IUY Weekly Journal Vol.2 No.38 – April 3 – 9, 2021

Indivisible Upper Yellowstone – Weekly Journal

The Week of Saturday, April 3 through Friday, April 9, 2021 [Vol.2 No.38]

Easter 2021

The Week’s Most Notable

You know it was a quiet week if the most memorable thing about it was that it contained Easter Sunday. The theme of the week, if it could be said there was one, might be “political posturing,” in that all kinds of people, both political parties, the Biden administration, and many organizations didn’t actually do anything except stake out their position, jockey for leverage, bluster, and react to various forms of outrageousness, such as the Matt Gaetz opera buffo, or Mitch McConnell shaking an accusatory “stay out of politics” finger at corporations (his patron base). We are at that stage, particularly with legislation, where politicians profess one position or another while everybody knows they are trying to leverage their vote against some kind of reward, and that their final position might be quite different. This is particularly true of Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV) whose policy waffles reflect the magnitude of his key vote in the Senate. In general, the media can’t or refuses to report the underlying dynamics, which are effectively only important in the Democratic caucus, preferring to stick with the GOP versus Dems faux drama. It’s like the eternal confusion over what legislation can and cannot be passed by budget reconciliation. Incidentally or not, the Senate parliamentarian just ruled that the Democrats are not limited to one budget reconciliation bill per year. Now the Democrats are faced with options: create new budget reconciliation bills and/or jigger the filibuster rules – either of which will require Manchin and his ilk to, eventually, acquiesce.

The COVID-19 race hits record pace, which is to say that U.S. vaccinations hit a record of more than 4 million in a single day, while the number of new cases increased in more than 12 states, with the U.S. total heading back up to 80,000 – 90,000 a day. While a “Fourth Wave” of the virus, fueled by more lethal COVID-19 variants, is easily identifiable in Europe, in the U.S. the achievement of vaccinating more than 60% of the most vulnerable age group, 60+ years old, just might prevent a new peak of hospitalizations and deaths. Hope for the best; get vaccinated; support mitigation.

Saturday, April 3

[Coronavirus] U.S. Coronavirus Totals: Cases: 31,394,651; Deaths: 570,249

[Coronavirus] U.S.  Vaccinates s Record 4 Million in a Day – The average COVID-19 vaccinations for the week exceeded more than 3 million a day, from any perspective a remarkable achievement that puts the U.S. at the head of the worldwide vaccination efforts. Elsewhere, it could be said COVID-19 is winning the race; for example, India reported its first 100,000+ new cases day, despite having its own vaccine and widespread mitigation efforts. Case numbers are going up all over Europe, while at the same time it is suffering a persistent shortage of vaccines.

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IUY Weekly Journal Vol.2 No.37 March 27 – April 2, 2021

 

Indivisible Upper Yellowstone – Weekly Journal

The Week of Saturday, March 27 through Friday, April 2, 2021 [Vol.2 No.37]

Infrastructure Week

The Week’s Most Notable

Over the last decade or two there have been so many “infrastructure weeks” or attempts to start some kind of national infrastructure legislation that no one, not even the people making the proposals, believed it would actually happen. So Americans can be forgiven if last week Biden’s grand overture to a $2+ trillion infrastructure program (Build Back Better) is taken with a grain of salt, or a few trillion grains. And yet, this time, it will happen. For starters, there is a wide consensus, around 70% in most surveys, that America needs massive rebuilding of infrastructure: roads, bridges, airports, schools, and much more. Both parties have believed this and said so for many years. The problem, generally, was the price tag. Or more accurately, the Republicans sold national debt phobia to cover for not wanting to prove government can successfully do a large-scale infrastructure program. Then along came the Trump-GOP and the $2.2 trillion tax cut mostly benefiting corporations and the wealthy, and suddenly national debt was said to be “no problem.” Historically low interest rates made that mostly true. Along came COVID-19 and Republicans signed off on a $1.9 trillion emergency package, and again in December 2020 with another $900 billion Covid Relief Bill. Then Biden was elected, Democrats took charge of the Senate, and within two months of inauguration they passed a landmark and highly popular $2.2 trillion rescue package. No wonder when Americans hear about a $2.25 trillion infrastructure plan, they hardly blink. A big majority of Americans think it’s high time Congress did something, and seem to accept that spending a lot of money is part of it.

