Indivisible Upper Yellowstone – Weekly Journal
The Week of Saturday, January 9 through Friday, January 15, 2021 [Vol.2 No.26]
The Week’s Most Notable
Trump’s second impeachment, the only president so dishonored, in itself settled little, but exposed the fateful divide between the defense of democracy (the presidential election), political tribalism (Republicans and the Big Lie), and the potential for violent authoritarian government (Trump’s call for insurrection). Awash in the emotion and the growing awareness of potential catastrophe in the Capitol riot – with the background noise of the ever-escalating coronavirus pandemic – this was a unique impeachment in many ways. For example, the 10 Republicans who voted for impeachment constitute the most impeachment votes from the opposition in our history; on the other hand, they were opposed by 142 fellow Republicans who not only voted against impeachment but continued to push the Big Lie that the election was stolen.
Eventually the impeachment process moves to the Senate for trial. The trial will not begin until after the inauguration and not until control of the Senate formally passes to the Democrats. Transition to a 50-50 Senate is going to take some tricky negotiations, harkening back to the Daschle/Lott agreement of 2001, which required several weeks. The trial won’t begin until Pelosi sends the article of impeachment from the House, which she will probably delay for at least a week or two, if not more. The Democrats are going to try to keep the trial from mucking up Biden’s fantastically ambitious first 100 days. If circumstances allow, the Democrats would like to delay trial activity until April.
While conviction is the goal, since Trump will already be out of office the underlying goal is to pass a second item of remedy – permanently forbidding him from holding any federal office. The initial conviction requires 67 votes, 17 of them Republican; the second vote needs only a simple majority. At first glance, getting 17 Republicans to vote against Trump seems unlikely; but, if evidence arising from the Capitol riot is striking, if McConnell actually decides to support conviction, if Trump’s numbers continue tanking (some polls are already under 30%), and if enough Republicans want Trump out of the way to clear a path for 2022 and 2024, conviction is not impossible.
The great race: Vaccines vs Variants. In theory, an orderly rollout of COVID-19 vaccinations – something like a million people a day – should reach the point where more people are vaccinated than not and the rate of infection should drop. But what if a new strain of the virus appears which is 50% to 75% more infectious? To stay ahead of this virus the health system would need to vaccinate 1.5 million people a day. Otherwise, the rising rate of infection would continue, and more people would be hospitalized and more would die – at least until a maximum of the population has been reached. That’s what’s happening in Great Britain, Ireland, Spain, and very soon the U.S. Right now, it’s a race to bring vaccines online and get them into people’s arms before the new COVID-19 strains (UK, South Africa, Brazil, and possibly others) get ahead of our ability to immunize people. According to the director of the CDC, if we don’t do this – if we can’t vaccinate fast enough and don’t practice solid mitigation efforts – the U.S. will see up to 10,000 deaths a day by the end of spring. We better hope that Biden’s massive emergency vaccination program really works.
Saturday, January 9
[Coronavirus] U.S. Coronavirus Totals: Cases: 22,709,949; Deaths: 381,423
[Election – 2020] Trump Continues Pressure on Georgia Officials to Overturn Vote – At least two more phone calls by Trump, one to Atlanta’s top prosecutor and another to the top investigator for Georgia’s Secretary of State had the same intent as the original phone call to the Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger – “find” 11,760 votes so that Trump could win the state of Georgia. Apparently, the calls were not successful; however, they could be added to the list of impeachable offenses or possibly criminal activity. Need proof that Trump is irrationally desperate?
[U.S. – Taiwan] Pompeo Ends Restrictions on U.S. Contact with Taiwanese Diplomats – This last-minute move by Pompeo is guaranteed to piss off the Chinese, since it was American policy for decades to not have official contact with the Taiwanese. Pompeo has been making moves like this with Iran, North Korea, Israel, and other sensitive areas to set policy that will be at best difficult for Biden to reverse. It’s the diplomatic equivalent of scorched-earth. [Update: EU officials refused to meet with Pompeo on last-minute trip, because he had not recognized Biden’s election win.]
