Indivisible Upper Yellowstone – Weekly Journal
The Week of Saturday, May 1 through Friday, May 7, 2021 [Vol.2 No.42]
Loyalty to Lies
The Week’s Most Notable
Start with the Republican Big Lie litmus test: If a politician doesn’t pronounce a profound belief that the election was stolen and Trump was done wrong – implying above all, loyalty to Trump – then by definition they are not Republicans and should be purged from the party. Ask Liz Cheney what she thinks about that. The Republicans are now pitching, with no holds barred, that all American elections can be rigged, therefore they must be shrouded with protections that deliberately limit the number of people who can vote who, by the way, turn out to be mainly people of color. Right now, 47 states have some anti-voting legislation in process and Georgia, Florida, and Texas have enacted systematic voter suppression laws. The underlying assumption seems to be that no election is legitimate unless Republicans win it.
In a week without any epic contours there were a few wrinkles: For example, the Arizona Senate Republicans’ “recount” of the Maricopa County presidential vote, which they farmed out to a company run by a QAnon supporter in Florida, was reportedly searching for ballots containing bamboo, supposedly because tens of thousands of fake ballots were shipped over from “somewhere in the Orient” to favor Biden. Tidbits from their procedures continue to leak out and always manage to rope a few Democrats, most of the media, and probably some of the public into discussion. The whole recount procedure is predicated on the Big Lie that Biden stole the election. Unfortunately, the glaring antidemocratic razzmatazz pleases the Republican base. Some of them believe that limiting democracy is a good thing; others are happy with trolling the liberals for fun and profit. In the end, when the clowns have finished with their performance, they get back in the car, drive on to the next state, and leave people with only one impression – the circus (elections) was in town. That’s the point; the goal is not to represent a point of view, or policy, or even an ideology, but to sow doubt about democracy. It’s called gaslighting. This is not, as people are beginning to recognize, the modus operandi of what we used to call American politics; it is the approach taken by a number of newly authoritarian countries – Brazil, Hungary, Poland, the Philippines to name a few – whose leaders are following decades of Russian right-wing doctrine for political manipulation. For them craziness and chaos are good things. This is what best characterizes the core of current Republican behavior, most especially from acolytes associated with Trump.
Saturday, May 1
[Coronavirus] U.S. Coronavirus Totals: Cases: 33,155,014; Deaths: 590,819
[GOP] Romney Booed but Not Censured – It’s read as a sign: Mitt Romney (R-UT) was booed in a convention of his own people because he voted for Trump’s impeachment and continues to say Trump’s “win” is the Big Lie. On the other hand, the convention voted down censuring Romney.
Sunday, May 2
[U.S. Economy] Yellen Maintains Biden Legislative Spending Will Not Cause Inflation – Her point is primarily based on the fact that spending for the last two programs, the Infrastructure Act and the Family Act, is spread out over 10 years. She added, “I don’t believe that inflation will be an issue, but it if it becomes an issue, we have the tools to address it.” (Meaning tools possessed by her Treasury Department and the Fed.) Her position is the one held by most economists, except those aligned with Republican politicians.
[U.S. Optimism] Poll: Americans More Optimistic about the Future Than Since 2006 – This is what good news about the coronavirus, a stimulus program that puts money in people’s pockets, and for the first time in many decades Democrats talking big and doing big. In the ABC News/Ipsos poll, 64% of Americans like the way things are heading in the country, compared to 2006, when it was 61%. Note that 64% is more than the Democrats’ approval of Biden.
Monday, May 3
[Coronavirus] Experts Say U.S. Herd Immunity May Not Be Possible – As reported by The New York Times, many experts point to the confluence of increased infection by variants of the COVID-19 virus and vaccine denialism/hesitancy that may keep the U.S. from achieving the (newly calculated) 80% level of immunization necessary for herd immunity. Many believe that COVID-19 will become one of the components of the annual “flu-shot” vaccination.
[Immigration] Biden Raises U.S. Refugee Limit to 62,500 – His original limit, 15,000, raised a storm among immigration proponents and fellow Democrats. Biden promised that he would revise the number. It also signals that the original number was intended to give the government a lever against the flood of new asylum-seekers, but the fact that it was a leftover from Trump era policies made it unpalatable for Democrats. In short, the Biden administration made a mistake and immediately corrected it.
