IUY Weekly Journal Vol.2 No.22 December 12-18, 2020

Indivisible Upper Yellowstone – Weekly Journal

The Week of Saturday, December 12 through Friday, December 18, 2020 [Vol.2 No.22]

Coronavirus Vaccines

The Week’s Most Notable

This week COVID-19 vaccines began to be real in the United States and with that came hope. First out of the gate, Pfizer’s finicky vaccine didn’t take long to garner initial PR attention and a day or two later the first less than good news with distribution problems. The development of an effective vaccine, and in fact two of them so far – Moderna’s vaccine received emergency FDA approval on Friday – represents a major achievement by medical science and deserves celebration. The good news has been tempered by an obvious lack of coordination at the national level for allocation and distribution of vaccines. States will handle their own administration of shots, but most of them are struggling to put together the infrastructure – particularly the tracking capability for two-dose vaccines – needed to handle vaccinations of tens of millions. Most states are also having difficulty financing the project, although there is still hope that Congress will help by passing the second coronavirus relief bill before the end of the year. At the moment, immunology experts are recommending that first responders and vulnerable elderly receive vaccinations through January and February. Critical workers will probably be next from March through May, as vaccine supplies increase, and hopefully the general public will be receiving vaccinations by May and June. Without a major breakdown in distribution, the U.S. may be approaching common-immunity (a.k.a. herd immunity) at around 75% to 80% of the population by the end of summer. That is good and hopeful news.

Propagating mass delusion and fantasy for political and financial gain is one of the most disturbing features of current American politics. This is not the first time that significant political activity is based on propaganda, but not since the issue of slavery has the problem of two different versions of “the facts” been so obvious or so devastating for American democracy. At the surface, the Trump-GOP supporters are using a fog of claims about evidence of mass fraud in the presidential election. More than 60 times these claims have been brought to court – and failed. There is no legally viable (or any other kind of) evidence of mass electoral fraud. The majority of Americans and many Republican officials know this to be true. And yet, the right-wing media, Trump, and most Republican politicians promote the fiction of a fraudulent election. Why? It not only rakes in the cash, more than $300 million so far, it also provides an emotional rallying cry for political identity. After all, more than 70 million Americans voted to keep Trump in office; that’s a resource to be exploited. The Trump-GOP-right wing media propaganda will persist indefinitely, unless we (that is, the citizens, media, and politicians who believe in democracy) can figure out a way to end the “two versions of reality” problem.

Saturday, December 12

[Coronavirus] U.S. Coronavirus Totals: Cases – 16,551,197; Deaths – 305,082

[Coronavirus] First Doses of Pfizer COVID-19 Vaccine Hit the Road – Shipments of the newly FDA approved vaccine are rolling out of the Pfizer Kalamazoo, Michigan plant. About 3 million doses are scheduled for delivery, which will cover 1.5 million people with the two-dose vaccine.

[Pro-Trump Demonstration] D. C. Protests Turn Violent – Although limited in scope, clashes between Trump supporters such as the Proud Boys and anti-Trump demonstrators led to some injuries and multiple arrests.

[Britain-Brexit] Brexit Talks Between EU and UK Shamble On – After more than a half dozen deadlines, the ultimate deadline, December 31, 2020 – when the withdrawal period ends – rhetoric turns into reality. At that point, with or without a negotiated deal, Great Britain will sever most legal and commercial ties with the European Union.  Negotiators will continue to seek some kind of a “deal” that at least preserves a semblance of organized trade. However, in reality most technical issues have been resolved and what remains are political decisions that hinge on PM Johnson’s positioning with members of Parliament. “No deal” Brexit is widely unpopular, even in his own party, but there is a large faction of conservative members who may revolt if there is any kind of “deal.” It’s apparent that Johnson wants a deal, but one that doesn’t fracture his party. Meanwhile the EU negotiators sit on their hands and wait for the UK to make up its mind, which is likely to be at the very last minute and possibly even then be indeterminate. There could be a “temporary no deal Brexit” followed quickly by negotiations to find a deal. In other words, the situation is likely to remain fluid.

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IUY Weekly Journal Vol.2 No.21 – December 5 – 11, 2020

Indivisible Upper Yellowstone – Weekly Journal

The Week of Saturday, December 5 through Friday, December 11, 2020 [Vol.2 No.21]

No Coup

The Week’s Most Notable

Trump’s attempted coup – theatrical sideshow or existential threat for democracy?

The center of the Trump-GOP argument, which should be distinguished from the emotional appeal, is that the Democrats stole the election through fraud, vote tampering, and results manipulation. When pushed, Trump lawyers and supporters claim to have “evidence” such as rigged voting machines in Georgia, ballot irregularities in Wisconsin, and a raft of procedural anomalies in Pennsylvania. In the known cases brought to court, 54 in all, this kind of evidence was presented, and in all but one procedural case, summarily rejected. ALL of the so-called evidence was either irrelevant, insubstantial, or simply bogus. No court, including the Supreme Court, accepted any of the evidence as a basis for trial. Most courts rejected the cases out of hand, often with prejudice. There is no evidence for widespread election fraud (there are always random isolated events, usually errors) and in fact this was one of the most closely monitored and cleanest elections in American history. The problem is the appeal of the Trump-GOP argument isn’t facts or logic but emotional support for Trump, a complicated psychology.

There’s the rub, as Shakespeare said, the large number of Trump-GOP supporters – including many professionals such as GOP politicians and GOP state attorneys general – who know that the “stolen election” gambit is legally hopeless but are not bothered by the effect of threatening a coup, or consolidating Trump’s power, or squeezing yet more millions out of credulous members of Trump’s base. There are surveys showing large numbers of the base more or less in favor of a “coup,” as in having an authoritarian government. Therein lies the existential threat to democracy, not this time, not with this bulbous orange buffoon, but easily cultivated by a more competent demagogue.