The media is trying to portray passing an infrastructure bill will be “extremely difficult.” It might look that way, but the difficulty has (a) nothing to do with Republicans, who as usual will not vote for anything, and (b) a guaranteed jockeying among Democrats for what goes into the bill and the details. Otherwise, the bill will be passed under budget reconciliation with the usual 51-50 Democratic majority. Pelosi has said she wants the House version ready by July.

Saturday, March 27

[Coronavirus] U.S. Coronavirus Totals: Cases: 30,923,753; Deaths: 562,403

[Coronavirus] Dr. Birx Claims Majority of U.S. COVID-19 Deaths Were Preventable – Given that her track record of Trump appeasement, albeit in a very complicated situation, dilutes some of her criticism, the point remains that inaction, ineptitude, and aversion to science set the Trump administration up to fail in protecting the public. As in her case, someday America needs a full accounting of how we managed – and it is WE – to allow so many people to die without appropriate outcry. It is now almost a certainty that before the pandemic is completely over the U.S. will have suffered more than 640,000 deaths – the infamous record of the Spanish flu of 1918.

[Myanmar] Military Junta Kills 114, World Military Leaders Condemn the Violence – After the worst day of military action against protesters, the Joint Chiefs of Staff from the U.S. and their equivalents in 12 countries issued a joint communiqué condemning the use of force by Myanmar security forces. Though symbolic only, the statement sets the groundwork for making appeals to the UN to form a to act against the Myanmar government.

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IUY Weekly Journal Vol.2 No.36 – March 20 – 26, 2021

Indivisible Upper Yellowstone – Weekly Journal

The Week of Saturday, March 20 through Friday, March 26, 2021 [Vol.2 No.36]

Voter Suppression

The Week’s Most Notable

The week began with a mass shooting but   by midweek media focus quickly transitioned to the topic of voter suppression. On the one hand, this demonstrated just how ephemeral American attention is for these all too repetitive killing events, but it also illustrates the fundamental importance of voting to American democracy. At issue are the literally hundreds of voter suppression bills being enacted in as many as 40 states, especially those controlled by Republican legislatures and governors. The Republicans are hiding behind the veneer of “defending against corrupt elections,” that is, using the Big Lie as justification for voting restriction measures, i.e., voter suppression. An interesting thing is that most people – including most Republicans – know that this is a cover for limiting votes from people of color. It uses the historic tradition of enacting laws and regulations that cut down the number of options for voting “at the margins.” That is, voting by black or other people of color is seldom completely banned, it’s just made difficult enough so that a certain percentage can’t or won’t vote. In many, if not most elections, that percentage – which might be as small as 2% or 3% – is enough to swing the results.

Of course most of this legislation will be challenged in court, but there’s so much of it that the courts – including the now highly conservative Supreme Court – cannot be counted on to stop even the worst of it. If most of the Republican anti-voting legislation stands, it’s going to be very difficult for Democrats to hold the Senate or even the House. All of this puts huge pressure on the Democrats to pass federal voting rights laws that supersede all the state-local legislation. However, to do that, Democrats must circumvent or eliminate the cloture/filibuster barrier to a simple majority vote. It all boils down to that.

Massacres, legislation, and the filibuster: right now, it’s a chain of failure. A terrible massacre occurs, legislation to deal with the gun(s) that were used gets defeated at the state or national level, and in any case winds up dead in the U.S. Senate thanks to the filibuster. There just aren’t 60 votes to pass anything. Like so many things needed in this country, whether part of Biden’s agenda or not, nothing of significance (outside of budget reconciliation procedures) is passed by Republican senators, and will not be until if and when the cloture/filibuster barrier is changed. One important note: 20,000 Americans were killed by gun violence in 2020, the worst record in more than two decades, even while there were relatively few mass murders.

