IUY: Weekly Journal, Vol.2 No.28 – February 6 – 12, 2021

Indivisible Upper Yellowstone – Weekly Journal

The Week of Saturday, February 6 through Friday, February 12, 2021 [Vol.2 No.28]

Impeachment Trial 2

The Week’s Most Notable

[Update: Saturday, February 13, 2021: Trump’s impeachment trial terminates with acquittal. What has been set in motion? Of course, Trump will proclaim exoneration. He may become a candidate again. Can a lazy but vindictive man rule the Republican party from Mar a Lago? He certainly will try. About half a dozen presidential wannabes will hover like pilot fish around a shark, looking for tidbits and opportunities. The GOP congressional delegation is split, sort of, some resisting Trump, most surreptitiously; the majority proclaiming Trump wholeheartedly. The right-wing media will continue to propagandize the Big Lie, reinforcing Republican confrontations with the Biden administration and Democrats in Congress – and probably amplifying fights within the party. The base abides, still about 40% of voters, roughly 60 million people, fortified by decades of propaganda, loyal to Trump and Trump alone, still believing Biden stole the election, and that liberals are anathema. As long as the base remains intact, which implies an uninterrupted stream of media reinforcement, the position of the Trump-Republican party will remain the same: obstruction of everything possible. McConnell knows how to, and will do, that, even though he doesn’t have control of the Senate and apparently doesn’t believe in Trump.]

Now begins a battle to the 2022 midterm elections. Punctuated by events, especially criminal proceedings, judicial rulings, natural crises, domestic protests, and probably an international incident or two; it looks like the main contest is between the Biden administration trying to establish some true accomplishments, especially with COVID-19 and the economy, and the self-thrashing Trump-GOP opposition. The more the Democrats can achieve, the more inroads they can make on independent and marginal Trump voters. However, though Republicans are taking knives to each other, they can still turn their attention to cutting Democrats. Trump will try to make himself the center attraction; he does command the loyalty of the base and, to a certain extent, the right-wing militias. There is violence implicit in his position and he may exercise it – we’ll see how Americans respond. Violence in the service of chaos could well be the fulcrum for the 2022 elections.

Saturday, February 6

[Coronavirus] U.S. Coronavirus Totals: Cases: 27,522,843; Deaths: 477,875

[Republican Politics] Wyoming Republican Party Censures Cheney for Supporting Impeachment – Indicative of the vehemence common to state-level Republican leadership, Wyoming Republicans voted to censure Rep. Liz Cheney (R-WY), cut off party funding, and demand she repay donations to her 2020 campaign. Whatever the positions of Republicans at the federal level, most Republicans, especially in red states, are gearing up for swift retribution for those who do not support Trump. This will be an important political factor between now and 2022.

Sunday, February 7

[Coronavirus] Yellen Suggests $60,000 Income Cap for Stimulus Checks – While the Biden administration generally sticks to a $75,000 cap, Yellen’s figure is an indication that while an individual $1,400 stimulus check is nonnegotiable, Biden may be willing to change the parameters for those who will receive them.

[Coronavirus] House Democrats to Include Monthly Child Payments in Stimulus – Picking up from a suggestion by Sen. Mitt Romney (R-UT), House Democrats plan to include legislation to fight childhood poverty through expanded tax credits of $3,600 a year for children under six and $3,000 for every child aged 6 to 17. The Romney proposal was unexpected; this one is even bigger. Whether it survives Senate scrutiny or not, it highlights the coming fights over whether the legislation is a “relief bill” aimed at the pandemic or a “stimulus bill” to help the economy. The controversial legislation over a $15 per hour minimum wage is part of that.

[Coronavirus] Rep. Ron Wright (R-TX) First Congressperson to Die from COVID-19 – Wright was battling lung cancer, a very bad precondition for COVID-19.

Monday, February 8

[Stock Market] Dow, S&P, and NASDAQ Set Records – All three closed at record highs on Monday and confirmed many traders’ beliefs that a bull market is beginning based on prospects of containing the pandemic with vaccines, Biden’s $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief package, and reports of strong corporate earnings.

Tuesday, February 9

[Impeachment Trial] Opening Vote on Constitutionality of Senate Trial – In a 56-44 vote, the Senate held that an impeachment trial for Trump was constitutional and could continue. The Republicans had been arguing that because Trump is out of office, he cannot be impeached or tried. Democrats argued that he was impeached before he was out of office and that there are precedents both in the text of the Constitution and in actions by the Congress to try people after they were out of office. Six Republicans joined with Democrats in allowing the trial to continue. Despite this action, many Republicans later used the cover of “unconstitutionality” to rationalize their not guilty vote.

