Indivisible Upper Yellowstone – Weekly Journal
The Week of Saturday, December 26, 2020 through Friday, January 1, 2021 [Vol.2 No.24]
The Week’s Most Notable
Trump’s reign is running out. First and foremost, Trump is no longer governing; he is no longer involved with anything but his personal vendettas and the “stolen election.” That means noxious pardons and executions are still on the agenda and various bizarre parliamentary shenanigans are in play. These are bad mainly for the precedent they set but essentially toothless in the here and now. Of course, the White House and some federal agencies continue their anti-government ways, but the short time remaining limits the scope of their bad intentions. Secondarily, with former AG Barr removed from government, the scope of justice-by-bad-faith may be limited by legal incompetence as well as incentive. Internationally, Trump is apparently backing down from a confrontation with Iran by moving an aircraft carrier out of the Arabian Gulf. At this point, with no U.S. mobilization, a last-minute war with Iran is unrealistic. Likewise, Trump announced plans to freeze some foreign aid, which may sound good to his base, but cannot be applied to congressionally approved funds and only holds until Biden takes over in about 20 days.
What’s left of the Trump regime is still toxic. The negligence concerning the coronavirus pandemic is criminal. Trump and his people are still blocking Biden’s transition wherever they can get away with it, and almost certainly are laying traps for things Biden and his administration may plan to do. On the other hand, Trump seems to have generated some feuds within the Republican Party, not the least being his relationship with McConnell and the senatorial elections in Georgia. This aspect of his malevolence is at least entertaining for Democrats. Once he’s out of power, Trump has left few bridges unburned; the betting is he will lose influence gradually but steadily.
U.S. vaccination snafu should not be a surprise. By the end of the week, it was becoming clear that although doses of both the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines were being distributed, their distribution was uneven and at times chaotic; many states were having difficulty managing the administration of the vaccines, and the upshot was that while 20 million people were promised vaccinations by the end of the year, less than 2.5 million received their first dose (both of the current vaccines require two doses). First rumors, and then evidence of mishandling and even outright destruction of doses began appearing during the week. The U.S. is flirting with a PR disaster that could cripple its effort to control the pandemic. All it would take would be one major event, such as doses killing people or significant incidents of cheating, to discredit the entire program and perhaps make it impossible to reach common (herd) immunity. Although from the very beginning of the pandemic it has been understood that a vaccination program needed to be designed and implemented on a national level, the Trump administration did almost nothing. It left vaccination entirely up to the states, which of course with 50 variations meant everything from no preparation to excellent planning. Expect the fallout from the vaccination chaos to continue well into the Biden administration.
Saturday, December 26
[Coronavirus] U.S. Coronavirus Totals: Cases: 19,450,050; Deaths: 339,957
[Coronavirus] 14 Million Lose Unemployment Benefits – As Trump continues the PR-related dithering about signing the $900 billion COVID-19 relief bill, unemployment benefits end today. The odds remain high that he will sign the bill, but the reinstatement of payments will be off schedule, causing problems for recipients.
[Brexit] UK – EU Trade Deal Published – Formalizing the complex agreement over trade between the UK and the EU, the 1,246-page document published today signals the end of the withdrawal period and the actual beginning of Brexit. Negotiations on a wide variety of issues will continue, as the trade agreement does not address much more than the manufacturing/product aspect of trade, which the EU needed most, but has little to say about services, financial services in particular, which the UK needed most. The trade agreement avoids the potential disasters of a “no deal” Brexit, but carries many long-term issues.
Sunday, December 27
[U.S. Terrorism] Christmas Day Bombing Traced to Nashville Resident – The massive explosion, which damaged multiple businesses and knocked out communications for a wide region, which injured but didn’t kill anyone (except the apparent perpetrator), was traced to Anthony Quinn Warner, a 63-year-old with reportedly strong beliefs in lizard people, the dark state, and similar conspiracy theories.
[Mass Shooting] Illinois Bowling Alley Shooting Kills Three, Wounds Three – As perhaps the last mass shooting of 2020, this particular event appears to have been a random attack by a 37-year-old male.
[Economy] Holiday Cheer – Retail Sales Increased by 3% – Despite ongoing fears that the pandemic would drop Christmas sales, the 3% rise – led by a 49% increase in online sales – is a sign that domestic spending can be robust. Overall, a very good sign for potential improvement in the economy.
Monday, December 28
[Coronavirus] Trump Signs COVID-19 Relief and Omnibus Spending Bills – Avoiding a pending government shutdown, Trump signed the bill but continued to grouse about the “disgraceful” $600 individual stimulus, foreign aid requests, and “wasteful items” in the bill (he probably meant the stimulus part of the bill, not the government funding). Trump also reiterated his call for raising the individual stimulus to $2,000 per person, which the Democrats eagerly latched onto and flogged in Congress for the few days before the new year. This included a new bill, passed in the House, to increase the individual relief checks; the bill was sent to the Senate, where McConnell is expected to kill it. However, between Trump, a handful of Republicans, and a gaggle of Democratic cheerleaders, the resulting brouhaha will keep the $2,000 check alive as a political issue, even into the new year.
[Elections 2020] Believe It or Not: Republicans Sue VP Pence – This does not easily scan, but a handful of Republicans led by Rep. Louis Gohmert (R-TX) filed a lawsuit to force Pence to support the overturn of Biden’s election by rejecting electoral college votes in certain swing states. [Update: First, Pence filed a countersuit. Then the original lawsuit was summarily dismissed by a federal court before the week was out.] This was but one of several procedurally bizarre moves by the GOP that, of course, garnered heavy media attention but caused much head scratching by the general public. The GOP is within range of making the entire charade a big Who Cares?