The case for COVID-19 vaccination launched this week on a wave of hype. Using the exuberance over the beginning of vaccination in Great Britain and the FDA approval of the Pfizer vaccine, most of the American media glommed onto the undeniably good news. “Light at the end of the tunnel” became the leitmotif of the week. No question, we needed the good news, but. . . .  (Yes, the significant news comes after the “but.”) In reality, it will be many months before the vaccines can be distributed and administered to a significant percentage of the population. That presumes a smooth rollout and no complications with the vaccines. Meanwhile, the pandemic in the U.S. is Out. Of. Control. We are literally heading toward 500,000 dead by March, and potentially a significant collapse of hospitalization capacity in many parts of the U.S.

Saturday, December 5

[Coronavirus] U.S. Coronavirus Totals: Cases – 15,014,068; Deaths – 287,730

[Election – 2020] Trump Calls Gov. Kemp of Georgia to Demand Special Legislative Session – The call was among a series of contacts Trump made with officials in swing states attempting to cajole or coerce them into overturning presidential election results. Although his actions constitute illegal election tampering, this is a difficult case to make against a U.S. president. [Update: Contacts during the week included officials in the states of Michigan, Arizona, Georgia, and Pennsylvania. Apparently, none of them complied with any requests/demands.]

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IUY Weekly Journal Vol. 2 No. 20 – November 28 – December 4, 2020

Indivisible Upper Yellowstone – Weekly Journal

The Week of Saturday, November 28 through Friday, December 4, 2020 [Vol.2 No.20]

200,000 – 100,000 – 3,000

The Week’s Most Notable

237,372 Infected – Friday, single day record – 101,276 Hospitalized – Friday, single day record – 3,157 Dead – Wednesday, single day record. In a country growing perilously blasé about the everyday reality of the coronavirus pandemic, these numbers should – but probably won’t – shake everybody awake. This is the baseline not only for the previous month but for the month ahead. It’s also baseline reality, regardless of the politics, regardless of the good and bad medical outlook, regardless of personal preference – this is what’s really happening. These are the headlines of headlines. They mean that the equivalent of the population of a good-sized city is becoming sick every day. They mean that hospital systems all over the country are being stretched to their limit, especially their people. They mean that the equivalent of a 9/11 event are killed by COVID-19 every day. This shouldn’t have to be constantly highlighted, but it’s necessary in a country where 40% of the population, the second major political party, and a highly influential chunk of the media seek to deny or degrade the reality. Until something changes those beliefs and attitudes, there will be no effective pandemic mitigation and what’s yet to come will only be worse.

Pardon-$-Us. Presidential pardons, especially the prepaid kind, were a hot topic, which was strange because no new pardons were issued; it was all speculative. We should know by now that such coverage is almost always a distraction. Of course, debasing the presidential pardon process is consequential and symbolic, up to a point; but it’s not even close to the most important issues of the day. A kindred distraction-storyline was all the various Trump-GOP court cases, a batch of badly undercooked spaghetti thrown against the wall, none of which stuck. In short, it was court drama for PR, which disgusted judges are beginning to slap down “with prejudice.” One more example of distraction: Trump threatened to veto defense spending if Congress doesn’t repeal the liability shield for social media companies (section 230 of the 1996 Communications Decency Act).

Saturday, November 28

[Coronavirus] U.S. Coronavirus Totals: Cases – 13,614,832; Deaths – 272,275

[Economy] Black Friday Marks Record Online Sales – Typical headlines highlight the record $9 billion in online sales, up from $7.4 billion in 2019. Then comes the caveat, worries about COVID-19 kept people at home, shopping online instead of in person. Overall, Black Friday sales were down 10% to 20%.

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IUY: Weekly Journal Vol. 2 No. 19 – November 21 – 27, 2020

Indivisible Upper Yellowstone – Weekly Journal

The Week of Saturday, November 21 through Friday, November 27, 2020 [Vol.2 No.19]

Transition Begins

The Week’s Most Notable

This was the week that saw the more or less formal beginning of the presidential transition, which culminates January 20, 2021; but it wasn’t the only transition getting underway. One of the biggest transitions will be returning to the environmental regulations of the Obama era. Most corporations involved were aware that the GOP-Trump approach to regulations was not the “make it easier for competition and growth” policy, but the “no regulations are good regulations” policy. In short, the object was to remove as many regulations as possible, whether for the public good or not. In that setting, corporations understood that the result would be a free for all, a time of grab what you can. Now things are going to change again, and predictably companies are signaling their willingness to work within previous environmental regulations; for example, GM dropping out of the Trump-DOJ lawsuit against the state of California over vehicle emissions. Perhaps the biggest transition of all will be in us as we deal with the decline in Trumpian cacophony. How different will our individual lives be without the almost daily “unprecedented thing” that demanded our mental time? With Trump gone, will we transition back to political indifference, even while nation-changing issues are still very much with us? Or will we work to correct the wrongs?  The midterm elections of 2022 will tell us the story of how we made the transition.