Saturday, March 20

[Coronavirus] U.S. Coronavirus Totals: Cases: 30,487,505; Deaths: 555,507

[Asian Attacks] U.S. Demonstrations against Violence to Asians – In the wake of the Atlanta shootings, rallies were held in many cities to protest the rising tide of attacks and discrimination against Asian-Americans. It was an important point to be made, but it folds into the broader gun control issue, which remains a disgraceful national conundrum. All week, discussions about gun control hit the same Senate filibuster blockade on legislation.

[Coronavirus] State of Emergency Declared in Miami Beach, Pandemic to Follow – With luck the massive crowds won’t be a superspreader event, but epidemiologists are warning that we are running out of luck. The combination of politicized resistance, opportunistic political leadership, pandemic weariness, and the just plain American “don’t tell me what to do” attitude is leading to numerous and significant breakdowns in COVID-19 mitigation. The third wave looms, as usual, just a few weeks after it showed up in Europe.

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IUY Weekly Journal Vol.2, No.35 March 13 – 19, 2021

Indivisible Upper Yellowstone – Weekly Journal

The Week of Saturday, March 13 through Friday, March 19, 2021 [Vol.2 No.35]

Anti-Asian Violence

The Week’s Most Notable

Prior to this week, the U.S. was already gearing up for a campaign about violence against Asian-Americans. The House Judiciary Subcommittee had scheduled a hearing on the subject; Biden was meeting with Asian-American representatives. Then in what seems to be a peculiarly American-style coincidence, a gunman in Atlanta with a newly-purchased 9 mm handgun walks into three Asian-run spas (massage parlors) and guns down eight people, six of them Asian women. The media immediately focused on the shooter, not the victims. An attending police officer said the shooting wasn’t racially motivated. Of course, the whole incident was immediately politicized. Once again, a bloody incident triggers a reaction to a long-standing but deteriorating situation. Like so many shootings, the details of this event will not be available for weeks, at best. It did kick off something of a firestorm, which burns hottest for a week, but might still be lodged in many people’s memories as yet another incidence of America’s proclivity for guns, violence, misogyny, racially charged rhetoric, and yet another set of appeals to do something about all of it. At least, with the Biden administration the wheels of response were already in motion.

Saturday, March 13

[Coronavirus] U.S. Coronavirus Totals: Cases: 30,089,271; Deaths: 547,303

[Racial Justice Protest] Louisville March Honors Anniversary of Breonna Taylor’s Death – The march was one of several events in past weeks marking the anniversaries of police killings of black people, in this case the killing of a black woman in her apartment during a police raid. The issue of injustice against people of color still lies close to the surface. The Biden administration, and what promises to be a more engaged Department of Justice, will play a big role in the coming months in determining whether the simmering protest turns to violence or vindication.

[Immigration] Biden:  FEMA to Help with Surge of Migrant Children at Border – While the current border problem is about children, and not as the GOP-right wing media pictures it, an immediate adult illegal alien crisis, the situation for the Biden administration is, and will be for some time, very difficult. An inherited nearly dysfunctional Border Patrol, a patchwork of leftover policies, a poorly anticipated surge of migrants, and with the political environment all too ready to blow up, this issue presents few good short-term solutions.

[North Korea] Combative Noises Resurface in North Korea – U.S. Relations – The North Korean nuclear problem, far from having been solved by Trump, is now years down the line of further development in nuclear technology, especially missile delivery systems, and a willingness of the North Korean government to challenge U.S. diplomacy. Expect this issue to show up inconveniently over the next several years. Also, keep in mind that there are linkages between U.S.-China relations and the level of provocation coming from North Korea.

