IUY Monthly Meeting – Wed May 13, 2020

    EVENT      

Indivisibles,

Doubtful that anyone’s forgotten completely, but it’s not surprising if the upcoming Montana primary (June 2) isn’t at the tippy-top of consciousness. We have a regular monthly meeting coming up:

IUY Monthly Meeting Wednesday, May 13, 6:30 PM – online, via Zoom.
If you are interested in attending, just reply to this email and will send you the web access  before the meeting.

 
The meeting gives us a perfect opportunity to review the primaries – who’s running for what, and who the candidates are. [A reminder: check out our apodcastrunsthroughit.com for in-depth interviews of candidates.] It’s also an opportunity to, shall we say clear the fuzz of isolation, and put our heads back together despite the unprecedented vortex of crisis.. There’s obviously a lot to talk about, and while nobody expects a catharsis, it might be helpful to put some context around the incessant items of news and existential disruption. We could also talk about how Park County and Montana are doing, which is exceptionally well and the potential political implications. We’ll also be talking about – given that public and face-to-face political activity is unavailable – what kind of projects we can do over the summer as a lead up to the final lap into the November elections.

Looking forward to seeing you and hearing you.
Nelson and Dixie

PS: Zoom is easy; don’t be intimidated by any technical challenge. If you can operate a computer with sound capability and run a browser, you can use Zoom. It’s also improved security quite a bit.
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IUY Weekly Journal #41 April 25 – May 1, 2020

       Indivisible Upper Yellowstone – Weekly Journal

The Week of Saturday, April 25 through Friday, May 1, 2020 [#41]

“Coronavirus Mayday”

The Week’s Most Notable

Now opening 30 states! The week was filled with statements for and against re-opening states from the COVID-19 induced coma. Soon to be irrelevant (and now possibly infected) gun-toting protesters stormed the Michigan state house. Medical experts galore warned that we’ re not ready – not enough full-service testing capability and no policy to guide it. The White House and much of the GOP want to stop talking about the coronavirus and instead focus on the “economic recovery.” Yet the economy seems headed into an already burning dumpster. All of this looks like a formula for cacophony, confusion, and more coronavirus outbreaks. Give us the merry month of May to see what happens.

Saturday, April 25

[Coronavirus] U.S. Cases: 938,154; Deaths: 53,755; Hospitalizations: 93,270

[Coronavirus] White House Briefings Halted – Following the disastrous “inject disinfectant” briefing of last Thursday, the daily Trump show was cut short on Friday and canceled altogether Saturday. The daily Trump show is over.  However, as the week progressed Trump was unable to stay out of the limelight and the White House arranged other types of semi-coronavirus-related appearances.

[Coronavirus] WHO Warns There Is No Evidence People Cannot Be Reinfected – One of the most significant unknowns about COVID-19 is the degree of immunization, if any, from having had an infection. Some viruses produce a very high degree of immunization that can last for years. Other viruses have weak and/or short-term immunization. Although studies are underway, this critical aspect of COVID-19 is a missing piece in the ability to determine the return of epidemic levels of infection.

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IUY Weekly Journal #40 April 18 – 24, 2020

       Indivisible Upper Yellowstone – Weekly Journal

The Week of Saturday, April 18 through Friday, April 24, 2020 [#40]

The Week’s Most Notable

The grimmest tug of war: control the virus vs. reopen the economy. While it is clear there is a fateful dynamic between coronavirus mitigation (school and business closings, social distancing, testing) and the desire to reopen economies because of the increasing economic damage, by the end of the week it’s apparent that in the United States every approach will be tried – simultaneously – from complete lockdown to complete reopening of a state’s economy. As many as 12 states have already reopened or are planning to end restrictions, most of them on some kind of phased-in conditional basis. This is what scientists call a “natural experiment,” unfortunately one with life-and-death consequences. Most epidemiologists say that few states have met the criteria (14-day case decline, adequate testing regime, effective contact tracing) to safely reopen their economies. The likely result of reopening under the wrong circumstances will be local and regional spikes in cases, and a stubborn persistence of crisis-level cases and deaths.