Happy Holidays! Hello coronavirus! In science a “natural experiment” is frequently a good thing; it means that testing some proposition that no scientist or even scientific institution could set up as a test will yet be carried out by some. In this case the proposition is that if a significant proportion of the population ignores COVID-19 mitigation rules, travels all over the country, and mixes with people in small closed environments then the rate of infection will spike, and of course along with it, significantly increasing hospitalizations and deaths. Scientists should be able to glean a great deal of useful data from our fateful U.S. traditions of Thanksgiving-Christmas-New Year’s. Unfortunately, if the proposition is correct, the measured results will be terrible. It will also be a potentially important measure of how much illness, suffering, and death Americans will tolerate. Right now, we have a very confused populace concerning the approach to COVID-19. A significant percentage is still in some degree of denial. Another percentage, akin to anti-vaxxers, are opposed to mitigation on some kind of philosophical/ideological grounds. Finally, a big percentage are simply tired of dealing with coronavirus and, although they know there is a risk, choose to ignore it. Altogether these people likely equal something north of 50% of the population. If that number doesn’t decrease significantly, post holidays there is little hope that any vaccination program will achieve the roughly 75% coverage of the population necessary for common (herd) immunity.

Saturday, November 21

[Coronavirus] U.S. Coronavirus Totals: Cases   – 12,453,483; Deaths – 261,683

[Coronavirus] FDA Gives Emergency Approval to Regeneron – The experimental antibody cocktail, famously given to Trump during his bout with COVID-19, has been approved for emergency use in high risk patients (mainly those over 65 with underlying conditions). It is meant for use early in the infection and costs about $1,500 per treatment. Supply will be short until next spring. Keep in mind this is not a vaccine, not a cure, but a limited recovery aid.

[Election – 2020] Federal Judge Trashes Trump Pennsylvania Vote Certification Lawsuit – In a strongly worded decision, the conservative Trump appointed judge noted that in seeking to disenfranchise millions of voters, “plaintiffs seeking such a startling outcome should come formidably armed with compelling legal arguments and factual proof of rampant corruption, but instead the campaign presented strained legal arguments without merit and [with] speculative accusations.” [Update: Later in the week, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court ruled against the same case “with prejudice.”]

[G20 – Conference] Trump Addresses G20 Conference, Goes Golfing – Remotely speaking to the other delegates, Trump emphasized the U.S. economy, military prowess, and covid vaccine development; he did not mention Biden, of course, and then instead of attending further sessions on COVID-19 management, he went golfing. Trump’s disengagement from all but the most public of governmental duties is obvious.

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IUY Weekly Journal Vol. 2 No. 18 – Week of November 14 – 20, 2020

Indivisible Upper Yellowstone – Weekly Journal

The Week of Saturday, November 14 through Friday, November 20, 2020 [Vol.2 No.18]

250,000 COVID-19 Dead

The Week’s Most Notable

This week seemed to be much like the week before: Joe Biden was still President-elect, Trump-GOP-right-wing media still denied the validity of the election, and the coronavirus crisis continued heading towards 200,000 new cases and more than 2,000 deaths a day. In short, it was another bizarre and generally fearsome week. However, this penultimate week of November was at the end of a chain of significant developments.

First, we had to wait for the election results – from Tuesday night (Nov. 3) to Saturday morning (Nov. 7), when Pennsylvania was called for Biden and he was widely recognized as the President-elect. Then began the first phase of Trump-GOP-right-wing media denial – a propaganda blitz that the results were incomplete, inaccurate, illegitimate. Within a week, the second phase of denial began – more than 35 court cases were initiated by the Trump campaign in battleground states (essentially, Pennsylvania, Michigan, Wisconsin, Arizona, Georgia). By the end of this past week (Nov. 20) all but two of these cases had been withdrawn, thrown out of court, or ruled against. That triggered the final phase of denial – appeals to state legislators and boards of election certification to rule against the results and declare a state’s electors as having been won by Trump. By the end of this week, it was apparent these desperate maneuvers were also collapsing. If you had time to pay attention, the curve of Trump election fortunes showed ineluctable decline. This week was different, the show was winding down. Of course, the show is not officially over; that will probably happen around Dec. 15 when by federal law all states must record their certification of the election. Even then, Trump and the GOP will continue to do everything they can to wreck the functioning of the federal government for the new administration. Politically, expect it to be an extremely ugly December and January.

A new baseline reality – 250,000 dead. Whatever the politics, propaganda, and deliberate or self-inflicted confusion, COVID-19 has claimed more than a quarter million lives. Like all such figures, the number is inexact but unless people choose to disbelieve all medical records (and quite a few do) those who have lost wives, husbands, children, parents, friends, and coworkers know the truth of it – COVID-19 has killed a lot of people and continues to do so. The other big reality, and unfortunately the easiest to deny, is that the dreadful statistics did not have to be. The U.S. is not alone in politicizing public health aspects of COVID-19, but we have arguably been the worst. The result, the worst COVID-19 pandemic record in the world; and going forward the worst chances of mitigating the crisis between now and the time when vaccines become generally available in five to eight months.

Saturday, November 14

[Coronavirus] U.S. Coronavirus Totals: Cases – 11,542,250; Deaths – 251,220

[Election – 2020] Violent Post-Election Demonstrations in Washington D.C. – Pro- and anti-Trump demonstrators clashed in the streets of Washington, where there were fistfights, a stabbing, and at least 20 arrests. There were other demonstrations in cities around the country, although overall the scale and level of violence, given the circumstances, was minimal.

[DACA] Judge Rules against Stricter DACA Renewals – In the fifth such ruling to strike down changes in the government’s DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals) program, this one prohibited limited renewal on the basis that the changes were ordered by the acting head of Homeland Security Chad Wolf, who has been ruled to be illegally holding his position.