[Biden Transition] Biden Complains of Trump Appointees’ Obstruction – In general Biden has not done much kvetching, but apparently the intransigence of Trump people in the Departments of Defense and State, and the OMB has finally come to the point where it is impeding the transition. Presumably, by going public with the complaint, Biden hopes to exert pressure on Trump and his minions. It might work. Biden will be lucky if this is the worst of the complaints.
Tuesday, December 29
[Coronavirus] Biden Calls Out Slow Pace of Vaccination – Speaking slightly ahead of the media curve, Biden highlighted that vaccinations were not only arriving in people’s arms much slower than Trump had predicted, but there were obvious unsolved infrastructure problems and logistical issues because there was no national program to support the incredibly ambitious vaccination schedule. As he pointed out, at the current pace “It’s going to take years, not months, to vaccinate the American people.”
[Coronavirus] California Clamps Down as Hospitals Are Overwhelmed – Responding to zero capacity conditions for hospitals in San Diego, Los Angeles, and Fresno, Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) issued extended stay-at-home orders for Southern California. The state added more than 300,000 new cases in the seven days leading up to the Christmas holiday. It was a week that the U.S. saw a record number of deaths in one day: 3,741; a record number of hospitalizations: 121,235; and in which the total number of cases exceeded 20 million. These numbers continue to be the worst in the world by a wide margin.
Wednesday, December 30
[Coronavirus] COVID-19 Variant Detected in U.S. – The mutant strain first seen in southern England and South Africa has spread around the world, including the states of Colorado and California in the U.S. Dr. Fauci reported that, so far, this new strain can be halted by current vaccines, and that it is not more virulent. However, it definitely appears to be 50% to 75% more infectious. If these numbers bear out, the variant may be responsible for situations where normal mitigation (masks, spacing, lockdowns) only slow down the spread of the disease. Although still unverified, this seems to be the case in parts of Europe and Great Britain.
[Election – 2020] GOP “Stolen Election” Gambit Reaches Congress – The House Republicans are set to object to the Electoral College certification process on January 6. An objection can continue if at least one senator agrees. That senator has stepped forward to be the lead enemy of the democratic process: Sen. Josh Hawley (R-MO). The objection can delay certification of the votes, but not stop it, which makes the entire exercise a PR gambit. Since McConnell apparently does not support the move, there seems to be some kind of split among the Republicans on the wholly trumped-up (pun intended) issue of election fraud.
Thursday, December 31
[Economy] New Unemployment Insurance Claims: 787,000 – The modest 19,000 decline in claims from the previous week, combined with the relatively good news about holiday season sales, may indicate that the newly signed stimulus bill may come on top of an improving consumer economy.
[Coronavirus] The U.S. Officially Passes 20 Million Cases of COVID-19 – It took 292 days for the U.S. to reach the first 10 million cases, and 54 days to double it. December was the worst month, with 6.1 million new cases and 74,147 people dying; January could be worse.
Friday, January 1, 2021 New Year
[Government] Congress Overrides Veto of Defense Bill – As expected, the veto had little significance except to delay the process of funding the military and the government in general. Trump’s objections to the bill, such as his wish to retain Confederate names for military bases, were clearly tailored for his base and otherwise unserious.
[Coronavirus] India and UK Approve Oxford-AstraZeneca Vaccine for Emergency Use – With an immunization rate slightly above 60%, this vaccine is not as effective as Pfizer’s or Moderna’s, but it requires only a single dose, is much less expensive, and is much easier to administer. It is not expected to be distributed in the U.S. until sometime in the spring.
[Coronavirus] U.S. Coronavirus Totals: Cases: 20,617,346; Deaths: 356,445
When lockdown stops working. It’s possible the new variant of the COVID-19 virus could upset a lot of planning. It is almost certainly more infectious. It appears that it may be responsible for making normal mitigation efforts, including lockdowns, ineffective. It may affect younger people more; that may affect the opening of schools in 2021. It may have side effects and long-term consequences that are as yet unknown. Although current vaccines will probably work, some treatments may be less effective. This may be a classic situation where the mutation of viruses, which is something they do all the time, may be more than the world’s medical community can handle. In all, too many questions, too many unknowns, but the trends don’t look good and immunology experts are openly worried.
How bad is the economy? For the most part, 2020 was a year of the K-shape model, one branch going up, piling more money into the hands of the already wealthy, and the other branch going down, throwing millions into poverty. That meant Wall Street looked stunningly healthy and the consumer economy dangerously anemic. Now there is another stimulus coming from Congress, which could help. Combine that with some signs that consumer demand is coming back and maybe we’ll get through the worst of the pandemic in January and February. Not a rosy picture, but more gray than black.
Constitutional, Political, Election Notes
The polls in Georgia say the two Democratic senatorial candidates, Ossof and Warnock, are leading – by seven and nine points respectively. Unfortunately, now that we’re conditioned by the disaster of the polls during the general election, this probably means they’re going to lose by two or three points. Pardon us for being pessimistic. (On the other hand. . . .)
Quote of the Week
Bottom line is, the [Gohmert v. Pence] court is saying, ‘We’re not going to touch this, you have no remedy.’ Basically, in effect, the ruling would be that you got to go to the streets and be as violent as antifa and BLM.
Rep. Louis Gohmert (R-TX) on Newsmax, 01/01/2021.
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