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IUY Weekly Journal Vol.2 No.34 – March 6-12, 2021

Indivisible Upper Yellowstone – Weekly Journal

The Week of Saturday, March 6 through Friday, March 12, 2021 [Vol.2 No.34]

Federal Help Is on the Way

The Week’s Most Notable

It was a very special Thursday (especially for Democrats). The week culminated in the most profound boost in decades for federal government involvement during, at least, times of crisis. Biden announced that, with the addition of Johnson & Johnson vaccines, all American adults would be eligible for vaccination by May. Then he signed the landmark American Rescue Act, providing $1.9 trillion for an incredible array of both COVID-19 oriented and social welfare programs. Biden highlighted the day with his first formal address to the nation, combining a eulogy for the more than 500,000 dead from COVID-19 and the arrival of truly mass vaccination (approaching 3 million doses a day), with the soon to be arriving federal money (for example the $1,400 per taxpayer check) designed to support efforts for ending the COVID-19 threat and stimulating the economy back to “normal.” He went so far as to promise that Americans could celebrate July 4 at least in small (vaccinated) groups. Through this tour de force of federal competency, most of which was accomplished in less than 40 days, the Democrats have made a claim for optimism and the future. If they make it happen without rampant inflation, it becomes massive political capital that could carry into 2022 and beyond. If it doesn’t happen, the now relatively-muted Republicans will reap the whirlwind. (Surprisingly, waiting for the outcome of the Democrats’ actions is all the GOP has left, while they diddle their base with juicy but inane social justice issues and other distractions, such as the racism of Dr. Seuss and cancel culture.)

Most Americans think COVID-19 is a decreasing threat. The promise of widespread vaccination, which is essentially real, has also taken the lid off suppression of activity by many Americans – and not only Republican-right wing COVID-19 denialists. The growing prevalence of people no longer wearing masks in public is a sign of this change in attitude. In the process of acquiring optimism, however, Americans are flirting (if that’s the word) with allowing the COVID-19 variants breathing room (if that’s the phrase) for rapid expansion of infection such as what’s happening in Brazil and Italy. Unfortunately, given the relatively primitive knowledge about what, where, and how many strains of the virus are active in the U.S., it is almost impossible to predict whether the rush of vaccinations will outpace the progression of the viral variants. Keep your fingers crossed, which is not a good thing to say about any medical situation.

Saturday, March 6

[Coronavirus] U.S. Coronavirus Totals: Cases: 29,656,167; Deaths: 537,455

[Coronavirus] Half of U.S. Seniors Vaccinated – That’s more than 27.5 million people above the age of 65 – a milestone in the progress for vaccination against COVID-19. The caveat is that for many this is only the first dose of either the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine. Nevertheless, as the number of daily vaccinations begins to average about 3 million per day, coverage of a critical population shows real improvement.

[Pope – Iraq] Pope Francis Visits Iraqi Top Shiite – As part of a historic Middle East tour, the Pope brought his message of peace to Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, the most revered Shiite Muslim cleric. They talked for 40 minutes and emerged promising better treatment of Iraq’s Christians and a hope for regional peace. These days most such religious meetings have symbolic value but little else; this one however, has strong diplomatic reverberations in Iran, where hardliner factions – also Shiite – are not supportive of al-Sistani.

[Cyber Attack] Microsoft Servers Hit by Cyber Attack – Software using the Microsoft Exchange server was hit worldwide by a coordinated attack that many have traced back to Chinese elements. Unlike the previous “SolarWind” attack on U.S. government agencies, which was attributed to Russian elements, this one was far more wide-reaching and disrupted email communications globally.

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IUY: Weekly Journal Vol.2 No.33 – Feb. 27 – March 5, 2021

Indivisible Upper Yellowstone – Weekly Journal

The Week of Saturday, February 27 through Friday, March 5, 2021 [Vol.2 No.33]

