Unspoken “Herd Immunity” – While not announcing it directly, it’s clear from what Trump says at his rallies and the behavior of most White House and campaign staff that ignoring COVID-19 mitigation rules, especially masks and distancing, is in line with the herd immunity policy of allowing unfettered spread of the virus in order to increase the number of people infected and presumably increase immunity. One small indicator, Trump’s newly elevated science advisor, radiologist Scott Atlas, wrote in a tweet “masks don’t work” for coronavirus. Twitter quickly blocked the tweet for violating a ban on sharing false or misleading information about COVID-19.
[Food Stamps] Federal Judge Blocks Trump Order to Drop Food Stamps for 700,000 – Chief U.S. District Judge Beryl Howell of Washington D.C. Called the administration’s efforts to cut the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) during a time of pandemic and mass unemployment, “arbitrary and capricious.” The White House is expected to appeal. (Why not? They don’t care about ending the ACA for 20 million Americans during the pandemic.)
[Wildfires] Colorado Faces Largest Wildfires in Its History – Extremely dry and windy conditions have fostered at least two major wildfires, forcing several thousand to evacuate in Boulder County. One of the fires is progressing through Rocky Mountain National Park and threatens the city of Estes Park.
Monday, October 19
[Supreme Court] Ruling Allows Pennsylvania to Extend Mail-In Voting – By allowing officials to extend counting of mail-in ballots received up to three days after Election Day, the Supreme Court in effect ruled in favor of the Democrats. This happened because the vote was 4-4, Chief Justice John Roberts voting with the liberal justices; the tie meant the previous decision of the appeals court would stand. Because Pennsylvania is a crucial swing state, maybe even the crucial state, this “detail” of election protocol could be very significant.
[Coronavirus] CDC Recommends Masks for All Public Travel – Note: “recommends” not “requires.” This is a direct result of White House interference, which blocked the CDC from using an order instead of a guidance. Although most airlines and Amtrak already require masks, this change in mandate will likely cost lives.
Tuesday, October 20
[Coronavirus] CDC Announces Nearly 300,000 “Excess” U.S. Deaths during Pandemic – Excess deaths are those that occur above the number normally expected for a set period of time, in this case March through September 2020. Most of these deaths are attributed either directly or indirectly to the coronavirus, meaning that the impact of the pandemic is greater than reported.
[Coronavirus] Pelosi Backs off Tuesday Deadline for Coronavirus Relief Bill – It appears that the hocus-pocus surrounding another relief bill has gone up in smoke. Once again, Mitch McConnell, the master of ceremonies, made it clear that neither the $1.9 trillion White House offer, nor the Democrats’ $2.2 trillion approved by the House, were going to pass muster in the Senate. Basta, until after the election, possibly in the lame-duck session.
[Election – 2020] The 545 Kids Separated from Their Parents Resurfaces as Election Issue – As referenced in newly filed court documents, these are the border-asylum children who the government is unable to reunite with their parents. This was a major political issue in the 2018 elections, and often cited as one of the most damning of Trump-GOP actions.
[Antitrust] DOJ Files Antitrust Lawsuit against Google – This lawsuit, part of a broad investigation of tech giants including Apple, Amazon, and Facebook, has been expected for some time. It’s likely the case will be marched through the courts over a period of years. It is a bipartisan issue and there is no obvious political impact for this election.
Wednesday, October 21
[Coronavirus] Johns Hopkins University: Third Wave of Coronavirus Has Arrived – After two consecutive days with more than 60,000 new infections, the figures indicate that the long-predicted fall-winter surge in the pandemic is arriving. Other reports highlighted the issues confronting schools, especially at the high school and university level.
[Election – 2020] U.S. Intelligence Officials Claim Iran and Russia behind Election Interference – The announcement by the Director of National intelligence, John Ratcliffe, was immediately questioned, as most observers believe Russia to be the significant player. Ratcliffe’s point of emphasis is indicative of his Trump-oriented manipulation of intelligence analysis.
[Opioid Crisis] OxyContin-maker Purdue Pharma to Pay $8.3 Billion Settlement – In a crisis, which is still ongoing and hasn’t received much attention lately, the settlement accompanies admitting to criminal charges including lying to the DEA. The opioid epidemic has claimed more lives, 470,000 over two years, than the coronavirus (to date).
[Government] Trump Issues Order Removing Civil Service Protection – In one of the most sweeping antidemocratic moves of his administration, Trump has ordered a change in status for potentially hundreds of thousands of federal civil service employees, moving them from “competitive service” (people who take exams to get their jobs) to “excepted service” (political appointees) categorization, which makes them much less difficult to fire. If Trump is reelected, this order makes it much easier to weed out people who are not Trump loyalists, or install loyalists.
Thursday, October 22
[Economy] New Unemployment Insurance Claims: 787,000 – Dropping from 875,000 last week, this represents a significant improvement, though not enough to warrant a brass band. Approximately 23 million Americans are still receiving some form of government jobless benefits.