[Asia Trade Group] 15 Asian Countries Sign Asia-Pacific Free-Trade Agreement – As part of a concerted effort to create an Asian trade zone similar in nature to the European Union, this first step included China, Australia, New Zealand, Japan, and South Korea. Notably, because the U.S. withdrew from the Pacific trade group negotiations, it played no role in this new association.

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IUY Weekly Journal Vol. 2 No. 17 – Week of November 7 – 13, 2020

Indivisible Upper Yellowstone – Weekly Journal

The Week of Saturday, November 7 through Friday, November 13, 2020 [Vol.2 No.17]

Coup or Not Coup?

The Week’s Most Notable

By midweek, depending on where you looked in the media, it might’ve been difficult to decide who won the election, Biden or Trump? Many Americans couldn’t tell, to use an old expression, whether they were afoot or horseback. On the one hand, Biden clearly won: 306 electoral college votes, exactly the number Trump had in 2016 (270 are needed); and by this time Biden’s lead in the popular vote was over 5 million, heading for something in the range of 6 million. Not a landslide but a substantial victory. On the other hand, Trump, most Republicans, and the right-wing media screamed “Stolen election!” They were claiming massive electoral fraud. To that effect they were filing dozens of lawsuits, calling for rallies and demonstrations, and using the right-wing propaganda machine to repeat endlessly that Trump was victorious. When Trump started messing with the Pentagon by removing the Secretary of Defense and additionally installing three of his own deracinated loyalists, the word “coup” hit the news. However, by the end of the week most of this spin war was beginning to unspool. Because of universal lack of evidence, none of the Trump lawsuits had succeeded, in fact most had been laughed out of court. Various sources, especially secretaries of state, reported that the election had been one of the cleanest and least error-prone of all modern elections. Even some Republicans and parts of the right-wing media, notably Fox News, were beginning to admit that Biden won. It appeared the legal coup was a failure, and what other aspects of a coup that Trump might’ve had in mind were not doing well. And yet he, and most Republicans, and the right-wing media persisted in pushing a PR coup, something based entirely on media propaganda. By the end of the week the situation remained unsettled and Trump had not conceded, leading some people to call it a “coup-coup situation.”

While Americans were being distracted by the election, the COVID-19 virus continued to do its thing – explode. Back in April of this year, if 190,000 people had fallen ill with the coronavirus in a single day, there would’ve been panic both public and official. In this current “wave,” the U.S. added 1,000,000 new cases in a week, and the number of hospitalizations jumped to a record 68,000. Deaths increased to bring the average above 1,000 a day. These are by far the worst statistics in the world, and the U.S. is still literally pulling ahead. All the experts are saying that this is only the beginning – winter is coming. It seemed during the week that about half the population understood the magnitude of the crisis intellectually, but didn’t really feel it unless they happened to have a relative or somebody they knew who got sick, went to the hospital, or died. The other half of the population either denied the crisis entirely, or brushed it off as overhyped. In any case, the situation is becoming the epidemiologists’ worst nightmare – inconsistent to nonexistent mitigation efforts, coupled with, at best, lackadaisical compliance. Effective vaccination for a large number of people is still at least six months away. Where will the virus numbers be at that time? 500,000 dead?

Saturday, November 7

[Coronavirus] U.S. Coronavirus Totals: Cases – 10,064,196; Deaths – 243,263

[Elections – 2020] Biden Declared the Presidential Winner – People literally took to the streets to celebrate on Saturday morning as Fox, CNN, NBC, CBS, ABC, The New York Times, and the Associated Press simultaneously announced that Biden had won Pennsylvania, giving him 273 electoral votes and therefore was about to become the 46th President of the United States. Some added the state of Nevada as well. [Update: by the end of the week Arizona and Georgia were also declared for Biden, giving him a total of 306 electoral votes.]

[Elections – 2020] Biden and Harris Give “Unity” Victory Speech – In their address to the nation, the President-elect and the first woman-black-Indian/Asian VP-elect pledged to unify Americans. Since at that moment about 70 million Americans didn’t agree that Biden actually won the election, this unification seems to be more rhetorical than real; but a necessary sentiment anyway.

[Biden-Government] Biden Campaign Discloses Executive Order Plans – It was reported that the incoming Biden administration has already assembled a plan for issuing executive orders to, among other things, reverse the controversial Muslim Travel Ban, end the crackdown on DREAMERS, rejoin the Paris Climate Accords, and rejoin WHO. The implication is that Congress will be largely a stalemate, especially in the Senate, and that like Trump and to a certain extent Obama before him, executive orders will be necessary to get many things done.

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IUY Weekly Journal Vol. 2 No. 16 October 31 – November 6, 2020

Indivisible Upper Yellowstone – Weekly Journal

The Week of Saturday, October 31 through Friday, November 6, 2020 [Vol.2 No.16]

Election Week 2020

The Week’s Most Notable

Election 2020 – bottom line, so far: Trump is on his way out, repeat, he lost; but between now and the time when it’s official, let’s just say a lot can happen. The Democrats still control the House but unexpectedly lost seats. At the moment no party controls the Senate, but it looks like the Republicans will win in the end. The Republicans maintained control of most state legislatures, meaning that, among other things, reapportionment after the census is still in Republican hands. The most succinct summary: Trump was rejected but a large minority of 70 million Americans appeared to approve of the Trump-GOP agenda and, thanks to the Senate, in the U.S. the minority rules. At the federal level there will be gridlock on major legislation. There will be no spectacular “first 100 days” of the Biden administration, but it might be a good time for rebuilding the machinery of government, especially the dangerously corrupted federal departments and agencies. Caveat: The Senate must approve most major administrative appointments; don’t expect that to be “normal.” What was described above is from the 30,000-foot view of politics. Down on the ground we still have the second worst epidemic in U.S. history, a shaky economy, a simmering cauldron of racial unrest, more extreme weather events prompted by climate change, a restive and violence prone ultra-right-wing, and a damaged democracy badly in need of repair. These are very real issues and pressing emergencies, which will be difficult to manage with the kind of divided government configuration that resulted from the election. It’s hard not to be pessimistic, but it is also fair to say that in the parade of likely crises, present and future, there will also be opportunities. Biden’s going to need lots of help, but there are reasons for optimism. Let’s leave it as generalized as that.