One-vote Legislation

The Week’s Most Notable

This week we saw “the real deal,” as Biden would say, in that almost all legislation going through the Senate will pass 51-50, or not at all. A year or two from now, it’s possible that on a few bills a couple of Republicans or Democrats might stray from the 50-50 mark, but that will be exceptional. Be alerted, the media will insist on taking every positioning pronouncement as some kind of viable contest – hyping the drama – but in most cases, there is no drama and, in the end, it will be a 50-50 vote with the VP casting the tiebreaker. This will certainly be true for bills going to the Senate on budget reconciliation, the first being the current American Rescue Plan (Covid relief bill), the second being some kind of infrastructure bill. The Senate Republicans will vote as a block, regardless, throwing in as much obstruction and delay as possible. Joe Manchin (D-WV) will usually be a one-man powerbroker, not necessarily killing bills, but frequently altering their content. He may or may not be joined by Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ) and occasionally other Democrats. The Democrats may try the age-old tactic of tucking controversial elements into must-pass bills, such as placing the minimum wage increase into an armed forces funding bill. All other bills passed by the House – voting rights, immigration, healthcare reform, police reform, you name it – will hit the Republican filibuster and require the impossible 60 votes. Unless, of course, the Democrats opt to perform corrective surgery on the filibuster. (See last page.)

What an insane party: At week’s end Trump issued a cease-and-desist order to the Republican National Committee and other GOP fundraisers, enjoining them to not use his name or likeness in their fundraising campaigns. This is a tried-and-true Trump tactic; very few such orders become actual lawsuits – but still, against Republicans? What’s his beef? Is it that not all GOP organizations are eager to punish his enemies? Or to promote the Big Lie for that matter? Heresy, he thinks, punishable by political conflagration; his firebrand base will immolate them. Quite a few Republican politicians will be happy to light the matches. Much of the recent CPAC meeting was taken up with coruscating contumely against quasi-conservative heretics such as Liz Cheney and Mitt Romney. The rest of the conference was mostly about Culture Wars (lib culture at that). To quote the Ted Cruz rant, “So defend liberty, but number two, have fun. Have fun. So many on the right, they act like they got a stick inserted somewhere it doesn’t belong. Just lighten up. Especially now, the left, they are shrill. They are angry. How many leftists does it take to screw in a lightbulb?  ’That’s not funny!’ God bless, who would want to be around these people?” Disturbing truth – the Trump base likes politics this way; it’s entertainment.

Saturday, February 27

[Coronavirus] U.S. Coronavirus Totals: Cases: 29,224,181; Deaths: 524,481

[Coronavirus] FDA Authorizes Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 Vaccine – Granted for emergency use, which usually means good until proven otherwise, the vaccine was developed by traditional immunization techniques, uses a single-shot and requires only normal refrigeration. In the U.S. it has shown a 72% efficacy rate against all levels of COVID-19 infection, well below that of Pfizer and Moderna vaccines which approach 95% efficacy. However, the J&J vaccine showed 100% efficacy against hospitalization and death from COVID-19; it may also be more effective against COVID-19 variants.

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IUY Weekly Journal Vol.2 No.32 – February 20 – 26, 2021

Indivisible Upper Yellowstone – Weekly Journal

The Week of Saturday, February 20 through Friday, February 26, 2021 [Vol.2 No.32]

COVID Relief

The Week’s Most Notable

The Covid relief bill perambulated through the House this week, dragging a number of issues with it. Two prominent features: House Republicans will probably unanimously not vote for the bill, even though many polls show that it is by far the most popular legislation in years, also among Republican voters; and that opposition to the included $15 per hour minimum wage increase is in trouble with both the House and Senate. The bill is big, $1.9 trillion, amazingly comprehensive, and for the most part intelligently detailed. By most accounts it stands a chance of doing what it’s intended to do – address the immediate COVID-19 related problems such as paying for vaccinations and opening schools, and serve as a stimulus for the economy by helping those who need the help the most. As such, even some Democratic economists think it’s “too big” and may flirt with causing inflation. Democrats are dancing around this issue, mainly because the intended impact of this bill is to set a tone – optimism – which is seen as more important than closely calibrating the amount of money being spent. For once, this is a “natural experiment” in Keynesian government intervention economics that isn’t woefully underfunded. It’s likely to pass using budget reconciliation rules as a purely Democratic initiative. We’ll know most of the outcome by the midterm elections.

