Indivisible Upper Yellowstone – Weekly Journal
The Week of Saturday, April 10 through Friday, April 16, 2021 [Vol.2 No.39]
Police Violence – Mass Shooting
The Week’s Most Notable
The announced end of the Afghan War might have been the story of the week, but U.S. violence took its place. It started Sunday with the police killing of Daunte Wright in Brooklyn Center, Minnesota, followed by an outbreak of riots. It was punctuated by almost daily updates from the Minneapolis trial of former policeman Derek Chauvin for killing George Floyd. On Thursday, Chicago authorities released police body-cam video from the March shooting of a 13-year-old boy, Adam Toledo. It appears to show the officer shouting “Show me your hands!” and the boy complying by raising his empty hands, whereupon he was shot dead. This video quickly triggered demonstrations. The week climaxed with another mass shooting, this time in Indianapolis where eight FedEx employees were killed by a former employee using two newly purchased AK-47 rifles. Guns, racial injustice, violence – old themes. The difference now is that Democrats could be in position to actually pass relevant legislation; it’s close. Again, it will come back to the filibuster and whether it can be altered to allow at least some legislation based on a 51-50 vote in the Senate.
It’s a Looney Tunes mix: Start with Trump, his weird stolen-vote mantra, and his base of about 40 million voters, add a gaggle of presidential wannabes (Cruz, Rubio, et al.); add the traditional power center around Mitch McConnell; the Crazy Chorus (Jordan, Cotton, Greene, Boebert, others); the right-wing media pushing the Big Lie; the festering Matt Gaetz scandal and finally add Republicans in the House announcing the formation of an America First Caucus dedicated to white supremacy. Two days before, House Republican leader Kevin McCarthy had denounced the racist and white supremacy strain of Republican politics. This is not likely to end well for the Republican Party, although its craziness is mostly buffered for Republican voters by constant and effective propaganda from Fox News, MaxNews, and OAN. At least temporarily it also means the Republican Party is almost incapable of mounting more than a pro forma attack on Biden’s many initiatives. Democrats are enjoying the spectacle.
Saturday, April 17
[Coronavirus] U.S. Coronavirus Totals: Cases: 31,878,937; Deaths: 575,574
[Republican Politics] Trump Excoriates McConnell, Fauci, Pence, and Others in Mar-a-Lago Speech – Calling Mitch McConnell “a dumb son of a bitch” did nothing for party unity. The former president continues to stake out a divisive role, which other Republican leaders will eventually need to “adjust.” Trump holds the loyalty of perhaps 40 million voters, although his direct link as Twitterer in Chief cum president is gone, exposing him to the erosion of reality.
[Coronavirus] China Admits its COVID-19 Vaccines Aren’t Very Effective – China has two principal vaccine makers, Sinovac and Sinopharm, that sell traditionally manufactured COVID-19 vaccines to numerous countries. In admitting that these vaccines “don’t have very high protection rates,” the Chinese are “under formal consideration whether we should use different vaccines from different technical lines of the immunization process,” such as those produced by Pfizer and Moderna. In a world where international competition over COVID-19 vaccines has recently become very significant, the admission by the Chinese may be pivotal.
[Police Violence] Army Officer Abused during Traffic Stop Sues Virginia Police – U.S. Army Lt. Caron Nazario, stopped for not having license plates (it was a new car; he had the temporary plates taped to the back window), was pulled from the car at gunpoint, pepper sprayed, and pushed to the ground. Nazario is a Black-Latino and was in full uniform at the time. He is suing for violation of his rights. [Update: The officer in charge during the incident was fired on Sunday.]
Sunday, April 18
[Police Violence] Brooklyn Center, Minnesota Police Shoot and Kill Black Motorist, Riots Erupt – About 10 miles from the spot where George Floyd was killed, and in the middle of the trial for the policeman who allegedly killed him, 20-year-old Daunte Wright was stopped by police for out-of-date license tabs, which led to him being threatened with being tasered but actually shot with a policewoman’s service gun, which killed him. The unusual circumstances led to almost instantaneous rioting in Minneapolis and Brooklyn Center.
[Voting Rights] Corporate Leaders Organize to Fight Voter Suppression Bills – More than 100 corporate leaders met online to discuss ways to fight Republican voter-restriction bills in numerous states. It’s a limited form of taking sides, but at least it indicates that some of the corporate world understands how fundamental the challenge to democracy is, not only to our form of government but also to the economy. [Update: Several hundred corporate leaders signed a document and subsequent New York Times advertisement stating that, “We must ensure the right to vote for all of us.”]
Monday, April 19
[Coronavirus] Michigan Becomes COVID-19 Hotspot – Representative of the new manifestation of the pandemic, driven by COVID-19 variants and regional spread, Michigan’s infection rate has risen to a seven-day average of 7,377 cases per day with 3,570 hospitalizations. At this point it’s threatening to overwhelm the health system, and the CDC is a statewide lockdown. Unfortunately, Michigan is also a hotbed of right-wing Covid denialism. Because Governor Gretchen Witmer has already had her public health powers reduced, a. statewide lockdown may be politically impossible. That would mean people will die who didn’t need to die. This is a pattern which could be repeated in other parts of the country.
[Afghanistan] Taliban Exits Peace Conference – The U.S. is in detailed negotiations with the Afghan government and the Taliban for a permanent peace treaty, which was supposed to be brought to the table for final discussion in Turkey on Friday. It is unclear if this move by the Taliban is simply for positioning, or something more fundamental. [Update: It is also possible the Taliban was aware of Biden’s upcoming troop withdrawal announcement.]