Do not undervalue the importance of defeating Trump. The presidential race was about him. The Trump-Republican Party was about him. Most of the headlines of the last four years have been about him. He is the head of the cult, his base. The unanswered crises in this country were unaddressed by him. Removing him from the center of power, placing him on the sidelines where he can scream and yell without authority, changes many things. Trump will no longer be able to set the narrative, Biden can; this is a big deal. The country is deeply divided, the political dynamics still favor the GOP, the right-wing propaganda machine cranks on (though sounding wheezy). Without the daily recharge of rhetoric and scandal from the president of the United States, his followers may sustain less enthusiasm. Without the narcissist-in-chief, the forces within the Republican Party are centrifugal – pulling it apart. Maybe now other messages can get a word in edgewise with his millions of voters.

Saturday, October 31

[Coronavirus] U.S. Coronavirus Totals: Cases – 9,433,209; Deaths – 236,525

[Coronavirus] Fauci Breaks with White House – Saying that the U.S. “could not be positioned more poorly” heading into the fall and winter flu season, he apparently meant that due to the by now semi-official “herd immunity” approach practiced by the administration, there would be no preparation for the out-of-control spread of the virus. In his remarks, Fauci put his finger on an issue that will be central to the 2020 general election: “Trump is more focused on reopening the economy.” Democrats, along with the medical community, understand that controlling the virus has to come first; Republicans, about 70 million of them, don’t believe that. For Fauci’s forthright comments, Trump vowed he would fire him and Steve Bannon suggested somebody cut off his head and put it on a spike in front of the White House.

[Elections – 2020] Biden Bus in Texas Surrounded by Trump Caravan – It was at least headline catching, a display of thoughtless political machismo as a fleet of pro-Trump trucks and cars attempted to push the Biden bus off the road. Trump thought it was great; the FBI’s investigating for criminal activity.

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IUY Weekly Journal vol. 2 No. 15 – Week of October 23 – 30, 2020

Indivisible Upper Yellowstone – Weekly Journal

The Week of Saturday, October 24 through Friday, October 30, 2020 [Vol.2 No.15]

Covid…covid, covid, covid

The Week’s Most Notable

In the final week before the election, it comes down to this: 100,000 new coronavirus cases a day versus the good-health fairy. Really, that’s not an exaggeration. Biden says the pandemic is getting worse every day and that the federal government must be part of the solution. Trump insists that thanks to his administration the coronavirus is going away. Cures and vaccines will abound, shortly if not sooner. Trump is counting on people liking the tone of his narrative, even if – or maybe especially because – they know it isn’t quite true. Some people actually like to be in on the BS, wink-wink. Biden prefers to stay on the side of facts and rational response, you know – getting something done, so a lot less storytelling. We’ll know in a few days which approach Americans prefer.

The clouds of chaos hang over this election. It will not be the first time in American electoral politics where violence, legal chaos, and civil unrest lurk transparently behind the impending results. Think of the 1860 election, where Lincoln’s victory became the prime excuse for starting the Civil War. This election is not quite that portentous, but there are echoes in the implicit racism of Trump’s campaign. More essentially, however, the threats in this election have a singular origin – Trump himself. Trump is an authoritarian, almost absentmindedly antidemocratic figure with cult-like support by tens of millions of Americans. How he reacts to the results of the election, especially losing, will not only set the tone but be the trigger for whatever chaos ensues. But make no mistake, if Trump is the trigger, it’s because an explosion of right-wing reaction was already prepared by decades of GOP, right-wing media, and ultraconservative legal preparation. How bad can it be? The threat exists, we’ve already seen examples; but whether this threat is overblown or will actually blow up, we won’t know until November 4 and thereafter.

What we have now is the most conservative Supreme Court in about 100 years. There is a long litany of cases that will be affected by having a 6-3 conservative majority. It takes no crystal ball to make predictions about what happens with the Affordable Care Act, antiabortion cases, LGBTQ cases, pro-corporate cases, regulation cases, voting cases, etc. There Is a developing dialogue between ultraconservative members of the court (especially Thomas, Alito, and Kavanaugh) and legally active conservative groups to frame new cases tailored for this court. The idea is to promote and favorably judge extremely conservative issues without it looking like that’s what’s happening. The conservatives do not want to provoke Democrats into altering the composition of the court. For example, it’s unlikely the court will strike down Roe v. Wade in a single dramatic stroke. It’s more likely to dismantle it case by case, with the likely outcome that without outright banning abortion, it becomes impossible to get an abortion. By all appearances, the newest justice fits right into this approach. She demonstrated at her Senate hearings a willingness and the skill to prevaricate (dodge, avoid, circumlocute) any issue where she’s likely to join an unpopular super-conservative majority. That’s the way it’s going to be; the question is: What are the Democrats going to do about it?