[Supreme Court] Senate Judiciary Committee Advances Judge Amy Coney Barrett – As expected, with the Democratic members absent in protest, the committee voted to pass the nomination onto the Senate floor, where it is scheduled for a vote next week.
[Census] Appeals Court Blocks Trump Push to Exclude Undocumented Immigrants from Census – This issue is on a fast-track and expected to go before the Supreme Court by November 30.
[Coronavirus] FDA Approves Remdesivir for COVID-19 Treatment – The drug becomes the first fully FDA approved coronavirus treatment, mainly for reducing the term of treatment for moderately ill patients from 15 to 11 days. The drug has no effect on mortality, and an international trial found the drug had “little to no effect.” Recall that remdesivir was given to Trump and is high on his list of favorites.
[Elections – 2020] A Mostly Civil Final Debate – Alternative headline: Less Loud, More Lying. Trump cycled through almost every known GOP-right wing code/meme, with the notable exception of “Hillary,” which triggered fact checking by the dozens for his virtually copyrighted lies. As usual, right-wing media declared Trump the winner, mainstream media declared Biden the winner. Upshot: The debate didn’t move the voting needle, although who knows, maybe Trump gets a percentage point for showing up and staying mostly within the debate rules. So, the final significant event of the 2020 campaign is over and hopefully everything will smoothly coast to November 3. (It’s possible.)
Friday, October 23
[Coronavirus] Daily New Coronavirus Infections Hit 85,000, All-Time Record – With the new daily peaks consistently going above 60,000, it’s clear the U.S. is reaching a new niveau, a fall surge, higher than the two previous “waves.” Hospitalizations and deaths are lagging indicators by roughly two and six weeks respectively, although hospitalizations have already started to climb. The really bad news from this new wave is geographical: It is no longer concentrated in large cities but spread throughout the country, including rural areas that are least capable of handling a pandemic. The only good news in the figures is that early detection, better treatment, and a younger affected population has led to a lower death rate than earlier in the pandemic. A new study published in Nature Medicine estimates that by February 28, 2021 the COVID-19 death toll in the United States will exceed 500,000 – that’s with state-mandated mitigation efforts; otherwise, the death toll could pass 1 million.
[Coronavirus] U.S. Coronavirus Totals: Cases – 8,827,932; Deaths – 230,068
Trump continues even this week to scream at his rallies “Open the schools, open the schools!” Of course, more than 95% of them are already open, and those that are not were mostly shut down after infection rates got out of hand, such as in the Boston school districts. New studies from the U.S. and the UK indicate that as drivers of the pandemic spread, elementary schools are the least problematic and universities the most, which indicates that age is a factor. More research is needed, particularly for middle and high schools, but at the moment it looks like at least elementary schools can be safely opened as long as they are monitored and their opening fits the pattern consistent with the infection status of the general community. All of this is part of the key point: We’re learning – this is science at work. What we knew about the coronavirus back in February and March is a fraction of what we know now; and what we know now is a fraction of what we will know later in 2021. Meanwhile public policy needs to be intelligently tied to the findings of science and medicine. Public safety messaging needs to build-in flexibility, making it clear that especially with a novel virus, best practices may change, and that’s okay. Overall, it’s important to note that the countries doing best in controlling the pandemic, such as Taiwan, South Korea, and Singapore, are all countries that have dealt with many epidemics over the years.
Racism Protest Notes
Just one short note about what’s missing: Where are the riots occurring in every American city? Where are the hordes of antifa swarming through the suburbs? Race and social justice were a topic at the final debate but have become a weak echo in the Trump campaign. The issues now belong to Black Lives Matter and Joe Biden.
Constitutional, Political, Election Notes
During the presidential debate and by the right-wing media thereafter, Biden has been pushed to define his policy toward “packing the courts.” Since he did promise a statement before the election, in a sense he did one better by issuing a promise to set up a bipartisan commission to study possible changes to the courts. This, of course, did not please anybody, but it did get him off the immediate hook and probably guarantees a lively controversy if and when he becomes president.
Trump-bits. T: “People are tired of COVID. People are tired of hearing about Fauci and these idiots, all these idiots who got it wrong, . . . This guy’s a disaster.” T: Owes Rudy Giuliani a big kiss for circus level appearances with “Hunter Biden’s laptop computer” and for fondling his junk in an appearance in the new Borat 2 Sasha Baron Cohen film. Coronavirus redux: T: “We’re learning to live with it.” Biden: “We’re learning to die with it.”
Quotes of the Week
[Joe Biden] will listen to the scientists [which will lead to a] massive depression.
Trump at rally, 10/18/2020.
Watch [Lesley Stahl’s] constant interruptions & anger. Compare my full, flowing and ‘magnificently brilliant’ answers to their ‘Q’s.
Trump tweet, re “60 Minutes” interview, 10/22/2020.
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