Indivisible Upper Yellowstone – Weekly Journal
The Week of Saturday, February 13 through Friday, February 19, 2021 [Vol.2 No.31]
The Week’s Most Notable
Last week’s dominant news is remindful of the Robert Frost poem, “Fire and Ice” – Some say the world will end in fire, some say in ice. From what I’ve tasted of desire I hold with those who favor fire. But if I had to perish twice, I think I know enough of hate to say that for destruction ice is also great and would suffice. From the very outset, the first terrifying statewide power outages, Republican leaders in Texas sought to blame windmills, Democrats, and AOC (not necessarily in that order) because these are targets on the first page of the Trump-GOP playbook. They stuck with this approach throughout the crisis, concluding by the end of the week that the Texas deep-freeze was Biden’s Katrina. Classic deflection, of course, because the cause of the disaster was decades of mismanagement, deregulation, and blithe disregard of public welfare. In short, the Texas energy infrastructure could not handle subzero temperatures – something that happens in Texas every decade or less. Plenty of blame to go around, but since Republicans have been in charge of Texas for decades. . ..
Trump’s congressional Republicans have quite literally gone all-in on lying. There’s nothing novel about politicians or even an entire political party committing to a lie; however, seldom and perhaps never has the commitment to a lie been so consequential or so completely integrated with media propaganda. The lie, the Big Lie, is of course, that Biden stole the election by electoral fraud. Whether explicit or not, this was the underpinning for the continual claims that the Senate impeachment trial, or in fact any of the impeachment process, was illegitimate and by extension (again usually not explicit) that the attack on the Capitol was justified. The Big Lie remains the cornerstone of Trump’s and the Republicans’ revenge campaign. So far, it appears 60 to 70 million American voters continue to believe the Big Lie.
Saturday, February 13
[Coronavirus] U.S. Coronavirus Totals: Cases: 28,215,632; Deaths: 496,135
[Senate – Trial] Senate Acquits Trump – As predicted, the Senate voted not to convict Trump. The vote was 57-43, a slightly surprising majority, which included seven Republicans, but not nearly enough for the required 66 vote supermajority. Most of the Republicans sheltered their vote by claiming that the impeachment process was unconstitutional, that the Senate could not convict somebody already out of office. This could be one of the weakest rationales ever used for such a momentous decision: The Senate had already voted to continue with the trial even though Trump was out of office, in effect what should have been a binding ruling. Behind that, stands the Constitution, which provides for an impeachment trial in two circumstances – to remove a president from office and/or prevent that president from holding another federal office. In short, it appears the Republicans acquitted Trump on false technicalities, not that it matters, because the real reason was that they would never convict a president of their own party. Trump immediately issued his proclamation of vindication and will likely open a new campaign with that as a centerpiece.
[Senate – Trial] McConnell Votes to Acquit Trump, Then Issues a Stunning Attack – “There is no question – none – that president Trump is practically and morally responsible for provoking the events of the day. No question about it.” Like several other Republican senators, McConnell seemed to be calling for legal action against Trump. This was McConnell, uncharacteristically one-faced, throwing down the gauntlet against Trump and all those Republicans who continue to stand behind the Big Lie. His statement was so blunt and so accurate, that many wondered what he knows that most Republicans seem not to acknowledge? It almost has to be his reading of Republican donors, nothing else counts so much – not voters, not other Republican officeholders – only the sources of the money that keep the party going. [Update: Trump fired back, calling McConnell a “dour, sullen, and unsmiling political act.” Is this sandbox fight really what it looks like?]
Sunday, February 14
[Coronavirus] New Coronavirus Cases Continue to Drop – For the first time in months, the daily number of new infections fell below 100,000. Some communities chose to rejoice by immediately relaxing mitigation efforts. This week the U.S. will exceed 500,000 deaths from COVID-19 and the new variants are gaining strength; the pandemic is not over – with or without an overwhelming number of vaccinations.
