Indivisible Upper Yellowstone – Weekly Journal
The Week of Saturday, January 2 through Friday, January 8, 2021 [Vol.2 No.25]
The Week’s Most Notable
This may have been one of the more significant weeks in U.S. history. In fact, Wednesday January 6, may be one of those days for the generations to remember. What happened during the week: The worst coronavirus numbers yet, the sacking of the U.S. Capitol building by a Trump incited mob, the Georgia election of two Democrats that flipped control of the Senate, and the desperate follow-up by both Democrats and Republicans to the problem of what to do with Trump, are dramatic in their own right, but the real significance is how they can potentially play out in the longer-term future of democracy in America.
Peak pandemic is what the epidemiologists are calling it. It’s a confluence of bad public behavior, bad mitigation policy, bad leadership, and the proclivity of the virus to up its game during national holidays. After 10 months of confused messaging, political opportunism, and just being plain sick of the pandemic threat, a large proportion of the American public moved about too much, clumped together too much, ignored masking, and staged a variety of superspreader events. It worked. This week’s more than 4,000 deaths in one day, more than 300,000 new COVID-19 cases in one day, and more than 130,000 hospitalizations broke all records and severely tested the medical capacity of the U.S. And yet this did not dominate the news.
It’s the images that will stick. Most Americans will remember the desecration of the national Capitol building: the mob flowing up the Capitol steps, the flutter of Trump flags, the smashing of windows, the shit on the walls, blood on the floor, and the moronic grin of a guy stealing Pelosi’s podium. Some of it had a grotesque carnival atmosphere, but inside – in the halls of Congress – people died, our elected representatives feared for their lives, and the business of Congress, which happened to be certifying a new president, was brought to a halt for much of the day. The alt-right militias had prepared for months, the guardians of the Capitol were conveniently undermanned, the Trump-GOP and right-wing media provided a stream of Big Lie (Stolen Election) rationale, and the President of the United States deliberately pointed the mob in the direction of the Capitol. It was an event of starkly profound symbolism, an apotheosis of a fool’s insurrection, and quite possibly a watershed in the political fortunes of the American democratic experiment.
Meanwhile, that same day the American democracy elected a black preacher and Jewish filmmaker as the two newest members of the United States Senate; coming from the state of Georgia, an astonishing result on many levels. The senators are Democrats and they tip control of the Senate, which will make it possible for President Biden to have a shot at forming his government and enacting his legislation without the intractable obstructionism of Mitch McConnell. Now it’s up to the Democrats to get enough done that they warrant more votes in the 2022 midterms.
At the moment, the GOP finds itself wedded to Trump and the Big Lie. Yet there are those in the GOP who appear to be considering divorce, a split from Trump; there are those who continue to support the Big Lie of a stolen election and refuse to grant legitimacy to Biden’s win and there are those who admit Biden’s win and wish to move on. It was thought the debacle at the Capitol would quash support for the Big Lie, but that same night more than 130 Republicans continued their fictional narrative and voted against Biden’s certification. The Big Lie continues to be the top-level motivation for right-wing militias and Republican opposition. Until the Big Lie and the corresponding legally illegitimate claims of having “evidence” for a rigged election are addressed, the right-wing media, Trump’s base, and ultraconservative politicians (much of the GOP) will continue to use it to justify their actions – including the assault on the U.S. Capitol.
Saturday, January 2
[Coronavirus] U.S. Coronavirus Totals: Cases: 20,977,465; Deaths: 358,738
[Election – 2020] Josh Hawley (R-MO) and Ted Cruz (R-TX) Become Headliners for Election Certification Opposition – Joined by 11 other senators and 132 House Republicans, these are the folks who plan on using the Wednesday certification process to further the Big Lie. Their performance for the Trump-GOP base is intended to reinforce the right-wing media propaganda effort to solidify long-term opposition to Biden.
[Election – 2020] Trump Uses Phone Call for Georgia Election Extortion – In an ongoing series of calls and public moves, Trump continued to put pressure on Georgia’s Republican Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger to “find 11,780 ballots.” This is the margin by which Trump lost Georgia. In this case, the phone call was recorded and witnessed by others in the office, which makes it potentially evidence for illegal election tampering. Raffensperger released the recording after Trump went public with his criticism of the Secretary of State.
