Indivisible Upper Yellowstone – Weekly Journal
The Week of Saturday, November 7 through Friday, November 13, 2020 [Vol.2 No.17]
Coup or Not Coup?
The Week’s Most Notable
By midweek, depending on where you looked in the media, it might’ve been difficult to decide who won the election, Biden or Trump? Many Americans couldn’t tell, to use an old expression, whether they were afoot or horseback. On the one hand, Biden clearly won: 306 electoral college votes, exactly the number Trump had in 2016 (270 are needed); and by this time Biden’s lead in the popular vote was over 5 million, heading for something in the range of 6 million. Not a landslide but a substantial victory. On the other hand, Trump, most Republicans, and the right-wing media screamed “Stolen election!” They were claiming massive electoral fraud. To that effect they were filing dozens of lawsuits, calling for rallies and demonstrations, and using the right-wing propaganda machine to repeat endlessly that Trump was victorious. When Trump started messing with the Pentagon by removing the Secretary of Defense and additionally installing three of his own deracinated loyalists, the word “coup” hit the news. However, by the end of the week most of this spin war was beginning to unspool. Because of universal lack of evidence, none of the Trump lawsuits had succeeded, in fact most had been laughed out of court. Various sources, especially secretaries of state, reported that the election had been one of the cleanest and least error-prone of all modern elections. Even some Republicans and parts of the right-wing media, notably Fox News, were beginning to admit that Biden won. It appeared the legal coup was a failure, and what other aspects of a coup that Trump might’ve had in mind were not doing well. And yet he, and most Republicans, and the right-wing media persisted in pushing a PR coup, something based entirely on media propaganda. By the end of the week the situation remained unsettled and Trump had not conceded, leading some people to call it a “coup-coup situation.”
While Americans were being distracted by the election, the COVID-19 virus continued to do its thing – explode. Back in April of this year, if 190,000 people had fallen ill with the coronavirus in a single day, there would’ve been panic both public and official. In this current “wave,” the U.S. added 1,000,000 new cases in a week, and the number of hospitalizations jumped to a record 68,000. Deaths increased to bring the average above 1,000 a day. These are by far the worst statistics in the world, and the U.S. is still literally pulling ahead. All the experts are saying that this is only the beginning – winter is coming. It seemed during the week that about half the population understood the magnitude of the crisis intellectually, but didn’t really feel it unless they happened to have a relative or somebody they knew who got sick, went to the hospital, or died. The other half of the population either denied the crisis entirely, or brushed it off as overhyped. In any case, the situation is becoming the epidemiologists’ worst nightmare – inconsistent to nonexistent mitigation efforts, coupled with, at best, lackadaisical compliance. Effective vaccination for a large number of people is still at least six months away. Where will the virus numbers be at that time? 500,000 dead?
Saturday, November 7
[Coronavirus] U.S. Coronavirus Totals: Cases – 10,064,196; Deaths – 243,263
[Elections – 2020] Biden Declared the Presidential Winner – People literally took to the streets to celebrate on Saturday morning as Fox, CNN, NBC, CBS, ABC, The New York Times, and the Associated Press simultaneously announced that Biden had won Pennsylvania, giving him 273 electoral votes and therefore was about to become the 46th President of the United States. Some added the state of Nevada as well. [Update: by the end of the week Arizona and Georgia were also declared for Biden, giving him a total of 306 electoral votes.]
[Elections – 2020] Biden and Harris Give “Unity” Victory Speech – In their address to the nation, the President-elect and the first woman-black-Indian/Asian VP-elect pledged to unify Americans. Since at that moment about 70 million Americans didn’t agree that Biden actually won the election, this unification seems to be more rhetorical than real; but a necessary sentiment anyway.
[Biden-Government] Biden Campaign Discloses Executive Order Plans – It was reported that the incoming Biden administration has already assembled a plan for issuing executive orders to, among other things, reverse the controversial Muslim Travel Ban, end the crackdown on DREAMERS, rejoin the Paris Climate Accords, and rejoin WHO. The implication is that Congress will be largely a stalemate, especially in the Senate, and that like Trump and to a certain extent Obama before him, executive orders will be necessary to get many things done.
Sunday, November 8
[Coronavirus] U.S. Passes 10 Million Coronavirus Cases Milestone – More to the focal point, this number was achieved by adding a million new cases in 10 days. This will be followed by the usual three-week lag in hospitalizations and of deaths 5 to 6 weeks later. The CDC is now forecasting 256,000 deaths by November 21.