[Gun Laws] Opening Salvo: Biden Calls for Reformation of Gun Laws – In a statement marking the third anniversary of the Parkland, Florida school shooting, Biden urged Congress to pass “common sense gun law reforms,” including background checks on all gun sales, banning assault weapons and high-capacity magazines, and eliminating immunity for gun manufacturers. Given the knee-jerk reactions to any modest reforms, Biden wasn’t putting detail or schedule to his words, but he was marking the territory where eventually his administration will go. (It is also part of the Biden strategy to overwhelm the splintering GOP with Democratic policy initiatives.)
Monday, February 15
[Texas – Weather] Vast Pool of Arctic Air Cripples Texas Power Grid – Temperatures below 0° F surged almost to the Mexican border and spread over 25 states encompassing about 150 million people. In Texas, roughly 3.8 million people lost electricity and transportation ground to a halt in the snow and ice. Storm conditions began Sunday night and continued to wreak havoc throughout Monday.
[Coronavirus] Cuomo Concedes Problems with Nursing Home Deaths – After disclosure that the state had withheld data concerning deaths in the state’s nursing homes, Gov. Cuomo has been under increasing criticism for a lack of transparency (nursing home residents who died in hospital were counted as hospital deaths). [Update: Throughout the week the news from Cuomo worsened and is threatening his future both nationally and in New York.]
Tuesday, February 16
[Texas – Weather] Arctic Storm: 5 Million without Power, 21 Dead, Vaccinations Delayed – Texas continues to be the worst affected area with about 4 million without power and a crisis developing in heating, plumbing-water, and food availability. The lack of a state response is beginning to rock Texas politics. Texas Republicans, apparently sensing their vulnerability, opened their playbook and immediately started attacking Democrats. For example, they blamed the Green New Deal and AOC for the collapse of the Texas power grid, which is interesting since the Green New Deal doesn’t yet exist; it’s just a framework for policy discussion.
[Trump Lawsuits] NAACP Sues Trump, Giuliani, Proud Boys, Oath Keepers for Capitol Riot – In the first of what promises to be many civil suits, the NAACP, working with Rep. Bennie Thompson (D-MS), filed a lawsuit claiming the defendants violated the Ku Klux Klan Act by summoning insurrectionists to the Capitol.
[Biden – Executive Order] Biden Extends Mortgage Foreclosure Moratorium – Although stopgap, the three-month extension on mortgage payments because of the COVID-19 pandemic is hoped to cover the time between now and the availability of further extensions and/or support money from the pandemic relief act.
[Coronavirus] White House Addresses Vaccine Shortages – While the U.S. is putting its vaccine distribution system into place, there is still an acute shortage of vaccines. To that end the White House announced it is doubling the number of vaccines being sent to pharmacies and will increase allocations to states from 8.6 to 13.5 million doses a week. This is a pressure filled situation: for pharmaceutical companies, a manufacturing challenge; a race against the spread of COVID-19 variants; and a “must see results” situation for the Biden administration.
Wednesday, February 17
[Rush Limbaugh] Rush Limbaugh Dies at 70 – His talk radio shows reached more than 12 million listeners, and he must be considered one of the founders of the right-wing propaganda movement, his influence being very comparable to that of Fox News. How much will his absence affect the right-wing media ecosystem?
[Coronavirus] Feds Seize 10 Million Fake N95 Masks – The bigger the emergency, the more money being spent, the more corruption and fraud. It’s a simple formula; in this case it’s the manufacture of more than 10 million counterfeit 3M brand N95 masks, all worthless for pandemic protection. Odds are there is more of this.
[Texas – Weather] Texas Troubles Turn from Electricity to Water – While 3.4 million customers are still without electricity around the U.S., mainly in Texas, a new problem has started there: unsafe water. A variety of water distribution and purification problems developed during the power outages and were exacerbated by literally tens of thousands of breakages in pipelines and plumbing. Affecting hospitals as well as homes, widespread water shortage is compounding problems even as a second storm is passing through the state.