Sunday, January 3
[Coronavirus] U.S. COVID-19 Death Toll Exceeds 350,000 – The U.S. pandemic appears to be heading toward 400,000 deaths by the middle of January, especially if this week turns out as badly as experts have been forecasting.
[Coronavirus] Trump Cries “Fake COVID Data”; Fauci and Surgeon General Say “Not Fake” – Trump did not take well to the news of 350,000 deaths; he took even less well to being contradicted. Who you gonna believe?
[Government] 117th Congress Sworn In – Democrats retain majority in the House by 11 seats; the Senate majority depends on the outcome of the Georgia special election on Tuesday. Pelosi was narrowly reelected Speaker of the House; for the 80-year-old Pelosi it will be her last term.
[Election – 2020] All 10 Living Former Defense Secretaries Warn Against Military Involvement in U.S. Elections – In an op-ed for The Washington Post, the secretaries highlighted the military oath to support the Constitution and a peaceful transition of power. It is considered significant that the current political situation seems to require this public reaffirmation. Their statement and other indications from former officials, Democrat and Republican, seem to indicate a growing unease with the Trump-GOP efforts to overthrow the results of the election.
Monday, January 4
[Coronavirus] Britain Goes Full Lockdown – Like most Western countries, the members of the UK are experiencing a sharp post-holiday rise in COVID-19 cases – only worse, much worse. New cases are spiking up to 80,000 a day, a vast number for the population, and the death rate is the worst in Europe. The reason for this seems to be the new variant of the virus, which appears to be substantially more transmittable. Travel to and from the UK is now highly restricted, which complicates the confusion caused by the January 1 implementation of Brexit.
[Middle East] Iran Acts to Increase Leverage in Future Negotiations with Biden – By capturing a South Korean tanker and increasing its uranium production by 20%, among other things, Iran is obviously creating “bargaining chips” for immediate negotiations with the Biden administration. There is some concern that these actions could trigger a response from Trump.
[Elections – 2020] Biden and Trump Campaign in Georgia – Underscoring the importance of this special election for two Senate seats, all the big guns have been brought to Georgia over the last 72 hours. That and the $500 million known to have been spent on advertising is indicative of why early voting in Georgia has reached over 3 million people, a record. Most observers and analysts agree that the races are too close to call.
Tuesday, January 5
[Election 2020] Trump Loses Another Election Result Court Case – U.S. District Judge Mark Cohen rejected Trump’s lawsuit seeking to decertify Georgia’s presidential election results. The judge noted that the state has counted votes three times and officially certified the results; he saw no reason to contest that in Trump’s appeal.
[Election – 2021] The New Georgia Senators: Warnock and Ossof – In one of the most significant political upsets in American history, a black preacher and Jewish documentarian flip the Senate majority. As soon as they are certified in Georgia and sworn into Congress, the Senate will be officially tied 50-50 with the vice president as the tiebreaker. That means the Democrats take over control of the Senate, Schumer becomes the Majority Leader, Democrats chair all of the committees, Biden will get most of his cabinet appointments approved, Democrats will select new judges, and a host of other advantages. In other respects, it will probably become very complicated to pass legislation as a few key senators from both parties will become “center-pivotal” for most votes. Legislation requiring 60 votes will mostly be out of reach. The political situation is likely to be very fluid between now and the midterms (2022), which may give the practiced old senator, Joe Biden, some room to invoke his negotiating skills.
Wednesday, January 6
[Capitol – Mob] U.S. Capitol Building Briefly Occupied and Trashed by Pro-Trump Mob – Alt-right militias around the country had weeks ago marked January 6, 2021, the day Congress was set to certify the results of the presidential election, as the day for the most consequential rally in favor of keeping Trump in the presidency – presumably by force. Estimates of their number vary, but at least 20,000 showed up in full MAGA regalia, some toting guns, many more waving signs and Trump flags. They had been primed even before the November election that the process was rigged and that, as Trump said, he won in a landslide but the election was stolen from him. (In other words, the Big Lie.) Speakers at the rally, such as Rudy Giuliani and Josh Hawley (R-MO) stoked the crowd to a fever pitch, and then Trump came out and pointed in the direction of the Capitol. The rest is one of the strangest, most grotesque, and disturbing events in American history – the mob attack, its all too easy occupation, and its desecration of the United States Capitol building while Congress was in session. Five people died, including a Capitol policeman. It looked like a movie and will probably be a movie someday, but it wasn’t a script, it was chaos, it was often surreal, it was often brutal and ugly. The event will have historical repercussions.