Saturday, October 24

[Coronavirus] U.S. Coronavirus Totals: Cases – 8,831,174; Deaths – 230,074

[Coronavirus] Pence People Outbreak: Coronavirus Returns to White House – First it was Trump and a number of top people in his orbit who contracted COVID-19 at the infamous Rose Garden party for Amy Coney Barrett. Now it’s five members of the Vice-Presidential staff. There were some attempts to cover it up, probably because of the obvious question: Why is it the U.S. can’t even protect top government officials from the pandemic? The obvious answer is to look to the top of the government for the reason:  its politics-based denial of the pandemic. Fortunately for the White House, this hot-button issue was quickly submerged by other events and the ongoing rush of the last week before elections.

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IUY Weekly Journal Vol 2 No. 14 – Week of October 17 – 23, 2020

Indivisible Upper Yellowstone – Weekly Journal

The Week of Saturday, October 17 through Friday, October 23, 2020 [Vol.2 No.14]

“People are tired of Covid”

The Week’s Most Notable

We were warned. Experts we trust such as Dr. Fauci and even those we’re not sure about like the CDC, warned us that the fall would see a major outbreak of the pandemic. It has begun. On Friday, new coronavirus infections hit 85,000 for the day, far outstripping the records for both the first (April-May) and second (June-July) waves of the virus. Already several states (Wisconsin, Utah, Idaho, North Dakota) are reporting crisis situations with hospital capacity. As a lagging indicator, deaths are now predicted to reach 2,000 a day in November. The situation is surreal: On the one hand, we are heading into a nationwide, this time including rural, outbreak bigger than anything we’ve seen before, and on the other hand Trump, the White House, the GOP Congress, and the right-wing media are denying that anything significant is happening. (Or worse, that the explosion of cases is a good thing by reason of herd immunity.) We are heading toward a quarter million dead around the time of the election with no viable, widely available vaccine or treatment for months. No wonder the coronavirus crisis is the issue of this election.

Biden’s got it!/Trump’s gonna steal it! How does anyone who is not a Trump voter feel about the coming election? Right now, the mainstream media is providing a cacophony of contradictory political messaging and analysis, much of which seems focused either on the good news for Biden in the polls, or the bad news from all the voter suppression efforts of the Trump-GOP. In terms of mood, it’s understandable that people are conflicted, if not outright schizoid. Some of this is normal for any consequential election, but this election Is way beyond consequential. There is hope for Biden, but mostly there is fear, anxiety, or even dread invoked by all the coverage that says there will be violence associated with the election, that voter suppression will be effective, that the mail will fail, and that ultimately the Supreme Court with its newly installed 6-3 conservative majority will undo any electoral results that don’t give Trump the win. The worry is particularly intense in battleground states, where the dirty tricks are concentrated and will persist beyond Election Day into what is now being called Election Fortnight. That is, if the election is close. If Biden rides a landslide, then the suppression efforts become marginal, irrelevant. So, what remains to be done is basic: Get. Out. The. Vote.

Saturday, October 17

[Coronavirus] U.S. Coronavirus Totals: Cases – 8,354,585; Deaths – 224,303

[Election – 2020] Early Voting on Track to Break All Records – With more than 26 million people having already cast a ballot, projections put the number of early votes at between 70 to 80 million, or almost 2/3 of the total expected vote. It appears the majority of these voters are Democrats, avoiding coronavirus exposure, which prompts the observation that, as expected, most Trump-Republican voters will physically go to the polls on November 3, most probably without masks.

[Supreme Court – Protest] D.C. Women’s March Against Judge Amy Coney Barrett – There were coordinated marches throughout the country. Truth be told, these marches were a pale shadow of the original 2017 Women’s March. Speculation: The knowledge that Barrett will become a Supreme Court justice no matter what, combined with a general feeling of “vote and be done with it,” reduced the enthusiasm for mass demonstrations.

Sunday, October 18

[Coronavirus] Trump Campaign Pivots to Unspoken “Herd Immunity” – While not announcing it directly, it’s clear from what Trump says at his rallies and the behavior of most White House and campaign staff that ignoring COVID-19 mitigation rules, especially masks and distancing, is in line with the herd immunity policy of allowing unfettered spread of the virus in order to increase the number of people infected and presumably increase immunity. One small indicator, Trump’s newly elevated science advisor, radiologist Scott Atlas, wrote in a tweet “masks don’t work” for coronavirus. Twitter quickly blocked the tweet for violating a ban on sharing false or misleading information about COVID-19.

[Food Stamps] Federal Judge Blocks Trump Order to Drop Food Stamps for 700,000 – Chief U.S. District Judge Beryl Howell of Washington D.C. Called the administration’s efforts to cut the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) during a time of pandemic and mass unemployment, “arbitrary and capricious.” The White House is expected to appeal. (Why not? They don’t care about ending the ACA for 20 million Americans during the pandemic.)

[Wildfires] Colorado Faces Largest Wildfires in Its History – Extremely dry and windy conditions have fostered at least two major wildfires, forcing several thousand to evacuate in Boulder County. One of the fires is progressing through Rocky Mountain National Park and threatens the city of Estes Park.

Monday, October 19

[Supreme Court] Ruling Allows Pennsylvania to Extend Mail-In Voting – By allowing officials to extend counting of mail-in ballots received up to three days after Election Day, the Supreme Court in effect ruled in favor of the Democrats. This happened because the vote was 4-4, Chief Justice John Roberts voting with the liberal justices; the tie meant the previous decision of the appeals court would stand. Because Pennsylvania is a crucial swing state, maybe even the crucial state, this “detail” of election protocol could be very significant.

[Coronavirus] CDC Recommends Masks for All Public Travel – Note: “recommends” not “requires.” This is a direct result of White House interference, which blocked the CDC from using an order instead of a guidance. Although most airlines and Amtrak already require masks, this change in mandate will likely cost lives.