Monday, November 9
[Coronavirus] Pfizer Announces 90% Effective COVID-19 Vaccine Candidate – This is a case of “good news” and “real news.” It is absolutely good news that a major vaccine developer/manufacturer has a potential vaccine which is extraordinarily highly effective. This bodes well for the future, including the fact that there are at least 169 vaccines under development worldwide. Less obvious in the reporting: This is a candidate vaccine, meaning that it has shown this effectiveness in a tiny sample of 94 subjects and that there is still much work to be done to demonstrate this among the 60,000 subjects of a Phase 3 trial. Moreover, should this particular vaccine prove out, it is a two-shot vaccine requiring distribution of 2X doses, which must be stored and transported at -60°C. In short, manufacturing, distribution, and administration of the vaccine will be difficult. Translated: If all goes well, don’t expect widespread use of this vaccine for six months to a year.
[Coronavirus] Biden Announces COVID-19 Task Force – So far, the task force has 13 members, all drawn from scientific, academic medical, and private medical backgrounds. In a major contrast to the now nearly defunct Trump task force, this group is resolutely based in science and committed to the proposition that the federal government has a significant role to play in stimulating and coordinating pandemic control. It does not support the herd immunity concept.
[Elections 2020] Campaign Focus Moves to Georgia – The two simultaneous senate elections are expected to be close, although historically Democrats do not fare well in these runoffs. Because the two seats represent control of the Senate, an enormous amount of effort, money, and propaganda will be marshaled to manipulate voters. The key is seen to be turnout, especially among black voters.
[Elections 2020] McConnell Approves Trump’s Election Challenges – By not affirming Biden’s victory and by approving Trump’s right to legal challenge, McConnell signals general GOP backing of Trump’s refusal to concede the election. Speculation as to his motivation boils down to providing an ongoing basis for attacking Biden and keeping the Trump base aroused for voting in the Georgia Senate races.
[Secretary of Defense] Trump Fires Defense Secretary Mark Esper – As was rumored for some time and on the heels of his loss, Trump dumped his Defense Secretary with no more probable cause than that Esper contradicted some of Trump’s claims and refused to support his use of troops in the Washington DC church incident.
[Elections-DOJ] AG Barr Issues Unusual Vote-Fraud Memorandum – Contrary to DOJ practice for many decades, Barr has opened the door for DOJ prosecutors to seek out and investigate “specific allegations of voter fraud” before presidential election results are certified. The last phrase is the kicker because it leaves the door open for DOJ investigations to affect an election. However, the memorandum was couched in terms that weaken the directive. [Update: Within mere days a representative group of 16 federal prosecutors wrote a letter of protest about Barr’s memorandum. It appears that for practical purposes the intent of the memorandum has become moot.]
[Elections-2020] White House Signals it Will Block Aspects of Biden’s Transition – Based on the ongoing pretense of a Trump win, Biden’s transition team is being denied access, money, facilities, and other support usually provided for a president-elect. Depending on how long the stonewalling lasts it may have little to no effect or become a major impediment to the smooth transition of power. Although an apparently extreme case, it is not the first time in American history that one president has not been particularly helpful for another incoming president.
[Hurricane] Hurricane Eta Wanders in and out of Florida – Dumping enormous amounts of rain, the storm crossed through the Florida Keys, brushed the West Coast of Florida, floated back out into the Gulf where it is expected to regenerate and probably return to Florida in the next day or two. [Update: Eta caused flash floods in North Carolina take seven lives.]
Tuesday, November 10
[Coronavirus] Coronavirus Hospitalizations Hit Record High – Almost 62,000 hospitalizations were reported in the U.S., a record that portends significantly increasing pressure on hospital systems. This time hospitalizations are occurring throughout the country, and hospitals are not able to recruit emergency staff from areas with less COVID-19 activity.
[Supreme Court] ACA May Not Be Trashed by the Supreme Court – Although featured prominently in Democratic unease about the conservative Supreme Court, it appears from oral arguments that Chief Justice John Roberts and Justice Brett Kavanaugh are not in favor of striking down the entire Act, which could result in a 5-4 decision to preserve it. The final decision is not expected until late spring 2021.
Wednesday, November 11
[Biden-Government] Biden Names Ron Klain Chief of Staff – The early appointment is significant because Klain was VP Biden’s Chief of Staff; he was also in charge of the Ebola outbreak in 2014. As with Biden himself, Klain is government savvy and quite capable of handling the rocky transition being orchestrated by Trump.
Thursday, November 12
[Economy] New Unemployment Insurance Claims: 709,000 – The unemployment picture in the U.S. continues to improve marginally, a few thousand fewer claims a week. The total number of unemployed continues to hover around 20 million, half of what it was in May, but the numbers of claims and unemployed are still historically high. The figures are indicative of an economy wobbling between growth and the downward pressure of continued coronavirus effects.