[Capitol Riot – Investigation] FBI Continues Intensive Research and Arrest Efforts – Using facial identification software, witness testimony, public recognition, and other forensic techniques, the FBI has opened files on more than 250 people involved in the January 6 Capitol riot. Officials say that eventually hundreds of people will be identified and charged with everything from trespass on federal property to sedition. Will this have a chilling effect on the plans for continued militia-based violence, especially during the upcoming inauguration?
[Social Media] Parler Silenced by Tech Giants – Parler collected right wing groups and Trump supporters as they left standard social media such as Facebook and Twitter. It eventually accepted the highly inflammatory rhetoric of the neo-Nazis and hosted planning for violence against the government. This brought the attention of Apple, Google, and Amazon, who had distributed the Parler app. Following the Capitol riot they decided to shut down their support and services, effectively ending Parler (at least for now). Parler was funded by a group of right-wing billionaires led by the Mercer family. Most right-wing participants will now migrate back to less public services such as 4chan and 8chan.
Sunday, January 10
[Election – 2020] Corporations Begin to Flex Political $ Muscles – Throughout the week major corporations such as Marriott International, Blue Cross Blue Shield, General Motors, Microsoft, and many more have taken steps to curtail their political donations, sometimes to both parties but most often to Republicans, in response to the Capitol riot and the persistence of opposition to Biden’s election. This has gotten McConnell’s attention, and is said to be one factor in his “drifting away” from supporting Trump.
[Capitol – Riot] PGA Moves 2022 Golf Championship from Trump Course – In reaction to the Capitol riot and Trump’s role in the attack on democracy, the PGA explicitly cited such circumstances for their decision. This probably hurts Trump almost as much is impeachment.
[Capitol – Riot] FBI Warned of Capitol Mob Attack – The FBI and the New York City Police Department warned DC Capitol Police of the threat of violence ahead of the January 6 certification of the election. The warning was not acted upon. This accusation is just one of many instances of communication failures, analytics gone wrong, and structural problems among the many agencies charged with guarding the Capitol. Comprehensive investigations have been opened by Congress and the FBI; expect periodic revelations.
Monday, January 11
[Coronavirus] U.S. Pandemic Death Toll Reaches 375,000 – This grim milestone was unfortunately quickly passed as more than 3,000 to 4,000 people a day are dying. This will bring the death toll to about 400,000 by the time of Biden’s inauguration.
[Election – 2020] House Democrats Introduce Article of Impeachment – After a resolution for VP Pence to invoke the 25th amendment was blocked by House Republicans; the Democrats went ahead with plans to invoke the impeachment process.
[Government] Acting Homeland Security Chief Resigns – Chad Wolfe, a staunch Trump loyalist, resigned for “recent events” without explicitly naming the Capitol riot (for which he has some responsibility). He joins Betsy DeVos and Elaine Chao in the parade of department chiefs heading for the exit doors.
[Capitol – Riot] FBI Warns of Potential Attacks on State Capitols – This announcement set the stage for the rest of the week and the days up to Biden’s inauguration. The implication is that right-wing militia groups and other organizations were already planning on shifting their attacks from Washington D.C. to state capitols. Many other police jurisdictions chimed in with local reports and generally created an atmosphere of “concern.” D.C. will be inundated by federal officers and the National Guard, not a promising venue for right-wing terrorists.
[Capitol – Riot] Two Capitol Police Officers Suspended over Riot Actions – Another “tip of the iceberg” action indicating that the failure of policing agencies to guard the Capitol has elements of collusion and sympathy for the insurrection. [Update: Suspicion of support for the right-wing terrorists goes all the way to the top of some agencies, and later in the week included Republican members of Congress. Again, the situation begs for a systematic investigation.]
Tuesday, January 12
[Capitol – Riot] Trump Defends His Pre-Riot Remarks – He called his remarks “totally appropriate,” giving a strong echo of his comments about the phone call with the president of Ukraine that precipitated his first impeachment. It was rather like Trump saying “go out and have a good picnic” but later saying “I had no idea they had guns in the picnic basket.”