COVID-19: One wave is not goodbye. An unfortunate corollary of the desire to get back to work and reopen economies is a belief that the pandemic wave is ebbing and will be “insignificant” (according to Trump) by mid-summer. The overwhelming consensus of epidemiologists is that the U.S., much less the world, has not reached the top of the first wave and, secondly, there will be more waves, especially this fall. This is a novel coronavirus, which means human immune systems have never seen it before, meaning the virus will continue to spread, including through the summer. AND in the fall the usual flu epidemic will add to the pressure on healthcare systems.

Saturday, April 18

[Coronavirus] Total U.S. Cases: 702,714 Deaths: 36,296

[Coronavirus] Anti-lockdown Protests – Crowds up to 300 appeared at several state capitals (Michigan, Texas, Maryland, Ohio, and Wisconsin). Considering the encouragement from Trump and right-wing media, the turnout was modest and tentative at best. Polls continue to show that about 60-80% of Americans support continued lockdown efforts. Although protests continued early in the week, plans by more than a dozen states to begin reopening seems to have deflated the proto–movement.

[Coronavirus] Contaminated CDC Tests Delayed Initial Coronavirus Testing – According to the FDA and other sources the rollout of active-virus testing, especially in California and Washington, was delayed by weeks because of contaminated production (tens of thousands of tests). This will certainly be an important consideration in the eventual investigation of the faltering U.S. response to the crisis.

[Coronavirus-Economy] Nieman Marcus to File for Bankruptcy – It is likely to be the first well-known brand to collapse in the coronavirus economic crisis. It will close 69 stores and furlough 14,000 employees.

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Weekly Journal – #39 April 11 – 17, 2020

The Week of Saturday, April 11 through Friday, April 17, 2020 [#39]

The Week’s Most Notable:

This week marked the beginning of public protest on coronavirus mitigation, expressing the views of those in denial and/or defiance of public health restrictions.  To the casual observer, most of these gatherings to spray each other with protest seem to be candidates for the Darwin Award; that is, any problem they represent will be self-removing by COVID-19 infection. That may ultimately be true, but the glib putdown doesn’t capture the potential seriousness of their protests.

According to reports, there seem to be two approximate types of protester: Those saturated with the Trump-GOP freedom-Kool-Aid and those truly shaken by the economic crisis, many of them small business owners. They believe the prevalent travel, shopping, school, and distance restrictions are devastating the economy – and unnecessary. Most governors and epidemiologists would agree about the economy, but disagree about the necessity of restrictions. Ironically, many protesters cite lower-than-expected death rates as evidence of overreaction, missing the point that the death rates are lower because of the stringent restrictions. Even Trump recognized that if we did nothing there might be a million or more deaths, which would also destroy the economy.

For now, the protests are tiny, the cause all but absurd, and they do not represent the 60% to 80% who believe in the medical science and the need for social distancing. But what happens 4 to 6 months from now when the real pain of mass unemployment and a staggering economy produce hunger, bankruptcy, anger, and despair? By then there may be millions who want to protest and Trump will still be inciting riot. Much will depend on the ability of governors (and hopefully Congress) to cobble together a meaningful testing regime, fund enough relief, and manage expertise to weave their way out of the dual crises before a social explosion occurs.

Calls for coronavirus testing grew louder this week. From doctors to corporate execs, from non-right-wing media to congresspeople the phrase was “testing, testing, testing.” Recognition is growing that the way out of the “control the spread vs open the economy” bottleneck is to use testing – viral (who’s sick) and serum (who’s had it). The tests, combined with tracking infected people, make it possible to reopen the economy without unleashing more rounds of infection. It’s an approach several countries, notably Germany, have demonstrated. Unfortunately, Trump and Republican leaders, especially governors, quietly ignore testing; they don’t want the bad news testing often brings. Testing numbers in the U.S. are actually declining per capita. In the coming weeks, watch what dominates the narrative – an aggressive nationwide testing regime, or skip the testing and open up.

Saturday, April 11

[Coronavirus] U.S. Cases: 522,800; Deaths: 20,400 – Remember these figures do not include cases or deaths that were not tested or occurred outside of hospitals, i.e., the real numbers are higher.