Friday, November 13
[Coronavirus] Records –New Cases: 182,000 Hospitalizations: 68,516 – States are facing increasing pressure to take more active measures against COVID-19. Despite sometimes strong and belligerent opposition from Trump supporters, many are beginning to respond to the crisis by (again) mandating wearing masks, restricting specific businesses (e.g., bars), and other forms of mitigation. As ever, this is mostly a patchwork.
[Coronavirus] U.S. Coronavirus Totals: Cases – 11,068,957; Deaths – 249,996
Any day now. Trump and the Republicans aren’t the only ones who cheerfully fall into the trap of predicting that a medical solution – vaccine or treatment – is just about to happen. After all, when it comes to cures, people love to be optimistic. If that weren’t true, snake oil salesmen of every stripe would’ve been out of business centuries ago. For example, politicians love to ignore the difference between the day something is announced and the day it is widely available. Few products are like medicines, which are eagerly if not desperately awaited, while their actual delivery can be significantly slow or delayed. When manufacturers talk about drugs taking years to deliver, they’re usually not exaggerating. As a rule, when a politician says “We’ll have this vaccine by the end of the year,” what they’re talking about is the announcement. What they’re leaving out is that the conclusion of testing (Phase 3 trials) is still in progress, the large-scale manufacturing is yet to be put in place, the necessary delivery infrastructure must be developed, and then the necessary training, storage, handling, and marketing of doctors/nurses and their patients must be completed. Of course, this chain can be condensed, especially in emergencies like the coronavirus crisis; but the essential steps cannot be skipped and they all take time. So, the vaccine “available by the end of the year” will probably not be ready for mass application in anything less than 4 to 6 months. Also, the sheer logistics of vaccinating tens if not hundreds of millions of people takes a lot of time. And that’s if nothing goes wrong. When promises are made for a cure any day now, people should think – get real.
Too many people still do not understand: It’s not, “control the coronavirus OR save the economy”; it’s “control the coronavirus TO save the economy.” Think of it this way: If a million people fall ill with COVID-19 in a week (which is actually close to where we are now), then at least 500,000 people will need to quarantine – pull themselves out of their jobs. What does that do to the economy? Of course, with that many people sick, hospitalized, or dying – how does that stimulate the economy and make people willing to spend money? And of course, hospital systems will begin to fail and not only will coronavirus patients suffer but other people with more “usual medical problems” will not get proper treatment, and that too will affect the economy. The problem is that without effective treatments, or better still a vaccine, when the numbers of people becoming infected are so high, the only mitigation efforts available involve lockdown in one form or another, and there is no question that lockdowns have a negative impact on the economy. This is the catechism of COVID-19. Unfortunately, because of politicized leadership the majority of the American people do not get it. Unless almost everybody participates in serious mitigation efforts, the coronavirus crisis will slowly but surely emaciate the American economy. Compounding the problem, Republicans in the Senate continue to have no interest in helping the unemployed, working people in general, or state and local governments (COVID-19 relief funding). (So endeth the jeremiad.)
Constitutional, Political, Election Notes
Part of the Republican approach to the “stolen election” seems to be the “forked-tongue strategy”, where they deny the validity of Biden’s election for a time, then formally admit to it, having set the stage for ongoing sotto voce stolen-election rumbling.
While the charade of denying Biden’s victory plays itself out, Trump watchers have been speculating on his plans for the future. He has been uncharacteristically quiet (vocally but not on Twitter) with public appearances only at Arlington Cemetery and a coronavirus vaccine press conference. The consensus is that he is becoming less and less interested in the business of government, that he knows that he has lost the election, and that he is feverishly casting about for his best options post-presidency. The possibilities include starting a new political-news network to compete with Fox; immediately opening a presidential campaign for 2024; launching a series of “Stolen Election” rallies; and, it is to be supposed, to avoid landing in prison. He will still be the head of the Republican Party, although without the power of the presidency he will have to fight off GOP predators looking to snatch his power. As time goes on, it’s quite likely he will cause more turmoil within the party than grief for the Democrats, which may open some opportunities.
Quote of the Week
The reason the DOJ has a longstanding policy of keeping prosecutors out of elections, and the Defense Department of keeping the military out of domestic politics, is the same: To avoid even the appearance of a coup. Pay attention. Trump is dismantling the guardrails.
Robert Reich Tweet, 11/10/2020.
[The IUY Weekly Journal assumes readers are passingly familiar with names and events. For more details, check with internet search (Google it).]