Tuesday, October 20

[Coronavirus] CDC Announces Nearly 300,000 “Excess” U.S. Deaths during Pandemic – Excess deaths are those that occur above the number normally expected for a set period of time, in this case March through September 2020. Most of these deaths are attributed either directly or indirectly to the coronavirus, meaning that the impact of the pandemic is greater than reported.

[Coronavirus] Pelosi Backs off Tuesday Deadline for Coronavirus Relief Bill – It appears that the hocus-pocus surrounding another relief bill has gone up in smoke. Once again, Mitch McConnell, the master of ceremonies, made it clear that neither the $1.9 trillion White House offer, nor the Democrats’ $2.2 trillion approved by the House, were going to pass muster in the Senate. Basta, until after the election, possibly in the lame-duck session.

[Election – 2020] The 545 Kids Separated from Their Parents Resurfaces as Election Issue – As referenced in newly filed court documents, these are the border-asylum children who the government is unable to reunite with their parents. This was a major political issue in the 2018 elections, and often cited as one of the most damning of Trump-GOP actions.

[Antitrust] DOJ Files Antitrust Lawsuit against Google – This lawsuit, part of a broad investigation of tech giants including Apple, Amazon, and Facebook, has been expected for some time. It’s likely the case will be marched through the courts over a period of years. It is a bipartisan issue and there is no obvious political impact for this election.

Wednesday, October 21

[Coronavirus] Johns Hopkins University: Third Wave of Coronavirus Has Arrived – After two consecutive days with more than 60,000 new infections, the figures indicate that the long-predicted fall-winter surge in the pandemic is arriving. Other reports highlighted the issues confronting schools, especially at the high school and university level.

[Election – 2020] U.S. Intelligence Officials Claim Iran and Russia behind Election Interference – The announcement by the Director of National intelligence, John Ratcliffe, was immediately questioned, as most observers believe Russia to be the significant player. Ratcliffe’s point of emphasis is indicative of his Trump-oriented manipulation of intelligence analysis.

[Opioid Crisis] OxyContin-maker Purdue Pharma to Pay $8.3 Billion Settlement – In a crisis, which is still ongoing and hasn’t received much attention lately, the settlement accompanies admitting to criminal charges including lying to the DEA. The opioid epidemic has claimed more lives, 470,000 over two years, than the coronavirus (to date).

[Government] Trump Issues Order Removing Civil Service Protection – In one of the most sweeping antidemocratic moves of his administration, Trump has ordered a change in status for potentially hundreds of thousands of federal civil service employees, moving them from “competitive service” (people who take exams to get their jobs) to “excepted service” (political appointees) categorization, which makes them much less difficult to fire. If Trump is reelected, this order makes it much easier to weed out people who are not Trump loyalists, or install loyalists.

Thursday, October 22

[Economy] New Unemployment Insurance Claims:  787,000 – Dropping from 875,000 last week, this represents a significant improvement, though not enough to warrant a brass band. Approximately 23 million Americans are still receiving some form of government jobless benefits.

[Supreme Court] Senate Judiciary Committee Advances Judge Amy Coney Barrett – As expected, with the Democratic members absent in protest, the committee voted to pass the nomination onto the Senate floor, where it is scheduled for a vote next week.

[Census] Appeals Court Blocks Trump Push to Exclude Undocumented Immigrants from Census – This issue is on a fast-track and expected to go before the Supreme Court by November 30.

[Coronavirus] FDA Approves Remdesivir for COVID-19 Treatment – The drug becomes the first fully FDA approved coronavirus treatment, mainly for reducing the term of treatment for moderately ill patients from 15 to 11 days. The drug has no effect on mortality, and an international trial found the drug had “little to no effect.” Recall that remdesivir was given to Trump and is high on his list of favorites.

[Elections – 2020] A Mostly Civil Final Debate – Alternative headline: Less Loud, More Lying. Trump cycled through almost every known GOP-right wing code/meme, with the notable exception of “Hillary,” which triggered fact checking by the dozens for his virtually copyrighted lies. As usual, right-wing media declared Trump the winner, mainstream media declared Biden the winner. Upshot: The debate didn’t move the voting needle, although who knows, maybe Trump gets a percentage point for showing up and staying mostly within the debate rules. So, the final significant event of the 2020 campaign is over and hopefully everything will smoothly coast to November 3. (It’s possible.)

Friday, October 23

[Coronavirus] Daily New Coronavirus Infections Hit 85,000, All-Time Record – With the new daily peaks consistently going above 60,000, it’s clear the U.S. is reaching a new niveau, a fall surge, higher than the two previous “waves.” Hospitalizations and deaths are lagging indicators by roughly two and six weeks respectively, although hospitalizations have already started to climb. The really bad news from this new wave is geographical: It is no longer concentrated in large cities but spread throughout the country, including rural areas that are least capable of handling a pandemic. The only good news in the figures is that early detection, better treatment, and a younger affected population has led to a lower death rate than earlier in the pandemic. A new study published in Nature Medicine estimates that by February 28, 2021 the COVID-19 death toll in the United States will exceed 500,000 – that’s with state-mandated mitigation efforts; otherwise, the death toll could pass 1 million.