[Alt-Right Militias] Bombs and State Capitol Attacks Mark Militia Activity – Pipe bombs were found in the vicinity of the RNC and DNC headquarters in Washington, along with Molotov cocktails and a variety of weapons in the vicinity of the Capitol building. Simultaneously several state capitol buildings, such as in Washington and Utah, were assaulted by MAGA/militia people. This activity was generally downplayed by media reporting.
[Election – 2020] After the Mob Left: Congress Certifies Biden’s Election – Although displaced from their offices and the House and Senate chambers, Congress reconvened after the Capitol building was cleared of rioters. They continued the debate and voting for certification of Biden’s election, finishing well into the morning of Thursday. Bizarre though it was, the radical rump of Republicans, some 142 in all, continued to champion the Big Lie and voted against confirming Biden’s election.
[Biden – Administration] Biden to Nominate Merrick Garland as Attorney General –In a stroke of irony, the Supreme Court nominee scuttled by McConnell will now take over the Department of Justice. Garland is a federal judge and legal expert, considered a moderate both by legal inclination and personality. Interestingly, Biden also is simultaneously nominating Lisa Monaco as Deputy AG, plus Vanita Gupta and Kristin Clarke as associate AGs. The latter two have already twisted the conservative knickers for their known civil rights and social justice opinions.
[Social Media] Twitter and Facebook Lock Trump Accounts – In response to Trump’s inciting of the riot at the Capitol building, social media giants Twitter and Facebook took the opportunity to enforce their “moral stance against violence” by shutting off Trump’s use of his accounts. In both cases this turned into a permanent closing. Some say that muzzling Trump from access to Twitter is probably more debilitating than sending him to prison, if not as satisfying.
Thursday, January 7
[Economy] New Unemployment Insurance Claims: 818,000 – The number of new claims dropped from the previous week but the Friday labor report shows that the economy lost 140,000 jobs in December, the first monthly loss since April. The unemployment rate remained at 6.7%, also the first time since April that it didn’t decline. Economists now agree that the rapidly rising impact of coronavirus cases, now reaching 300,000 a day, is having an impact on the labor force and the economy in general. Even the stock market reacted negatively to the COVID-19 news, while apparently being unfazed by the riot in the Capitol building…
[Coronavirus] Record U.S. Daily COVID-19 Deaths: 4,061 – The post-holiday wave is beginning to hit.
[Capitol Riot] Aftermath of the Capitol Insurrection – Calls for Trump to be removed from office or resign joined discussions in media and political circles throughout the day. In addition, according to their own statements, Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos and Secretary of Transportation Elaine Chao resigned from Trump’s cabinet. Even former AG Bill Barr said Trump’s conduct was “a betrayal of his office and supporters.” There were numerous calls for investigations, particularly of the failure by Capitol police and other federal police agencies to protect the Capitol building. It now seems probable that national security was breached by some members of the mob that invaded the Congressional chambers and offices of key members of Congress. The extent of the damage to the building, the compromising of sensitive material, and dealing with the literally hundreds of people who were in the building illegally (on many counts) will require serious and organized effort, such as an investigative commission.
[Capitol Riot] FBI Issues Ads and Posters to Identify Capitol Rioters – It seems significant that the FBI is spending real money for full color ads and posters asking the public to identify the pictures of rioters inside the Capitol. While the failure of the police to detain people before they left the building was an egregious error, these FBI efforts are interesting because they not only actually contribute to identifying people but also remind the public of what happened and the seriousness of the crimes. It remains to be seen just how many people will be arrested in various parts of the country and, further, how many will be convicted.
[Capitol Riot] Trump Posts Video Acknowledging Defeat – It was hardly a concession speech, but Trump’s language was carefully tailored to acknowledge the new administration will be taking over, without actually naming Biden, and to acknowledge the damage done by his mob of supporters. This latter part immediately infuriated significant members of the Trump-GOP base, which caused Trump a day later to publicly regret having issued the video. Betting among reporters is that the video was the work of White House lawyer Pat Cipollone and the public claw-back the work of Stephen Miller, with the net effect being confusion.
