Indivisible Upper Yellowstone – Weekly Journal
The Week of Saturday, August 1 through Friday, August 7, 2020 [Vol.2 No.3]
“The Vote is in the Mail”
The Week’s Most Notable
With the Friday night putsch of U.S. Postal Service upper management, it’s clear that the post office is the focal point of Trump’s campaign to use anti-voting by mail for voter suppression. His administration is creating a system for actual real-time dysfunction (delaying the mail), combined with the disinformation campaign (mail voting fraud) to either scare people into voting in person, despite the coronavirus risk, or to destroy the incentive to vote at all. It’s gaslighting on a massive scale, and the gas is toxic. People are beginning to wonder if the USPS can handle the November election.
Breaking news: Announced on Friday evening, signed on Saturday (8/8), Trump produced one executive order and three memoranda [see Constitutional, Political, Election (Crises), p. 4] intended to bypass Congress’s authority to create a new coronavirus relief bill. If the order/memoranda were intelligently constituted, they could force a constitutional crisis. The challenge is probably not real. In what has become a characteristic pattern, Trump announces and, in some cases, does blatantly unconstitutional things, such as the Trump Stormtroopers Show in Portland. Then, after gaining the media attention desired, he backs off and the whole thing is revealed as mostly a charade. The executive order/memoranda appear to be in that vein: quasi-legislative smoke and mirrors, where the smoke may or may not be poisonous. The implied danger forces people to take the gambit seriously, but on closer examination most of it is obviously toothless, weak, incomplete, impractical, unconstitutional, or delusional. Nevertheless. . . .
What a mess this will make. By inserting his executive order/memoranda to override negotiations, Trump has probably guaranteed massive delays in achieving a meaningful relief bill and added months of pain and suffering for tens of millions of unemployed, poorly insured, and newly homeless Americans. The mishmash of orders and memoranda will do nothing but confuse issues, force many lengthy legal challenges, and set up the odious paradigm of a wannabe authoritarian bloviating that he has all the answers. Some people are going to be convinced he’s doing the right thing. Expect the next week to be a media miasma.
Saturday, August 1
[Coronavirus] U.S. Coronavirus Totals: Cases – 4,763,990; Deaths – 157,894
[Coronavirus] Fifth Consecutive Day with 1,000+ Deaths in U.S. – As predicted, after a period of record new coronavirus infections, followed by record hospitalizations, the death rate per day is now equivalent to that of mid-May. A marker of 160,000 deaths will be reached this week. Without an adequate national plan, most models project more than 250,000 deaths by year’s end.
[Wildfire] California Apple Fire Forces 8,000 to Evacuate – East of Los Angeles, starting in Riverside, the Apple Fire has burned more than 12,000 acres. It’s considered the harbinger of a bad fire season.
Sunday, August 2
[Coronavirus] Dr. Birx Announces New Phase of Coronavirus Crisis – The Trump administration coronavirus coordinator said the U.S. outbreak was now “extraordinarily widespread” and that it was moving rapidly into rural areas, where people should not assume immunity. [Update: On Monday Trump attacked Birx for her statements.]
[Elections – 2020] White House: No Plans to Delay November Election – Trump’s tweet suggesting a schedule change was a classic trial balloon designed to draw attention to the Trump-favored issue of possible voting by mail fraud.
[Space] Two Astronauts Safely Splashdown in SpaceX Capsule – The first water recovery in 45 years, this time in the Gulf of Mexico, the return also marks the first-time astronauts made the round trip in a commercial space vehicle.
Monday, August 3
[Trump – Investigations] Manhattan District Court Filing Suggests Broad Investigation – In response to Trump’s attorneys attacking as “overbroad” the investigation into hush money illegality, the filing by Manhattan DA Cy Vance indicates ongoing investigation into possible bank and insurance fraud by Trump, his family, and his corporations. [Update: The New York Times reports that Deutsche Bank has already given the District Court Trump’s financial documents.]
[Elections 2020] Republican Blowback on White House Anti-Voting by Mail Campaign – Some Republican leaders are complaining that discouraging voting by mail will hurt Republican campaigns in states where absentee balloting has long been considered pivotal, especially among the elderly.
[Census – 2020] Census Bureau Confirms Early Ending of Census Count – Moving up the end of canvassing by one month, to September 30, has caused a political hot-breeze. Although perfectly in line with Trump administration’s attempts to alter and cripple the extent of the census, this particular move is unusually bald-faced partisan. There may be repercussions: certainly, investigations by the House, possibly legal action.