[Government] Military Leaders Issue Reminder of Service Members’ Oath to the Constitution – From the Joint Chiefs of Staff to the heads of every military service, an extraordinary message reminding all members of the armed services about their oath to the Constitution and that the Capitol riot was “inconsistent with the rule of law. The rights of freedom of speech and assembly do not give anyone the right to resort to violence, sedition, and insurrection.” It’s important to note that the military, the majority of major American corporations, the judiciary, and the majority of Americans do not support the Capitol riot or the point of view it represents.
Wednesday, January 13
[Election – 2020] Trump Is Impeached for the Second Time – One week after the Capitol insurrection, the House impeached Donald Trump for the second time. The Article of Impeachment: Inciting violent insurrection. The vote was 232-197, with Republicans joining the Democrats.
[Election – 2020] McConnell Eschews Immediate Trial but Signals Break with Trump – In classic McConnell style, he exercises power to block anything, even impeachment, but at the same time dangles a carrot that he might be amenable to convicting Trump. He had earlier said the Trump impeachment/conviction would give the Republicans the chance to distance themselves from Trump. Such things are not said lightly but are also not necessarily permanent.
[Election – 2020] Tweetless Trump Tells Fox News “Peace” – Saying “there must be NO violence, and NO lawbreaking, and NO vandalism of any kind” Trump called for his supporters to avoid Washington D.C. And not to cause trouble anywhere else in the country. It’s ironic that most Trump supporters already know by his tone of political correctness that his tongue is fully planted in his cheek. They know this is Teleprompter boilerplate and not the true Trump.
Thursday, January 14
[Economy] New Unemployment Insurance Claims: 965,000 – The big jump from the previous week, 181,000 new claims, is much larger than economists predicted and was accompanied by news that 140,000 jobs were lost in December, usually a month employment at least seasonally improves. It’s becoming undeniably apparent that the surge in coronavirus cases and deaths is having an impact on the economy affecting both the productivity of the labor force and consumer demand.
[Capitol – Riot] Capitol Riot Much Darker on the Inside – Some of the time it looked like a hippie parade, everybody smiling and waving flags, especially on the Capitol steps. Inside, a different story, five dead, dozens injured. Prosecutors investigating the event have already uncovered actionable evidence that Trump supporters “intended to capture and assassinate elected officials,” and that many of those inside the Capitol building had drilled for the occasion, planned what to do and where to go, and were fully prepared to commit violence. The rest of the crowd was mainly a distraction, in effect a cover of Trumpian partygoers. Fortunately, the most militant suffered from the classic discombobulation of people with more than one foot in fantasyland. They failed in everything except gaining access to the building, and that was only because of incredible incompetence, negligence, and possibly intentional collusion. Still, it was a close thing with mere seconds separating a violent mob from elected officials and staff. For those under attack it was like a bad dream with a lethal nightmare lurking just off the edge of happenstance.
[Climate Crisis] NASA: 2020 Tied with 2016 as Warmest Year – In a year with massive wildfires in California and a record number of tropical storms, Gavin Schmidt, director of NASA’s Goddard Institute, said “These long-term trends are very, very clear. This is another piece of evidence that tells us the planet is warming decade by decade by decade.”
Friday, January 15
[Biden – Administration] Biden Unveils $1.9 Trillion Coronavirus Stimulus Package – Biden is going big: $1,400 for individual relief checks, $400 billion for coronavirus testing and vaccinations, $400 a week for boosted unemployment insurance, and $350 billion for state and local governments, is the long-awaited response to the unprecedented health and economic crises. Like wars, this is a time meant for deficits – anything else results in catastrophe. That doesn’t mean the nattering nabobs of Republican negativity won’t chew on every aspect of the bill. The negotiations will be fierce.
[Coronavirus] Biden Doubles Down on 100 Million Vaccinations in His First 100 Days – In addition to a war-status logistical effort, he’s going to need some luck – like successful new vaccines, no major virus mutation, and a certain amount of public acquiescence – to pull this off. On the other hand, as the experts are pointing out, it’s quite literally do this, or a lot more of us will die.