[Government] U.S. Federal Deficit Rises to Record – As predicted, the money required for three major stimulus bills has boosted the federal deficit by $1.7 trillion in the first half of the fiscal year.
[Immigration] Biden Reaches Deal with Three Central American Governments to Restrict Migrants – Mexico, Honduras, and Guatemala will beef up their military presence at the borders to help reduce the flow of migrants heading toward the U.S. The terms of the deal were not spelled out, but it’s assumed the U.S. is providing something in return.
Tuesday April 20
[Coronavirus] White House Announces J&J Pause Will Not Affect Vaccination Rollout – The U.S. has enough Pfizer and Moderna vaccines to cover the promise of 200 million shots by Biden’s 100th day in office.
[Russian Relations] Biden Proposes Summit with Putin – With tensions rising over Soviet troop movements at the Ukraine border (essentially various forms of jockeying about the new U.S. sanctions), Biden is signaling an interest in working out disputes diplomatically. In effect, both Biden and Putin need to satisfy domestic political requirements as well as shards of reality involved with the intense relationship.
[Capitol Riot] Capitol Police Inspector General to Issue Scathing Report on January 6 Riot – The New York Times is reporting that the IG found police leaders and others were told not to use aggressive tactics to stop the mob, and that the situation was known to be violence prone. The IG report further highlights the need for comprehensive investigation of the entire incident, which unfortunately the Republicans are blocking at every step.
Wednesday, April 21
[Afghanistan] Biden Announces Final Withdrawal of Troops by September 11 – After 20 years of war, constant arguing about the pros and cons of being in Afghanistan, apparently Biden decided that “We cannot continue the cycle of extending or expanding our military presence in Afghanistan hoping to create the ideal conditions for withdrawal, expecting a different result.” In short, enough already. The decision, any decision actually, is controversial and of course a political football. In this case, the mix of political negotiations between the Afghan government, the Taliban, and the U.S. provides some hope that the Afghan situation won’t immediately deteriorate into open Civil War. It has been reported that using bases and aircraft carriers in the region, the U.S. will continue to provide combat and strategic air support. It should be noted that Biden is about to accomplish what three other presidents were unable to do, and once again leaves the Republicans caterwauling about something that is generally popular with the American voters.
[U.S. Economy] Bernie Madoff Has Died in Prison; Rest in Ponzi-hell
Thursday, April 22
[Economy] New Unemployment Insurance Claims Last Week: 613,000 – The improvement in the unemployment insurance claims, down 153,000 from last week, coupled with new economic figures, indicates that the economy is beginning to respond to the massive stimulus packages.
[Mass Shooting] Gunman Kills Eight in Indianapolis FedEx Shooting – In a way, this was just another mass killing, the result of far too readily available assault weapons. However, because it happened in a week full of reminders about violence, guns, police actions, and the like; it seemed as if the news had more impact, or at least made an exclamatory mark.
[Supreme Court] Some Democrats Propose Adding Supreme Court Justices; Pelosi Quashes It – Changes to the judicial branch, including adding appeals court judges and Supreme Court justices, requires a long careful rollout. Consider the first mentions by Democrats of new legislation and the formation of Biden’s commission as the kickstarters, guaranteed to fire up Republicans and get the conversation rolling. Democrats will probably not seriously try this until after the 2022 midterms, if at all.
[Coronavirus] Pfizer Discusses Possible Need for COVID-19 Vaccine Booster within 12 Months – One of the big open questions for all the COVID-19 vaccines is the duration of their effectiveness. Six months is now generally accepted, but that’s only because the vaccines have been around about six months. They could last a year or more, but the CEO of Pfizer said that there was a strong likelihood for the need of a booster shot and/or yearly shot. The implication, taken generally, is that COVID-19 is going to be around a while and likely will be folded into treatments for other flu viruses.
Friday, April 23
[Immigration] Biden Announced Refugee Limit, Same as Trump’s; Immediately Attacked, Then Recanted – It’s not the only or even the worst mistake of the new administration, but at least they were self-aware enough to realize that among Democrats reneging on the campaign promise to substantially increase the number of immigrants and refugees allowed was a big mistake. Biden has promised to “revisit” the numbers by next week.
[Coronavirus] U.S. Coronavirus Totals: Cases: 32,297,655; Deaths: 580,756 – Global deaths reach 3 million.
Something to pay attention to: India in the last several days has the highest new infection rate since the U.S. in 2020, 261,000 in one day. The possible reason: A new Covid-19 variant, a “double mutant” made by combining two other variants (E484Q and L452R = B.1.617 variant) that can be significantly more infectious and resistant to immunity (that is, vaccines). Note! The analysis is just beginning to be tracked as of two weeks ago; however, this variant has already been found in the UK and in other parts of Europe.
Quote of the Week
Afghanistan became the graveyard of American hubris. . . . The initial punitive mission might have succeeded, but it turned into America’s longest war, a Sisyphean exercise in counterinsurgency and state-building that has seen more than 2,300 U.S. soldiers die, more than 20,000 wounded in action, and tens of thousands of Afghan civilians perish.
Ishaan Tharoor, “Today’s Worldview,” The Washington Post, 04/14/2021.
[The IUY Weekly Journal assumes readers are at least casually familiar with names and events. For more details, check with internet search.]