Better COVID-19 pandemic prospects seem to be real. For several weeks, the numbers have been improving dramatically with new cases dropping from a high of 250,000 per day to a level around 70,000. This is still high, and if the COVID-19 variants proliferate as predicted, March could be a bad month. No one is certain how this will play out, but epidemiologists have hope that the vaccination rate will increase, especially with a newly approved Johnson & Johnson vaccine coming online in March. Pfizer and Moderna have committed to 140 million more doses over the next five weeks. Biden will hit his “100 million vaccinations in the first hundred days” target, but it may not have been ambitious enough. Nevertheless, the mood of the country (if there is such a thing) seems to be cautiously optimistic, which seems appropriate.

Saturday, February 20

[Coronavirus] U.S. Coronavirus Totals: Cases: 28,711,278; Deaths: 510,778

[Texas Disaster] Biden Issues Major Disaster Declaration for Texas – Normally federal disaster aid for an event as big as the Texas freeze disaster would be a no-brainer; but this aid highlights the failure of Texas state disaster management, which of course has political implications. Biden said he wanted to visit Texas [and did] but that he did not want to “have his visit seen as a hindrance to recovery efforts.”

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IUY Weekly Journal Vol.2 No.31 February 13 – 19, 2021

Indivisible Upper Yellowstone – Weekly Journal

The Week of Saturday, February 13 through Friday, February 19, 2021 [Vol.2 No.31]

Texas Freeze

The Week’s Most Notable

Last week’s dominant news is remindful of the Robert Frost poem, “Fire and Ice” – Some say the world will end in fire, some say in ice. From what I’ve tasted of desire I hold with those who favor fire. But if I had to perish twice, I think I know enough of hate to say that for destruction ice is also great and would suffice. From the very outset, the first terrifying statewide power outages, Republican leaders in Texas sought to blame windmills, Democrats, and AOC (not necessarily in that order) because these are targets on the first page of the Trump-GOP playbook. They stuck with this approach throughout the crisis, concluding by the end of the week that the Texas deep-freeze was Biden’s Katrina. Classic deflection, of course, because the cause of the disaster was decades of mismanagement, deregulation, and blithe disregard of public welfare. In short, the Texas energy infrastructure could not handle subzero temperatures – something that happens in Texas every decade or less. Plenty of blame to go around, but since Republicans have been in charge of Texas for decades. . ..

Trump’s congressional Republicans have quite literally gone all-in on lying. There’s nothing novel about politicians or even an entire political party committing to a lie; however, seldom and perhaps never has the commitment to a lie been so consequential or so completely integrated with media propaganda. The lie, the Big Lie, is of course, that Biden stole the election by electoral fraud. Whether explicit or not, this was the underpinning for the continual claims that the Senate impeachment trial, or in fact any of the impeachment process, was illegitimate and by extension (again usually not explicit) that the attack on the Capitol was justified. The Big Lie remains the cornerstone of Trump’s and the Republicans’ revenge campaign. So far, it appears 60 to 70 million American voters continue to believe the Big Lie.

Saturday, February 13

[Coronavirus] U.S. Coronavirus Totals: Cases: 28,215,632; Deaths: 496,135

[Senate – Trial] Senate Acquits Trump – As predicted, the Senate voted not to convict Trump. The vote was 57-43, a slightly surprising majority, which included seven Republicans, but not nearly enough for the required 66 vote supermajority. Most of the Republicans sheltered their vote by claiming that the impeachment process was unconstitutional, that the Senate could not convict somebody already out of office. This could be one of the weakest rationales ever used for such a momentous decision: The Senate had already voted to continue with the trial even though Trump was out of office, in effect what should have been a binding ruling. Behind that, stands the Constitution, which provides for an impeachment trial in two circumstances – to remove a president from office and/or prevent that president from holding another federal office. In short, it appears the Republicans acquitted Trump on false technicalities, not that it matters, because the real reason was that they would never convict a president of their own party. Trump immediately issued his proclamation of vindication and will likely open a new campaign with that as a centerpiece.