Tuesday, August 4
[Beirut – Explosion] Monster Explosion Kills 100+, Injures Thousands – A towering waterfront explosion, forming a cloud reminiscent of an atomic bomb, destroyed part of central Beirut. Fortunately, it was not a densely populated portion of the city, but the massive shockwave injured many thousands and has resulted in as many as 300,000 newly homeless. Given the shaky Lebanese economy, the ongoing coronavirus crisis, and the inherent political instability, there are likely to be shockwaves of a different kind. [Update: It appears the explosion was caused by a fire that then ignited 2,750 tons of ammonium nitrate. It was not, as hastily claimed by Trump, a terrorist bomb.]
[Elections – 2020] Primaries: Cori Bush Unseats 20-Year Incumbent; Kobach Loses in Kansas – The victory for the progressive BLM Missourian Cori Bush propels her into the House as a particularly effective spokeswoman for racial and social justice. Missouri also passed a Medicaid expansion measure despite strong opposition. The defeat of Kobach in Kansas hopefully signals the end of his pro-Trump, anti-immigration duplicity.
[Elections – 2020] Trump Says Mail-In Ballots Good, but Only in Florida – Typical of his mixed messages, Trump sounded like he was about to reverse his position on voting by mail, but killed it by saying only in Florida where the (good) Republican governors control the integrity of ballots. This implied that (bad) Democratic governors and states shouldn’t have voting by mail. As such presidential partisanship goes, this was a howler.
[Elections – 2020] Trump Campaign Sues Nevada over Mail-In Voting – Nevada plans to send absentee ballots to all active voters. The Trump suit hinges on the contention that mail-in voting is exceptionally open to fraud. There are also a number of legal items in the suit suggesting the changes and balloting procedures are confusing as if the coronavirus wasn’t a factor.
[Conservation] Great American Outdoors Act, Landmark Conservation Bill Completed – With Trump’s signature the astonishingly bipartisan effort provides $3 billion annual spending on conservation projects, outdoor recreation, and maintenance of national parks. Quite literally, this is the best news out of Congress in recent years.
Wednesday, August 5
[Russia Investigation] Sally Yates Testifies to Senate Committee – Former Deputy Attorney General Yates told the senators that Michael Flynn “neutered” the Obama policy of confronting Russia by telling the Russians that the incoming Trump administration would be more lenient.
[Election – 2020] Iowa Ends Lifetime Felon Voting Ban – This means that about 25,000 felons with completed sentences will now become eligible to vote in the 2020 election. The activists who prompted this legislation have vowed to canvas and recruit ex-felon voters.
Thursday, August 6
[Economy] New Unemployment Insurance Claims: 1.2 Million – This is an improvement over last week but still an extremely high number and the 20th straight week with more than 1 million applications. [Update: On Friday the Labor Department reported that unemployment in June declined to 11.1% with 4.8 million jobs added; however, the unemployment rate is still above the Great Recession and the decline appears to be slowing down. The economy has improved but now seems influenced by the rise and fall of coronavirus figures rather than a trend toward reopening and rebuilding.]
[IRA] New York State AG Sues to Dissolve NRA – Based on 18 months of investigation, the state is charging that NRA leadership “diverted millions of dollars into their own pockets.” AG Letitia James cited NRA leadership, in particular Executive VP Wayne LaPierre, for actions “fraught with fraud and abuse.” Trump suggested the NRA move to Texas, which they cannot do without approval from New York. Expect a very long court fight.
[Climate Change] NOAA Predicts “Extremely Active” Hurricane Season – As hurricane/tropical storm Isaias churns a soggy path up the U.S. east coast, NOAA updated its seasonal forecast saying there could be 19 to 25 named storms, the average being 12, and one of the busiest seasons on record. At least three of these storms will be major hurricanes. Depending on where they strike, they could have big impact on the COVID-19 mitigation efforts.
[Coronavirus] GOP Sends Congress Members Home – Signaling the utter breakdown of negotiations over a new coronavirus relief bill, there will be no legislative action in the near future, although Congress members can be recalled.
Friday, August 7
[McGahn – Case] Court Rules McGahn Must Comply with House Subpoena – In a 7-2 decision, the D.C. District Court ruled en banc that former White House counsel, Donald McGahn, must testify and produce documents according to the House subpoena – thus upholding Congress’ right to oversight of the Executive branch. The same ruling cleared the way for another House suit to allow lawmakers to challenge Trump’s right to divert already allocated money to the building of the wall. More legal process is in store, which will carry long past the election, but this is an important decision.