[Coronavirus] First Time in U.S. History All 50 States Under Federal Emergency – Declaring a state under federal emergency makes them eligible for specific FEMA and other federal funds, so largely a no-brainer. On the other hand, 10 states still have not declared shelter-in-place (lockdown) orders.

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Weekly Journal #38 April 4 – 10, 2020

The Week of Saturday, April 4 through Friday, April 10, 2020 [#38]

The Week’s Most Notable:

This was the week the U.S. attained an unfortunate world leadership: The most coronavirus cases (500,000+), and most coronavirus deaths (20,000+). The numbers will continue to go up and the U.S. position is not likely to change. Despite being the world’s richest nation, the U.S. has the world’s worst record among developed countries in trying to control the effects of the pandemic. While some examination of that fact has begun, one day there will be a serious reckoning.

This was also the week when voices across the right-wing media clamored loudly for a “rapid reopening of the country,” meaning that restrictions associated with coronavirus mitigation, especially the closing of businesses and various stay-at-home orders, should be relaxed or dropped altogether by May 1. Most did not include the important qualifier “as soon as possible” and spoke as if the crisis will pass in April. Trump echoed the Fox News chorus through midweek, before walking it back by adding “as soon as possible” by the end of the week. Meanwhile the voices of the medical profession said firmly that until we have (1) testing to demonstrate real control of the virus (2) a minimum 14-day period of no new infections, and (3) contact tracing, any “reopening” of the economy risks more waves of infection.

Saturday, April 4

[Coronavirus] U.S. Cases: 306,000 Deaths: 8,100

[Coronavirus] CDC Begins Antibody Testing – Antibody or serum tests determine who has had the coronavirus illness, which provides guidance as to when, where, and who is eligible to rejoin public life. It’s important to note that the CDC is just beginning its testing. Months are needed for testing and production, especially since systematic testing will require tens of millions of tests plus the equipment and personnel to conduct them. The Trump administration recently declared that the U.S. has enough tests and tried to scale back funding, although this stance has also been somewhat reversed.

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IUY Weekly Journal – #37 March 28 – April 3, 2020

The Week of Saturday, March 28 through Friday, April 3, 2020 [#37]

The Week’s Most Notable:

Another week deeper into the coronavirus crisis, and a new issue emerged: Does the U.S. have a real coronavirus plan? Almost everywhere the answer is no. In fact, as evidence of the gaps in effective planning, throughout the week diverse people such as Governor Cuomo, Rachel Maddow, and Doctor Fauci have offered their versions of what a plan should contain. Some call for a national quartermaster to run the business of requisitioning, collecting, and redistributing medical materials. Others call for the Army to get involved with medical logistics. Many believe there should be a nationally coordinated effort to use testing (both kinds, see page 3). There is a thought for a 9/11-style commission to monitor both the coronavirus crisis and the economic crisis. The suggestions are legion.

No suggestion has penetrated the administration. Trump does not want to dilute his show (he brags about his daily presser ratings) with another spokesperson or power center. He apparently does not want to take responsibility for a national plan, leaving that for governors and the Democrats. He will get no real-world guidance from his cabinet courtiers (Pence, Azar, DeVos, Carson, Barr, Pompeo, et al.), almost all ultra-conservative nationalist Christians, who have neither any conception of how nor any inclination to systematically marshal the powers of science and government (a la the New Deal) for the good of workaday citizens. They prefer solutions oriented to their peers in big corporations.

Given the historic double whammy of a medical crisis and economic crisis, the lack of an aggressive systematic national plan predictably means at a minimum an inefficient response, translating into unnecessary misery, illness, and death – this is not, unfortunately, hyperbole.

Saturday, March 28

[Coronavirus] U.S. Tops 100,000 Coronavirus Cases, 1,700 Deaths

[Coronavirus] Italy Death Toll Passes 10,000 – With 800 or 900 dying every day, it would seem Italy remains in the worst-case scenario, but there are signs, such as the leveling-out of new cases, that three weeks of national lockdown are having a positive effect.