[Senate – Trial] McConnell Votes to Acquit Trump, Then Issues a Stunning Attack – “There is no question – none – that president Trump is practically and morally responsible for provoking the events of the day. No question about it.” Like several other Republican senators, McConnell seemed to be calling for legal action against Trump. This was McConnell, uncharacteristically one-faced, throwing down the gauntlet against Trump and all those Republicans who continue to stand behind the Big Lie. His statement was so blunt and so accurate, that many wondered what he knows that most Republicans seem not to acknowledge? It almost has to be his reading of Republican donors, nothing else counts so much – not voters, not other Republican officeholders – only the sources of the money that keep the party going. [Update: Trump fired back, calling McConnell a “dour, sullen, and unsmiling political act.” Is this sandbox fight really what it looks like?]

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IUY: Weekly Journal, Vol.2 No.28 – February 6 – 12, 2021

Indivisible Upper Yellowstone – Weekly Journal

The Week of Saturday, February 6 through Friday, February 12, 2021 [Vol.2 No.28]

Impeachment Trial 2

The Week’s Most Notable

[Update: Saturday, February 13, 2021: Trump’s impeachment trial terminates with acquittal. What has been set in motion? Of course, Trump will proclaim exoneration. He may become a candidate again. Can a lazy but vindictive man rule the Republican party from Mar a Lago? He certainly will try. About half a dozen presidential wannabes will hover like pilot fish around a shark, looking for tidbits and opportunities. The GOP congressional delegation is split, sort of, some resisting Trump, most surreptitiously; the majority proclaiming Trump wholeheartedly. The right-wing media will continue to propagandize the Big Lie, reinforcing Republican confrontations with the Biden administration and Democrats in Congress – and probably amplifying fights within the party. The base abides, still about 40% of voters, roughly 60 million people, fortified by decades of propaganda, loyal to Trump and Trump alone, still believing Biden stole the election, and that liberals are anathema. As long as the base remains intact, which implies an uninterrupted stream of media reinforcement, the position of the Trump-Republican party will remain the same: obstruction of everything possible. McConnell knows how to, and will do, that, even though he doesn’t have control of the Senate and apparently doesn’t believe in Trump.]

Now begins a battle to the 2022 midterm elections. Punctuated by events, especially criminal proceedings, judicial rulings, natural crises, domestic protests, and probably an international incident or two; it looks like the main contest is between the Biden administration trying to establish some true accomplishments, especially with COVID-19 and the economy, and the self-thrashing Trump-GOP opposition. The more the Democrats can achieve, the more inroads they can make on independent and marginal Trump voters. However, though Republicans are taking knives to each other, they can still turn their attention to cutting Democrats. Trump will try to make himself the center attraction; he does command the loyalty of the base and, to a certain extent, the right-wing militias. There is violence implicit in his position and he may exercise it – we’ll see how Americans respond. Violence in the service of chaos could well be the fulcrum for the 2022 elections.

Saturday, February 6

[Coronavirus] U.S. Coronavirus Totals: Cases: 27,522,843; Deaths: 477,875

[Republican Politics] Wyoming Republican Party Censures Cheney for Supporting Impeachment – Indicative of the vehemence common to state-level Republican leadership, Wyoming Republicans voted to censure Rep. Liz Cheney (R-WY), cut off party funding, and demand she repay donations to her 2020 campaign. Whatever the positions of Republicans at the federal level, most Republicans, especially in red states, are gearing up for swift retribution for those who do not support Trump. This will be an important political factor between now and 2022.