[Capitol Riot] Capitol Police Officer Dies from Riot-Sustained Injuries – Officer Brian Sicknick, who was attacked by a rioter wielding a fire extinguisher, sustained fatal injuries. The death of a law officer completes the picture of an out of control, lawless, and murderous mob; not a picture anyone would want to defend. [Update: The Capitol Police Chief, House Sgt. at-Arms and Senate Sgt. at-Arms all resigned in the wake of the policing catastrophe.]
Friday, January 8
[Coronavirus] Record U.S. Daily COVID-19 New Infections: 403,212 – On prediction, heading toward 500,000 new cases a day.
[Capitol Riot] Democrats Organize for Impeachment – A single article of impeachment – incitement to riot – is already being circulated among members of the House. According to reports the Democrats may not be the only supporters of impeachment, although few expect the Senate to embrace the idea of a trial and conviction. However, the situation is so volatile that public opinion and further events could swing political decisions. Pelosi has indicated that if Trump doesn’t resign, she will seriously consider impeachment, which could come to the floor by midweek.
[Capitol Riot] Sen. Murkowski Calls for Trump to Resign, Threatens to Leave GOP – If Murkowski (R-AK) chooses to become an independent, it would formally make her a swing vote for important Senate decisions. It also signals that she feels herself relatively impervious to revenge by Trump or his supporters.
[Coronavirus] U.S. Coronavirus Totals: Cases: 22,461 696; Deaths: 383,204
The worst week in U.S. coronavirus history – with several more to come. The concern now is with the new (English) variant of the virus, which epidemiologists believe is already widely distributed in the U.S. If, or when, it takes hold, it could breathtakingly accelerate the spread of the disease. A looming concern is a related South African variant of the virus, which appears to be not only more infectious but may have properties that could lead to vaccine and treatment resistance.
Racism Protest Notes
What if Black Lives Matter took over the Capitol building? Many people made the observation that if the insurrection had mostly black faces, the police would’ve been far more trigger-happy and they would’ve been flanked by backup from the entire alphabet soup of federal police and military personnel. We saw what happened in June, when troops cleared Lafayette Square for Trump’s Bible thumping PR gesture. Black people know how this works, and they did not fail to notice how at ease these white rioters/insurrectionists looked.
Constitutional, Political, Election Notes
What to do with Trump? As the week ended, Congress was buzzing about the various ways of dealing with Trump until he is out of office on the 20th. Nobody wants to find out if he can do something else as malevolent as sending an armed mob to invade the Capitol building. The media and politicians batted around various schemes for impeachment, resignation, or invoking the 25th Amendment. In fact, Democrats fast-tracked impeachment for inciting of insurrection, which could be voted on by midweek. However, Trump has already signaled he will not resign. Pence shows no interest in invoking the 25th Amendment, and most experts feel that there is not enough time for impeachment and trial (even if Republicans would abet any of this). Nevertheless, the real objective is to neutralize Trump. If he tries to pull another major event, any of the removal schemes become viable – especially if they are already in process. The idea is to give Trump and the hollowed-out White House staff too little time, too many obstructions, too hostile a public environment to launch anything significant. At the same time, by doing something like launching impeachment proceedings in the House, they are fulfilling a perceived necessity of “not letting him get away with anything.”
The trashing of the Capitol building demands big-time investigation. Let the impact of that event set the tone – we need to know more about what Trump, his family, his corrupt friends and associates have done over the past five years (or more). One good investigation should address much more, not just to find out who broke the law but what the whole story is, and how this happened. Some of this needs to be led by investigative agencies, the FBI of course, but we also need fact-finding commissions and possibly special investigators. If this takes all four years of Biden’s term, fine; there are lots of other things to do, but this is something that needs to be done doggedly and thoroughly.
Quote of the Week
If you’re surprised by the eagerness of many in the [Republican] party to overturn an election based on specious claims of fraud, you weren’t paying attention.
Paul Krugman, “How the Republican Party Went Feral,” The New York Times, 01/04/2021.
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