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IUY Weekly Journal – #36 March 21 – 27, 2020

The Week of Saturday, March 21 through Friday, March 27, 2020 [#36]

The Week’s Most Notable:

Looking back, this was one of the most important weeks in American history. That’s a big statement. Nevertheless, this was the week when the coronavirus situation began to feel really serious. The facts and figures had a monumentally bad look. We haven’t seen anything like this since the Second World War. The coronavirus crisis is nowhere near its peak. We know already that the huge number of cases have overwhelmed our health-care system, but will there be hundreds of thousands or millions of cases? Likewise, will there be tens of thousands or millions of deaths? We know that the economy has taken an enormous hit: Millions are unemployed, much of the economy is shut down, and we have no idea when it can be safely revived – hence the unthinkable sum of money, $2.2 trillion Democrats AND Republicans are throwing at coronavirus relief. As German Chancellor Angela Merkel said in a remarkable speech to her nation, “So let me say that this is serious. Take it seriously.”

We have a “Partisan Pandemic,” the first in U.S. history. In most times of great national threat and tragedy, the country pulls together – we seek unity. Not this time. In the beginning, January and early February, Trump denied the existence of a coronavirus threat and attacked media and Democrats as purveyors of a colossal hoax. His 40% of the population, the Trump/GOP base, followed that line. By mid-February, when it became impossible to sustain the hoax claim, Trump shifted for about two weeks into supporting what doctors and epidemiologists recommended, such as quarantine, self-isolation, and social distancing. This spooked Trump’s base and simultaneously shut him off from the oxygen of his political rallies. This week, rather than denying the crisis entirely, Trump shifted to blaming Democrats, especially Democratic governors, and media for exaggerating the crisis. This attack became part of his “get back to work quick” policy. Right-wing media took his lead in every possible direction – from a return to coronavirus denialism, to attacking Democrats and experts such as Doctor Fauci – casting blame for a fake emergency created by liberals. And thus, the country was divided, badly led, and apparently cannot muster an effective national response to one of the worst crises in its history.

Saturday, March 21

[Coronavirus] Globally, Pandemic Hits 300,000 Cases, 13,000 Deaths – Every day the world watches the morbid statistics, wondering how bad it will get. Italy is still the hardest hit and is now under a nationwide lockdown. During the week many nations followed its example.

[Coronavirus] Senate Adjourns for the Day without a Coronavirus Bill – As predicted, Democrats went after the Republicans’ first draft of the bill as being far too generous to corporations, and not nearly good enough to support the workers cast adrift by the economic crisis. At this point, it is expected the bill will exceed $1 trillion.

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IUY Weekly Journal – #35 March 14 – 20, 2020

The Week of Saturday, March 14 through Friday, March 20, 2020 [#35]

The Week’s Most Notable:

Here are some salient points that developed this week in the coronavirus crisis:

– Congress and the administration knew from intelligence reports in January that the coronavirus would become a major worldwide problem. Because of political considerations, Trump and the GOP chose not only to do no preparation, but also to mislead the public. Chief among the many points of misinformation, the lack of sufficient ability for coronavirus testing was not addressed for two months.

– The United States missed the opportunity to use information generated by coronavirus testing to do what South Korea, Taiwan, and Singapore did – identify the infected population, isolate it, and treat it without totally disrupting the economy.

– Not only are coronavirus tests lacking but also mundane medical supplies such as masks, personal protection equipment (PPE), and ventilators are in short supply. All of this put added pressure on hospitals and medical personnel, at some point exceeding their ability to treat patients. The dark shadow of Italy, approaching 1,000 deaths a day, may be in the near future for the U.S.

– Although the administration announced we were in a “war” against the coronavirus, there was no evidence of the kind of massive, systematic mobilization needed to conduct such a war. It became clear throughout the week that the Trump government could not or would not take the lead in coordinating an effort, but instead insinuated that it was a job for state and local governments. This guarantees an inconsistent patchwork response, resulting in unnecessary illness and death.

– During the week it also became clear that the economic damage done by coronavirus mitigation (such as restriction of movement, large-scale quarantine, voluntary isolation, and even social distancing) would be worse than anyone imagined. Other than the death count, the pain caused by a major recession and massive unemployment could prove greater than that of the illness itself. This highlighted a terrible trade-off: without testing and analysis as a guide, the effort to save lives damages the economy.