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IUY Weekly Journal Weekly Journal Vol.2 No.29 Jan. 30 – Feb. 5, 2021

Indivisible Upper Yellowstone – Weekly Journal

The Week of Saturday, January 30 through Friday, February 5, 2021 [Vol.2 No.29]

GOP-Q

The Week’s Most Notable

This week it seemed as if Republicans no longer have a Trump, they’d just invent a new one. So, they did. The QAnon lady, a.k.a. MTG, Marjorie Taylor Greene, grabbed the spotlight as the new face of the GOP. There’s nothing like a crazy narrative to excite the base, especially a narrative that really bugs the (baby-blood drinking) liberals, and the QAnon lady has a carpet bag full of provocative statements and positions tailor-made for her removal from committees by a vote of the House. The resulting brouhaha kept the media busy most of the week. It was a useful distraction, although it poses longer-term risks for the GOP. Much like Trump’s continued use of the Big Lie, this new QAnon face signals a split in the party. Trump is going to try some come-back maneuvers after he’s acquitted by the Senate, and it looks like the QAnon lady will take over the bomb-thrower role from Rudy Giuliani. Their presence in the political scene will complicate Republican planning for the 2022 midterms by emphasizing party wrangling and association with the Capitol riot. Of course, all of this presents an excellent opportunity for the Democrats, if they figure how to use it.

The Biden administration, not even a month old, has completed most of their planned executive orders and is entering the legislative phase. (Of course, there is also Trump’s trial.) This week they launched the effort to get their COVID-19 relief bill through Congress. The $1.9 trillion price tag provides an artificial sticking point for Republicans (Oh, the debt!), but the strong public support, especially for the $1,400 stimulus check, is keeping the carping perfunctory. In fact, there was a slim chance a few Republicans might even lend support. Work on the bill and perhaps negotiations continue. It is expected to come up for congressional vote sometime in March. Republican support doesn’t matter much; the Democrats will go ahead and pass it under budget reconciliation rules (a 50% majority Senate vote). They have one more opportunity to use budget reconciliation, possibly for an infrastructure bill. After that comes the crunch time; if the Democrats want any more legislation to pass, they will need to jettison the filibuster. This is a very big decision. Expect this to be the topic by summer.

U.S. Covid situation is two-thirds better. Initial infections are down, way down – 45%. Vaccinations are up, not enough yet, there’s a way to go to get to 2-3 million shots per day, but with new vaccine companies coming online it looks like Biden’s “100 million vaccinations in the first 100 days” was, in fact, too low a target. And the final third? That’s the scary wildcard, the virus mutants from the UK, South Africa, and Brazil (so far). We know the UK variant is already widely distributed in the United States, but we’re not sure where it is in its progression – 2, 4, 16; or 16, 256, 65,536. As they say about the light in the tunnel, it could be the end, or it could be the oncoming express. It’s interesting how many companies, especially travel companies, are betting on things getting much better by the fall; their ads are showing up everywhere. In general, people are becoming almost optimistic. For the most part, that’s great, but as the epidemiologists are saying at the top of their lungs, “It’s not over yet!” No kidding, in about 10 days the U.S. will hit 500,000 deaths from COVID-19. We are going to need COVID-19 mitigation efforts right through the point where it’s thought we have enough herd immunity; and that’s going to be many months from now.

Saturday, January 30

[Coronavirus] U.S. Coronavirus Totals: Cases: 26,686,300; Deaths: 451,890

[Coronavirus] Anti-Vaxx Protesters Block Access to LA Vaccination Center – As a perfect expression of the coronavirus vaccination denialism, about 50 people blocked the entrance to Dodger Stadium, one of the largest vaccination centers in the country. They claim the soon to be 500,000 deaths from COVID-19 are a scam, and the vaccines to be dangerous. [Update: Reportedly, the total number of shots given at that site was unaffected.]

[Impeachment Trial] Trump’s Entire Senate Trial Defense Team Quits – Apparently, they quit because Trump wanted them to defend his Big Lie of the stolen election without paying them enough; they were demanding $3 million and he wanted to pay only $1 million. Sounds like a classic Trump transaction.

[Coronavirus] AP Report Shows Racial Bias in Vaccination Distribution – In general, Black Americans are being vaccinated at a rate of about half of their percentage of the population. For example, in Maryland Black people make up about 30% of the population but account for only 16% of the vaccination. The factors for this include distrust of the medical establishment, inadequate distribution of vaccine to Black areas, and too many states relying on Internet sign-up for vaccination. The mix of factors is specific to COVID-19, but the outcome is typical.

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