[Election – 2020] U.S. Postal Service “Friday Night Massacre” – Twenty-three top U.S. Postal Service executives were reassigned or displaced (fired) as Postmaster General Louis DeJoy continues to “restructure”, even while under investigation by the House for partisan manipulation of the organization (intentional slowdown of mail services). DeJoy has been giving the Democrats the middle finger as he continues to make the Postal Service dysfunctional, thus (a) justifying privatizing it and (b) making Trump’s claim that it cannot handle mail-in voting a reality.
[Constitution] Trump Starts Momentous PR Gambit to Attempt Bypassing Congress – With an executive order and three memoranda Trump announced his executive edicts “will take care pretty much of this entire situation,” meaning the inability of Congress to arrive at a coronavirus relief bill. Trump made the hastily arranged announcement before a handpicked group of millionaires, unsafely congregated at his New Jersey Bedminster golf course.
[Coronavirus] U.S. Coronavirus Totals: Cases – 5,095,524; Deaths – 164,094
Coronavirus (Crisis) Notes
The consistent line from the White House and Trump has been a series of lies concerning the status of the coronavirus in the U.S. For example, in a relatively recent video interview, Trump claimed that children are almost immune to COVID-19; the interview was pulled out of circulation by Facebook for being disinformation (and it never mentioned that 250,000 children have been documented with the disease, nor that while they tend to have weaker cases, they are still carriers). More recent studies have shown that children aged 10 to 19 can be as infectious as adults, and that young children under five can carry virus loads many times those of most adults. In short, children are neither immune nor harmless. That the White House would continue to spread false information at a time when demanding that children physically go back to school is an indicator of how far Trump will go to promote his reelection at the expense of people’s health and lives.
Economy (Crisis) Notes
Negotiations for a new coronavirus relief bill went on all week. What was odd, Senate Republicans – namely McConnell – did not directly take part. Negotiations were between Pelosi, Schumer, and from the White House Mnuchin and Meadows. This appears to have been a setup. It put the White House in position to use the threat of Presidential Orders as a bargaining chip, a chip cashed-in the following week (Saturday 8/8). It’s a reasonable assumption McConnell knew this was coming, which means he tacitly approved of the gambit. The upshot: It is now distinctly possible that the country will go into the Fall without relief for 30 million unemployed, 18 million newly without a home, millions of underfed – and a potential for crime and riot. Can the Republicans really want this?
Trump puts taxing and payout under executive fiat, or as Sen. Ben Sasse (R-NE) put it “the pen-and-phone theory of executive lawmaking is unconstitutional slop.” The conglomeration of executive order and memoranda include temporarily ending payroll taxes, which means ending support for Social Security and Medicare (Trump promised Friday that if reelected he would end payroll taxes permanently). Cuts to student loan rates. Limited eviction moratorium. A $400 extension to unemployment insurance (the Republican figure, which requires cash-strapped states to ante up 25% of the bill). Here’s the heart of the gambit: It’s better to tell voters he tried to help the economy than to have actually helped it. On the other hand, if the country really does slide into a depression, the Democrats will have an ironclad argument about not giving the economy enough stimulus. Very high-stakes political machinations.
Constitutional, Political, Election (Crisis) Notes
The flatlined “negotiations” over a new relief bill indicate that the GOP feels no need to compromise. The Democrats started last May with their “Heroes Act” at $3.4 trillion, last month the Republicans started with their $1 trillion counter offer. The Republican version had no money for state or local governments, no money for schools, no money for research, no money for the post office, a massive cut in unemployment aid, among other things. Both sides held to their position for two weeks. On Wednesday the Democrats offered to reduce their bill by $1 trillion (to $2.5 trillion). The White House rejected the offer (presumably so did the Republicans). Claims by Trump that the Democrats refused to compromise are obviously lies. It’s also apparent that the GOP was expecting the White House to make the executive order moves.
Trump-bits. Swan: “Lyndon Johnson! He passed the Civil Rights Act. Trump: Ask, ask: how has it worked out? If you take a look at what Lyndon Johnson did. How has it worked out? Swan: You think the Civil Rights Act was a mistake?”
“They [COVID victims] are dying. That’s true. And it is what it is.” “Yo..semites.” Trump claims Biden “is against God.
Quote of the Week
I don’t think he plans to leave the White House. He doesn’t plan to have fair and unfettered elections. I believe that he plans to install himself in some kind of emergency way to continue to hold onto office.
Rep. James Clyburn (D-SC), House Majority Whip, on CNN’s State of the Union, 8/02/2020
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