– Governments worldwide struggle to comprehend the magnitude of the coronavirus disaster and the necessary response. While epidemic specialists repeatedly said over-responding was necessary, leaders and legislators continue to think in terms of traditional budgets and “proportional” responses. Characterize this as too little, too late.

– While nobody knows the exact future of the coronavirus crisis, it’s likely to continue for 6 to 18 months. During that time, it will alter many patterns of life as we know them, perhaps permanently. As one headline put it, “The new coronavirus economy: A gigantic experiment reshaping how we work and live.”

Saturday, March 14

[Coronavirus] House Passes Coronavirus Relief Bill – While the legislation boosts unemployment insurance, paid sick leave, and Medicaid support, its coverage is very limited especially in the context of the ever-widening coronavirus crisis. The bill is expected to pass the Senate and be signed by President Trump, soon to be followed by far more expansive (and expensive) bills.

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April Monthly Meeting Cancelled

Indivisibles,

As most of you probably already know, meetings large or small are or will be canceled because of the coronavirus. Indivisible meetings are no exception. For one thing, the public library is closed. When meetings like ours can resume is anybody’s guess. Perhaps when the weather is warmer we could try an outdoor meeting or even a demonstration with six feet between protesters. Meanwhile, we do have a website: indivisible-upper-yellowstone.org, the email channel (this one) that includes the Weekly Journal, and unofficially the podcast apodcastrunsthroughit.com. We’ll stay in touch. The utmost priority is health, and avoiding infection by the disease. For many people this is followed closely by staying financially afloat. The next 2 to 4 months are certain to be tense. It’s almost needless to say this promises to be one of the most, what’s the word – bizarre, frightening, critical – political seasons and general election in our or anybody’s memory. Nobody knows for sure what months on (and sometimes off) quarantine will do to people – that is, us. Much will depend on how severe the outbreak becomes, the progress or lack of progress in dealing with it, and the prospect of treatment or vaccine. As we get closer to the Montana primary, probably in May sometime, we hope to up our game in terms of registration for voters (probably with a heavy emphasis on absentee ballot) and on forms of contacting voters without face-to-face. Whatever, a lot can happen in two months.

Meanwhile, stay safe, stay in touch, and stay informed.

Best wishes and cheers,
Nelson and Dixie

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IUY Weekly Journal #34 March 7 – 13, 2020

The Week of Saturday March 7 through Friday March 13, 2020 [#34]

The Week’s Most Notable:

Coronavirus. Is there anything else? At this stage, it’s useful to note that countries have strategies to deal with the crisis. One strategy is to do extensive testing to determine the who and where of the infection and then target countermeasures (South Korea). Another strategy is total involuntary lockdown coupled with triage treatment (China, Iran, Italy). Where extensive testing and lockdown are not viable, some countries have chosen to do very little except to push people back to work to minimize the economic impact, while leaving the 10-20% of the more vulnerable and severely affected to chance (U.S., U. K.). Many countries have neither a plan nor a strategy, which should ensure a steady supply of the newly infected for some time into the future.

Coronavirus economic impact predictions range from an unpleasant 2-month blip, to a 6-month recession, to a catastrophic 12-month beginning of a depression. Notice that the operative factor is how long the coronavirus crisis lasts. Most economists agree that a recession of some significance is likely. Too many supply chains have been broken, people put out of work, and consumer life disrupted for economies to recover quickly.  “Only” a recession presumes the world can get a handle on the coronavirus cycle or the cycle peters-out of its own accord; neither of which is a sure thing in the short run. Apropos, we still don’t know if the coronavirus will lie low during summer months.

The carnival of coronavirus confusion continues at the federal level. Books, documentaries, movies, and compendiums will no doubt memorialize the past weeks of contradictory statements, misinformation, and cringeworthy action-crippling happy talk. References to “like a Chinese fire drill” are not only ethnically maladroit, but don’t actually cover the serious failures and omissions of the Trump administration and its “perfectly coordinated and fine-tuned plan.” Most of the coronavirus response is now devolving with inadequate national coordination to the states and municipalities. It may mean you survive or die depending on where you live.

Saturday, March 7

[Saudi Arabia] Mohammed bin Salman (MBS) Consolidates Power – Using the pretext of a coup plot against King Salman, MBS appears to be removing rivals and troublesome relatives.

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