[Climate Change] EPA Announces New Regulation to Limit Hydrofluorocarbons – The powerful greenhouse gas called HFC is still commonly used in air conditioners, refrigerators, and building insulation. New regulations, which are significant because it’s been a long time since the EPA issued a new regulation, aim to cut HFC use by 85% over 15 years.
[The Big Lie] Cheney Attacks Trump’s “Big Lie” – Congresswoman Liz Cheney (R-WY) unloaded on Trump for calling the 2020 election fraudulent, when he said “The Fraudulent Presidential Election of 2020 will be, from this day forth, known as THE BIG LIE!”. In a public statement, she wrote “The election was not stolen, and anyone who claims it was is spreading THE BIG LIE, turning their back on the rule of law, and poisoning our democratic system.”
[Congress GOP] McConnell Makes Clear: No Republican Support for Biden Legislation, Period – McConnell added that he would be spending “100% of his time defeating Biden’s agenda.” It took McConnell about 24 hours to rue the finality of his positioning, but the feline had already fled the sack. Joe Manchin (D-WV) was immediately asked if he still thought Republicans were open to bipartisan legislation. He waffled, but McConnell’s statements remain fact. It may eventually cost him all or part of the filibuster.
Tuesday, May 4
[Coronavirus] Biden Announces New Vaccination Goal: 70% of Adults by July 4 – Updating the target for the vaccination campaign signaled that closure to the program is “in progress,” according to the White House. At the same time, the number of vaccinations per day is declining and experts are saying that the U.S. might not reach herd immunity.
[GOP Politics] McCarthy Signals No Confidence in Liz Cheney – Translation: Cheney leadership is toast. She will lose her third-ranking Republican position in the House next week. Reason: She no longer represents the majority of Republicans (she doesn’t support Trump and the Big Lie). [Update: Cheney will be replaced by Elisa Stefanik (R-NY), who does support Trump and the Big Lie.]
Wednesday, May 5
[Facebook] Facebook Oversight Board Upholds Trump Ban but Demands Review – This was pretty big news out of the box and the right-wing media immediately exploded, even though the board insisted that Facebook review its policies within six months. The loss of both Facebook and Twitter for direct Trump propaganda remains politically significant. More significantly, the Facebook Oversight Board represents an attempt to find an institutional response for the virulent and destructive lies and misrepresentations that are now all too common on social media. The oversight board has already been called the “Supreme Court for Truth in Media,” which is of course untrue. However, that might signal a desire on the part of many people to have something official, institutional, and endowed with teeth to combat the escalating use of lies in routine political discourse. The big problem, among many problems, is that Facebook and Twitter are private companies, which puts them in an awkward position vis-à-vis the First Amendment.
[U.S. Population] U.S. Births Dropped 4% in 2020 – Given the pandemic, the drop is not necessarily surprising but its magnitude is more than expected; 4% is a huge number, 144,000 last year – “a large, lasting baby bust.” What it means, and what is equally true for Europe where birthrates are also dropping, is that in developed countries labor forces will have to be augmented by immigrants. Put that in the political pipe and smoke it.
[Coronavirus] Biden Favors Waiving COVID-19 Vaccine Patent Protection – It’s the opening round of the fight to defeat the pandemic not just in rich countries, but in the developing world. By waiving patent protection, at least for a time, it becomes possible for countries without large medical resources to produce their own vaccines and manage their distribution. While freely sharing vaccines is not a new idea, the presumed longevity and complexity of dealing with COVID-19 have manufacturers (and free marketers) fretting about lost profits.
[Israel Elections] Netanyahu Fails to Form Government, Yair Lapid Gets His Chance – Any response to the present governmental lacuna is now at least a month away. Or, as Lapid put it, “After two years of political paralysis, Israeli society is hurting. A unity government isn’t a compromise or a last resort – it’s a goal; it’s what we need.”
[Eviction Moratorium] Federal Judge Vacates COVID-19 Eviction Moratorium – The Trump/Biden extended moratorium was struck down by a Trump appointed judge. This would be a cause for panic among several million people, and may still be so, but before that happens this ruling will be kicked to a higher court and probably won’t be adjudicated before the scheduled end of the program in August. Congress can also step in, if it’s not paralyzed. [Update: the next day the judge put a temporary hold on her ruling, pending appeal.]
Thursday, May 6
[Voter Suppression] Florida Completes Voter Suppression Package, Texas Not Far behind – Florida Gov. DeSantis broadcast the signing on Fox News, exclusively – an obvious thumb in the eye of national and local media. Equally obvious, DeSantis thinks this is plausible behavior, at least for the MAGA supporters.