[Impeachment Trial] House Managers Launch Unprecedented Second Impeachment Trial – Showing that they learned something from the first impeachment trial, the House managers started with a highly graphic video of the deadly January 6 attack on the Capitol. It was stunningly effective in reminding people what happened and making the defilement of the Capitol personal. Trump’s defense began with a lackluster and ineffective presentation by Trump lawyer Bruce Castor.

[Coronavirus] WHO Says Coronavirus Probably Did Not Originate in China Lab – The finding is likely to be controversial because the Chinese are still blocking independent access to their records.

[Coronavirus] Biden Meets with Corporate Executives about Coronavirus Relief Bill – In a largely symbolic meeting with a few corporate people (Walmart, Gap, Lowe’s, J.P. Morgan Chase), Biden discussed several issues – especially the introduction for a $15 an hour minimum wage – as a signal that the Democrats plan to incorporate concerns of the business community into the relief bill.

[Biden Administration] Biden Asks Most U.S. Attorneys to Resign – In what has become routine for new administrations, 70 of the existing 72 U.S. attorneys, mostly Trump appointees, will be replaced. At the moment it appears only David Weiss, who is overseeing Hunter Biden’s tax investigation, and John Durham, who is still working on former AG Barr’s Russia 2016 election meddling case, are holdovers to preserve the appearance of fairness and independence.

Wednesday, February 10

[Impeachment Trial] House Managers’ Detailed Presentation – This segment of the trial was highlighted by the introduction of previously unseen security video footage inside the Capitol building. The key image was a sequence involving the removal of VP Pence from the Senate chambers and how near he was to having been accosted by the mob. Perhaps for the first time congresspeople as well as the American public could get a sense of just how close the insurrection was to a bloodbath.

[Coronavirus] Chicago Teachers Vote to Reopen Schools – Closing out a month of contentious negotiations involving teacher security, mainly vaccinations, union members accepted the deal to reopen schools.

[Myanmar Policy] Biden Approves Sanctions against Myanmar Military – After more than a week of demonstrations following the military coup, and warnings by the State Department, Biden ordered sanctions including the impounding of $1 billion  of Myanmar funds in the U.S. and strong export controls.

[Election 2020] Georgia DA Opens Criminal Investigation of Trump Election Tampering – Stemming from Trump’s “smoking gun” recorded phone conversation where he demanded that Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger “find” 11,780 votes to overturn the  state’s election in Trump’s favor, the investigation promised to move into additional areas, including Trump’s conversations with other Georgia officials. This is an investigation to watch because the evidence is very strong and the DA, Fani Willis, unusually competent.

[U.S. China policy] Biden Has First Telephone Conversation with China’s Xi – The primary signal of the conversation was that Biden intends to adjust, though not necessarily redo, Trump policies. The stubborn issues of human rights and economic competition continue to provide fodder for diplomatic negotiations, but there is  agreement on collaboration over pandemic prevention, climate change, and nuclear proliferation.

Thursday, February 11

[Impeachment Trial] House Managers’ Second Day – The focus of this segment of the House case was on Trump’s long-term culpability, not only for the rally and attack on the Capitol but for months of preparing his base. House managers argued that Trump’s words and actions have a much longer history than that single rally speech on 1/6, and that if he is not convicted, he will have a chance to incite violence again. They also introduced the subject of dereliction of duty, as Trump was bound by the Constitution to defend the Capitol and congresspeople within; he did not do that, in fact, by the evidence available, he deliberately did not respond for hours, nor did he call for the National Guard, or in any way attempt to halt the people of the insurrection and turn them out of the Capitol.

[Economy] New Unemployment Insurance Claims: 793,000 – The number of unemployment claims continues to decline, down 19,000 from last week, a pace most economists consider anemic. The economy added only 49,000 jobs in January, further indication that the surge in pandemic cases was affecting the economy. The unemployment statistics prompted Fed Chair Jerome Powell to say that “despite the surprising speed of recovery early on, we’re still very far from a strong labor market whose benefits are broadly shared.” He promised to continue with low interest rates.

[Coronavirus] Fauci Predicts “Open Season” for Coronavirus Vaccines – While vaccine doses are currently in short supply, Fauci is looking ahead to mid-March and April when additional stocks from Pfizer and Moderna will arrive and will probably be joined by vaccine from Johnson & Johnson. Biden has also purchased 200 million doses from Pfizer and Moderna for delivery in July. Nevertheless, sometime in the coming week the U.S. will record 500,000 deaths from COVID-19.