Thursday, February 18
[Economy] New Unemployment Insurance Claims: 861,610 – Not a good sign, new people filing for unemployment last week rose by 13,000, bringing the total number of people in all unemployment programs to 18.34 million. The economy is struggling to meet COVID-19 restrictions, employment, and consumer demand. Again, this week, the status of the economy was “functioning” but hardly robust.
[NASA] Perseverance Rover Lands on Mars – A well-timed and appreciated U.S. success story puts the $2.7 billion robotic explorer on the surface of Mars to look for evidence of life in an area that was once a body of water.
[Texas – Weather] Biden Declares Federal Emergencies, Sends Aid – Working through FEMA, the Biden administration has used federal powers and cash to get help for states struggling with the extreme weather and its fallout. This crisis strongly indicates that much of the U.S. capacity to handle emergencies is in bad shape.
[Biden – Initiatives] U.S. Officially Rejoins Paris Climate Accords, Announces $4 Billion for Global Vaccine Distribution, Unveils a Plan for Immigration Overhaul, and Announces Willingness to Negotiate with Iran on Nuclear Deal – Each of these initiatives is guaranteed to foster the screaming-meemies from the right-wing, but the GOP is in a poor position to do much more than decry the “Biden agenda.”
Friday, February 19
[Coronavirus] House Democrats Formally Unveil $1.9 Trillion Coronavirus Relief Bill – Called the American Rescue Plan of 2021, the bill will move forward in the House and Senate under the budget reconciliation process. It contains $1,400 stimulus checks for adults making less than $75,000 per year, a $400/week unemployment boost through August 29, $219 billion for states and local governments, and another $10 billion for small businesses. It also contains the gradual rise of the minimum wage to $15 an hour, although even Biden thinks this may be a casualty in the Senate. Democrats hope to have the bill passed by both houses around the middle of March.
[Texas – Weather] Power Restored to Millions in Texas, Water Crisis Remains – The weather is improving in Texas, and Biden will visit to promote emergency services, but millions still are under a boil-the-water edict, and the forces are assembling for a factual and political accountability Donnybrook. It’s apparent there was a lot of suffering associated with this breakdown in utility services, but political repercussions are difficult to estimate. Texas politicians are noted for their ability to deflect and obfuscate.
[Coronavirus] U.S. Coronavirus Totals: Cases: 28,636,856; Deaths: 507,968
Experience is beginning to teach us about the vaccines. This week Pfizer confirmed through extensive Israeli real-world data collection that its vaccine has a 92.6% effectiveness. Pfizer also confirmed that it does not actually require an ultracold freezer, a normal freezer will do. Another study indicates that people who have had COVID-19 can benefit from getting a single vaccine dose.
Constitutional, Political, Election Notes
Trump redux. A relatively quiet week for Trump, Marjorie Taylor Greene, and other ultra-right-wing mouthpieces may signal divisions within the Republican Party, a decreasing enthusiasm for right-wing media, a week where natural disaster took precedence, or just a temporary dip in the propaganda output.
Pelosi seems to have broad support for a 9/11-style commission to look into the circumstances and details of the January 6 invasion of the Capitol. There is general agreement that the event and its contributing conditions are complicated and the story does need to be told. However, convening a commission that can be seen as fair but at the same time effective is a daunting task and may require months.
Ted Cruz falls on his sword but misses vital organs. The story of Ted’s vacation adventure in Cancún during the Texas freeze catastrophe warms the cockles of a Democrat’s heart, provided entertainment for a couple of days, and might reappear in the 2024 election, but don’t bet on it.
QAnon believes Trump will return to office on March 4. Just thought you ought to know. The National Guard is keeping 5,000 troops in Washington, just because.
Quote of the Week
You can tell how worried Republicans are that they are now the Trump Party by the contortions of Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, who aided Trump almost to the end. Rarely has a politician been more blatant in attempting the impossible feat of running with the foxes while hunting with the hounds.
E.J. Dionne Jr. “The Beginning of the End of Trumpism,” The Washington Post, 02/14/2021.
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