[Obamacare] Almost a Million People Enroll in ACA during Special Window – Health insurance concerns don’t go away. After Biden opened a special enrollment, and Congress approved billions for health insurance subsidies, people have been flocking to the program – 1 million down and about 3 million eligible to go, until the end of 2022.
[Coronavirus] Pfizer and Moderna Nearing Approval for COVID-19 Vaccines for Adolescents and Children – Both manufacturers are in the final stages of testing and/or waiting for approval from the FDA. Youth vaccinations are expected to begin in early summer, and in some cases may be in time for children going back to school.
Friday, May 7
[Economy] Economic Shock: U.S. Added 266,000 Jobs, Not the Million Expected – The unemployment rate increased slightly to 6.1%. Everyone expected robust growth, but the economy didn’t get the message. For a few days there will be a mad scramble to explain, ranging from “we told you you’re paying them too much with unemployment insurance,” to “women are not going back into the workforce until their children are in school;” in short, a politicized mix. Wait a week or two and things are apt to look different.
[George Floyd Case] DOJ Files Civil Suit against Chauvin, Other Three ex-Officers – In a grand jury indictment, the defendants were charged with depriving Floyd of his constitutional rights. Chauvin was also indicted for a similar 2017 incident. [Update: Chauvin defense files for mistrial. This is standard practice, the prelude to an appeal.]
[Stormy Daniels Case] FEC Declines Campaign Violation Charges over Stormy Daniels Payments – Actually, the commission was tied, two Republicans saying it was time to move on and two Democrats saying Trump’s involvement was obvious and should be investigated. In short, they made a moot point; the DOJ or one of the New York jurisdictions is now expected to pick up the case.
[Coronavirus] India Reports Another One-Day Record: 414,188 New Coronavirus Cases – The numbers are mind-boggling, three days in a row above 400,000 new cases a day. The death rate is now about 4,000 a day. Keep in mind, these are official numbers, the real numbers are much higher. It’s generally agreed the country’s hospitals and ramshackle healthcare system are collapsing.
[Coronavirus] U.S. Coronavirus Totals: Cases: 33,418,826; Deaths: 594,911
Constitutional, Political, Election Notes
The Big Lie has become the cornerstone of Republican political action. From it follow positions such as that the January 6 insurrection was no big deal, that voter suppression is really about protecting the ballot, or that Trump is still president. In short, a lot of midsize lies are being spawned by the Big Lie. Republican politicians cling to this because so many of their base, in recent polls 70%, believe the Big Lie. They continue to believe the Big Lie because that’s all they hear from right-wing media, most essentially the propaganda generated by Fox News. The Democrats and a good chunk of the media are beginning to hone in on the effect of the right-wing propaganda pustule. But what can they do about it? Attacking it directly tends to hurt more than help by providing attention and the opportunity to use standard propaganda techniques, such as mirroring whatever the opposition says about them. (D: “You’re a liar.” R: “No, you lie more than I do.” D: “You lie all the time.” R: “Democrats’ approaches are all based on lies.”) This gets nowhere. Real-time debate is impossible; it quickly becomes a shouting match. Both sides claim they own the truth. How can people judge what is the truth? Republicans continually reiterate that they have “evidence of how the election was stolen” to which the Democrats answer, “sixty court cases threw out the so-called evidence.” But the public did not see either the evidence or the rejection of it; so, Republicans continue to say that they have proof. The official Fox News positions on the election results and the riot of January 6 are simply “differences of opinion.” How can this be effectively challenged? Does the Facebook Oversight Board hold a clue?
Pinned Point: Until the filibuster rules are modified, most of the Biden agenda will not pass the Senate.
Quotes of the Week
[Cheney is] a warmongering fool who has no business in Republican Party Leadership . . . [she has] virtually no support left in the Great State of Wyoming.
Trump, quoted in “Trump’s out-of-power agenda: Retribution against foes, commanding the spotlight and total domination of GOP,” The Washington Post, 05/07/2021.
Whether it’s the Cheneys, the Bushes or the lesser bloodlines — such as the Romneys or the Murkowskis — Trump has been relentless in his efforts to force them to bend the knee.
David Siders, “How Trump is Hunting Down the GOP’s Leading Families,” Politico, 05/07/2021.
[The IUY Weekly Journal assumes readers are at least casually familiar with names and events. For more details, check with internet search.]