[Coronavirus] Trump Administration Promised to Open Reserves of Vaccine – There Were No Reserves – Health and Human Services had already given out all the doses supposedly reserved for the second inoculation for the two COVID-19 vaccines. This destroyed the planning of many states and leaves a huge gap in the commitment to those people who have already received the first dose. It’s also quite likely to be representative of the disastrous state of vaccination in the U.S.
[Election – 2020] Trump Approval Rating Falls to 29% – This is about the level of approval when Nixon resigned from office. The decline has come mainly from Republicans who went from 77% to 60% approval since August. These figures are from the Pew Research Center poll; they need to be confirmed by other polls.
[Coronavirus] U.S. Coronavirus Totals: Cases: 24,103,276; Deaths: 401,884
It appears that with the COVID-19 vaccines we may be putting the cart full of vaccines ahead of the horse, the means of distribution. (And we’re not even sure about the vaccines.) Worldwide, a predictable pattern is emerging: Manufacturers are (mostly) able to keep up with production requirements, but distribution and final administration into the arms of people are falling far behind. Making a vaccine requires expertise but it’s all done under one roof, metaphorically speaking, that is, one company management. Distribution, on the other hand, is a vastly collaborative effort between government, manufacturers, distributors, retailers, the medical establishment, and last but not least, the public. Coordination is difficult for even small projects, but for COVID-19 we are talking billions of doses overall and hundreds of millions of people. In the U.S. alone we’re going to need around 190 million people to be adequately vaccinated each year until we reach common immunity. We still haven’t completed the arsenal of vaccines, as we’re waiting on AstraZeneca, Johnson & Johnson, and several other smaller companies to finish their phase 3 trials or to cleanup some “loose ends” in their manufacturing. We’ve consistently seen far too optimistic estimates for the vaccination process, even from immunization experts. It’s understandable to keep the public looking forward, to encourage their participation, but it’s not evident that telling them all will be well by summer – when it might actually be 2022 – is helping in the long run.
It’s beginning to sink in – the U.S. economy is seriously deteriorating. (So is the world economy, for that matter.) For once, it’s also beginning to sink in with non-blinded politicians that there is a strong correlation between a COVID-19 crisis out of control and the deteriorating economy. Throwing money at the economy, even giving cash to people, doesn’t help much if people are not willing to more than minimally participate in the economy out of fear of the coronavirus. Apparently, major corporations are also becoming aware of the correlation, and are more vociferous in their support for effective COVID-19 mitigation and vaccination. Where the corporations move, eventually so will most politicians.
Constitutional, Political, Election Notes
The 50-50 Senate, government by Manchin. An evenly divided Senate has not been common in American history. When it has existed, every bill tends to be complicated, every Senate procedure more critical, and a handful of “independent” or “centrist” Senators wield outsized power. In this case Joe Manchin (D-WV), the perennial outlier for the Democrats, could well become the pivot for legislative negotiation. This will not be graceful. (Note that illness, death, or resignation of even one Senator is a big deal.)
In case you hadn’t noticed, Biden is opening with a blitz, just like some Democrats begged him to do – “Joe Biden should do everything at once.” Among other things, the administration is preparing scores of executive orders; the Senate impeachment trial; a massive stimulus/coronavirus bill; large segments of a new immigration bill; and rapid changes at federal agencies. The strategy seems clear – Republicans are in disarray, hit them with everything you’ve got so there is no time for a coordinated resistance. This is in fact was part of the Republican playbook during the Trump era. There is a risk of course in moving on five or six major fronts at once with literally hundreds of business items to be taken care; a management task of monumental proportions. The obvious question: Are Democrats up to it? Biden seems to have put together a team designed to do just that. He’s already appointed 206 White House officials and announced 44 nominees needing Senate confirmation, a record. He’s mainly adding experienced, savvy, and appropriately skilled people, just the type you’d expect if you want them to hit the ground running.
Quote of the Week
An online thread discussed specific calls for violence to include stating ‘Be ready to fight. Congress needs to hear glass breaking, doors being kicked in, and blood from their BLM and Pantifa slave soldiers being spilled. Get violent. Stop calling this a march, or rally, or a protest. Go there ready for war. We get our President or we die. NOTHING else will achieve this goal.’
FBI Information Report dated 01/05/2021, released 01/10/2021. .
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