[Coronavirus] U.S. Coronavirus Totals: Cases – 8,827,932; Deaths – 230,068

Coronavirus Notes

Trump continues even this week to scream at his rallies “Open the schools, open the schools!” Of course, more than 95% of them are already open, and those that are not were mostly shut down after infection rates got out of hand, such as in the Boston school districts. New studies from the U.S. and the UK indicate that as drivers of the pandemic spread, elementary schools are the least problematic and universities the most, which indicates that age is a factor. More research is needed, particularly for middle and high schools, but at the moment it looks like at least elementary schools can be safely opened as long as they are monitored and their opening fits the pattern consistent with the infection status of the general community. All of this is part of the key point: We’re learning – this is science at work. What we knew about the coronavirus back in February and March is a fraction of what we know now; and what we know now is a fraction of what we will know later in 2021. Meanwhile public policy needs to be intelligently tied to the findings of science and medicine. Public safety messaging needs to build-in flexibility, making it clear that especially with a novel virus, best practices may change, and that’s okay. Overall, it’s important to note that the countries doing best in controlling the pandemic, such as Taiwan, South Korea, and Singapore, are all countries that have dealt with many epidemics over the years.

Racism Protest Notes                 

Just one short note about what’s missing: Where are the riots occurring in every American city? Where are the hordes of antifa swarming through the suburbs? Race and social justice were a topic at the final debate but have become a weak echo in the Trump campaign. The issues now belong to Black Lives Matter and Joe Biden.

Constitutional, Political, Election Notes

During the presidential debate and by the right-wing media thereafter, Biden has been pushed to define his policy toward “packing the courts.” Since he did promise a statement before the election, in a sense he did one better by issuing a promise to set up a bipartisan commission to study possible changes to the courts. This, of course, did not please anybody, but it did get him off the immediate hook and probably guarantees a lively controversy if and when he becomes president.

Trump-bits. T: “People are tired of COVID. People are tired of hearing about Fauci and these idiots, all these idiots who got it wrong, . . . This guy’s a disaster.” T: Owes Rudy Giuliani a big kiss for circus level appearances with “Hunter Biden’s laptop computer” and for fondling his junk in an appearance in the new Borat 2 Sasha Baron Cohen film. Coronavirus redux: T: “We’re learning to live with it.” Biden: “We’re learning to die with it.”

Quotes of the Week

[Joe Biden] will listen to the scientists [which will lead to a] massive depression.

Trump at rally, 10/18/2020.

Watch [Lesley Stahl’s] constant interruptions & anger. Compare my full, flowing and ‘magnificently brilliant’ answers to their ‘Q’s.

Trump tweet, re “60 Minutes” interview, 10/22/2020.

 

[The IUY Weekly Journal assumes readers are passingly familiar with names and events. For more details, check with internet search (Google it).]

 

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IUY: Weekly Journal Vol. 2 No. 13 October 10 – 16, 2020

Indivisible Upper Yellowstone – Weekly Journal

The Week of Saturday, October 10 through Friday, October 16, 2020 [Vol.2 No.13]

Dueling Town-Halls

The Week’s Most Notable

It’s hard to call Thursday night’s dueling town halls a highlight. From the moneygrubbing political cynicism of the scheduling to the awkward and sometimes painful juxtaposition of styles and content, the contrast between Trump and Biden could very well be an apotheosis, a crowning moment of a sort. Skillfully and resolutely pushed by moderator Savannah Guthrie, Trump eventually sweated and spluttered his way into conceding a few things like owing $400 million to somebody, and yet again failing to denounce QAnon. Perhaps Trump’s negative impression was not as striking as in the first debate, but he was consistently nerve-wracking. For his part, Biden finally got to finish a sentence and even present an issue accompanied by a précis of a plan. It would’ve been helpful to actually debate some of his ideas, but the 2020 election is based on impressions, not facts and arguments. Biden’s impression was good. He likes talking to people, he really does. For the most part he kept his facts and figures together, he didn’t sound radical, and he didn’t sound like a doddering old man – scratch two big Republican talking points. Overall, between the two events – for those voters who could one way or another catch a glimpse of both – it was a good opportunity to get a measure of the men.

It is truly amazing that for more than six months Trump and the GOP have been essentially representing the idea that the coronavirus is insignificant (sort of doesn’t exist) and that mitigation efforts, such as masks or those that cause economic disruption, are not only unnecessary but authoritarian. In short, they made a political issue out of facing a national medical crisis. This week it became clearer that the U.S. is heading into another wave of COVID-19 as new cases topped the mark of 70,000 per day – with more than 8 million already infected and 215,000 dead. The Trump-GOP-right wing media have created cognitive dissonance on an epic scale or, put more meaningfully – have used lies that have already killed thousands of people. This is not hyperbole.

Saturday, October 10

[Coronavirus] U.S. Coronavirus Totals: Cases – 7,681,140; Deaths – 206,135

[Coronavirus] Trump Holds His First Post- COVID-19 Rally at White House – Billed as an official event about the coronavirus and Trump’s recovery, Trump’s opening line from the Blue Room balcony was “we got to vote these people into oblivion.” The 300 to 400 attendees, mostly wearing MAGA caps, not wearing masks, and not socially distanced, applauded. The use of the White House as a campaign prop has become routine and is still illegal.

[Armenia-Azerbaijan – War] Fragile Cease-Fire Not Holding – In normal times, people in the U.S. would know when there’s a war going on somewhere in the world. In this case, Armenia and Azerbaijan have been fighting a very hot war for several weeks with apparently only Russia taking much notice. The dispute is over the Nagorno-Karabakh region – a hotspot in a region of hotspots. It could further destabilize the Middle East, depending on how much Iran gets involved.

[Racism – Protest] Denver Left-Right Face-Off Results in One Death – Protests and violence are still occurring, whether overhyped by right-wing media or underplayed by mainstream media. In this case a protester being maced by a participant in the right-wing “Patriot Rally,” pulled out a handgun, shot, and killed the mace wielding man.  Such an event is rare, but it’s still happening.

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