[Mexico] Biden Cancels U.S.-Mexico Border National Emergency – Biden cancelled Trump’s emergency declaration on the border, simultaneously blocking use of additional federal money to build the border wall. For those not attuned to right-wing media coverage, most of Biden’s executive orders have been accompanied with loud calls for his impeachment. This one will draw a particularly sharp response as it represents the end of “Build That Wall.”

Friday, February 12

[Impeachment Trial] Trump’s Defense Takes Less Than Three Hours – Trump’s lawyers closed out their defense by claiming that his rally speech was “ordinary political rhetoric” and compared it to language used by the Democrats during the BLM protests. The brevity and inadequacy of this defense reflects the understanding that Senate Republicans will not convict Trump under any circumstances or arguments. The defense was perfunctory.

[Impeachment Trial] Trump-McCarthy Call During Riot Reveals Trump State of Mind – The call had the makings of a bombshell for the trial, especially having been confirmed by a House Republican.  In the call, House Minority leader McCarthy vociferously urged Trump to “publicly and forcefully call off the riot,” to which Trump replied that antifa, not his supporters, were responsible for the riot. McCarthy said antifa had nothing to do with it. Trump replied, “Well, Kevin, I guess these people are more upset about the election than you are.”

[Coronavirus] CDC Issues Guidelines for Reopening Schools – Although  February is not usually associated with school schedules, the CDC roadmap has been eagerly awaited to help develop operating strategies for school districts nationwide. It provides guidance on masking, physical distancing, and school cleaning. It highlights vaccinations for teachers but maintains that schools can be safely opened even without 100% teacher vaccination. In short, the guidance is broad enough to mandate best practices for opening schools without mandating their opening or closing. Nevertheless, the individual recommendations are useful and will help to set national standards.              

[Coronavirus] U.S. Coronavirus Totals: Cases: 28,110,689; Deaths: 493,791

Coronavirus Notes

Most of the news concerning the coronavirus was pretty good. Worldwide, efforts to mitigate the spread of the virus seem to be working, although at considerable economic cost because of lockdowns and restrictions. Even in the U.S., where mitigation efforts have been inconsistent, the rate of infection has dropped precipitously. We are still going to hit 500,000 dead this coming week, but clearly the figures have been in a major climbdown since the holiday spike. (We’ve still to see what the Super Bowl does to the figures.) Meanwhile manufacture and distribution of vaccines continues to improve albeit with some nasty wrinkles, such as South Africa withholding use of the AstraZeneca vaccine after purchasing a million doses only to discover that it’s not very effective against the South African variant. There are similar stories for almost all of the vaccines, mainly because there’s so much we don’t know about the duration of their immunity, complications and side effects, and what level is actually required for common immunity.

Economy Notes

The economy is improving, that is, businesses and consumers are becoming serious about a fall recovery. Much depends on the vaccines, but it looks increasingly likely that summer will mark a time of mass immunization, perhaps approaching common immunity. If so, that will free people to go back into the market and buy things, and even take in a movie or go to a restaurant. It won’t be exactly normal because masks are still probably a good idea, but it will feel much better.

Constitutional, Political, Election Notes

The House managers did a more than honorable and convincing job of conducting the impeachment trial. Will it matter? It certainly didn’t matter with the Senate Republicans, although a few brave souls voted their conscience. Of course, the House managers understood from the beginning that most Senate Republicans had already made up their mind to stick with Trump. The bigger, and more important question is whether the trial solidified support from the 60% of Biden voters and made any inroads into the 40% of the Trump base. Since coverage of the trial by right-wing media was inconsistent and uniformly spun into meaningless froth, it’s unlikely to have had much impact in that quarter. Throughout the trial the elephant in the room was the Big Lie, the so-called stolen election. Democrats consistently referred to that as disproven by 60 court decisions; Republicans continued to say that they had “proof” of how the election was stolen. Neither side got into the nitty-gritty, which allowed right-wing media a clear track to continue the Big Lie propaganda. The upshot is that most Republican congresspeople and most Republican voters did not change their position – the stolen election justified Trump’s actions, end of story. The House managers understood that ultimately history will judge their argument and the Republicans failure.

Quote of the Week

[Republicans who vote to acquit] will own the threats against elected officials who refused to cheat on Trump’s behalf, the attacks on Black voters in big cities, and the savage mendacity of his all-caps tweets. Voting to acquit will mean joining in Trump’s rejection of the democratic obligation to accept the outcome of a free election and in his declarations even before the voting began that this was a “rigged” and “stolen” contest.

E.J. Dionne Jr., “The Impeachment Managers Have Sealed Off Republicans’ Escape Hatches,” The Washington Post, 02/10/2021.

 

 

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