Indivisible Upper Yellowstone – Weekly Journal
The Week of Saturday, April 24 through Friday, April 30, 2021 [Vol.2 No.41]
Biden Addresses Congress
The Week’s Most Notable
A couple of world-class bets were revealed this week: The first bet was fairly obvious, President Biden in his speech to Congress (the pseudo-State of the Union) previewed the last major piece of his legislative agenda, the American Family Plan. In effect, he has now issued a challenge and placed the big bet that on COVID-19 (American Rescue Plan, already passed), infrastructure (American Jobs Plan), and the social safety net (American Families Plan) the majority of American voters, including some Republicans, support what he’s doing – enough so that he can get these bills through Congress. What he’s proposing (which amounts to a thorough reversal of the Republican view of government) is that the federal government and big spending can and in fact must help to solve big problems. It’s a helluva bet. The other bet is that the COVID-19 crisis is coming to an end. The northern hemisphere, essentially North America, Europe, and northern Asia have achieved relatively stable, though not great, pandemic numbers and have proceeded with almost universal happy talk about returning to normal. Meanwhile, India is experiencing 400,000 new cases a day, and South America is struggling with major increases. The big bet is that the mutant viruses behind these stunning numbers are either not going to spread, or are not as infectious or vaccine resistant as feared by many immunologists. This is also one helluva bet, seldom articulated in public – with millions of lives in the balance.
Saturday, April 24
[Coronavirus] U.S. Coronavirus Totals: Cases: 32,786,590; Deaths: 585,738
[Armenian Genocide] Biden Officially Recognizes Armenian Genocide of 1915 – After 40 years of avoiding the issue, an American president has officially crossed the final line with Turkey: Turkey did commit genocide against the Armenians. Reagan mentioned it, but Biden has made a major statement, as promised during his campaign. What’s changed? Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is pursuing policies that shade in favor of the Russians, and defy Turkey’s role in both NATO and Europe. In other words, Biden seems to believe that calling Armenian genocide by name was not only the right thing to do, but that this was right time to do it.
Sunday, April 25
[Coronavirus] India Continues COVID-19 Infection Records – India started the week with more than 320,000 new cases per day and finished the week with more than 400,000 cases per day. In a word, catastrophe. The U.S. and many other countries have pledged support in the form of supplies such as PPE and oxygen. However, on the ground lies a medical system in collapse, a deteriorating political situation, and thousands of bodies added to the funeral pyres each day.
[Infrastructure] Manchin Lobbies for Smaller Infrastructure Bill – Sounding very much like a (fictional) moderate Republican, Manchin (D-WV) suggested the Biden infrastructure bill be split into separate legislation on the grounds that as a typical “omnibus bill, [it] makes it very, very difficult for the public to understand.” Normally, what an individual senator says about legislation isn’t news but in the case of Manchin, it’s like reading tea leaves or entrails, a mystical proposition of great importance because of his swing vote in the 50-50 Senate.
[International Travel] EU Announces Vaccinated Americans May Visit This Summer – Sounding very optimistic and jumping the queue on travel talk, EU president Ursula von der Leyen qualified her statement by saying “fully vaccinated” with approved vaccinations. This begs the question of proof; for example, a vaccination passport. Additionally, there are 27 countries in the EU that all have their own requirements.
[Coronavirus] Two-Shot Vaccine Problem: 5 Million Have Failed to Get Second Shot – As was predicted, vaccination progress must now contend with millions of people who have had one shot of a two-shot sequence, making them only partially vaccinated and in a very uncertain long-term immunization status. This may put the one-shot Johnson & Johnson vaccine back in vogue, despite the hit taken from negative publicity.
[Coronavirus] Michigan COVID-19 Surge Hits Younger People – After recording more than 91,000 new cases over the last two weeks, Michigan records show that more people aged 32 to 40 are being affected. The UK variant, B.1.1.7 is considered the primary reason.
Monday, April 26
[Census] Early Data Show Small Shift of Political Power to the South and West – The shift seems to favor Republicans, but the increase in population in southern states, matched by decreases in northern states, is driven by population increases among Blacks and Hispanics. In short, shifting population is at the margins, and the real political changes may come with gerrymandering. Key data for redistricting will be released in late September.
[Supreme Court] New York Open-Carry Law Reaches Supreme Court – Expected to hit the court’s docket in the fall, this is the first Second Amendment case since 2010. New York, like several other states, does not permit unconcealed weapons. This conservative Supreme Court is expected to rule against the law; the issue will be – to what extent.
[Russia Government] Russia Closes All Navalny Offices – In addition, it may label Navalny’s operation an extremist group, which exposes its members to criminal charges.
[California Recall] Republicans Force Governor Gavin Newsom into Recall Vote – This is the sixth recall effort against Newsom. Current surveys put his approval at 54%, with 40% against.
Tuesday, April 27
[Coronavirus] CDC Revises Outdoor Mask Rules – Fully vaccinated people can safely go outdoors without masks. This was hardly a revelation. Scientific studies have shown for months that the COVID-19 virus does not spread well outdoors. In practice, the majority of Americans ignore masks outdoors except when they enter or leave buildings or meet with other people.
[Police Shooting] FBI to Enter Investigation of Andrew Brown Jr. Killing in North Carolina – The rancorous contest over police body-cam video and the delays in official police reporting seem to have prompted the FBI into a civil rights investigation. The 22 second video clip, the only piece of video so far released, does not confirm what an autopsy shows as a fatal shot to the back of the head.
[IRS] Biden Asks for $80 Billion to Beef up IRS Review of Wealthy Tax Evaders – Affecting both individuals and corporations, it’s expected the $80 billion price tag to upgrade IRS systems and personnel will eventually bring in $700 billion in currently evaded taxes. It’s been known for some time that the IRS does not have the resources to challenge the more complicated filings of wealthy corporations and individuals, and consequently concentrated its efforts on low- and middle-income taxpayers.
[Minimum Wage] Biden Orders $15 per Hour Minimum Wage for Federal Contractors – It’s a measure of the size of the federal government that this change means around 390,000 people will increase their hourly income from $10.95. This takes effect March 30, 2022.
Wednesday, April 28
[Biden Address to Congress] Biden’s Address to Congress – In a lengthy list of callouts, Biden discussed success with coronavirus vaccines, the conviction in the George Floyd murder case and the hope for police reform legislation, a defense of transgender people, the proposed overhaul of immigration, and the decision to pull troops out of Afghanistan However, the major focus was the introduction of his “American Families Plan,” $1.8 trillion proposal for universal prekindergarten, federal paid family leave, affordable childcare, free community college, 81 nonwhite student colleges, and expanded subsidies under the Affordable Care Act. To pay for this, Biden suggested increases in taxes for the wealthy. He closed by framing his proposals as part of an overall effort to prove that democracy can deliver on the most pressing needs of the time. A memorable moment: Before beginning his speech, Biden turned to the podium behind him and said, “Madam Speaker, Madam Vice President – No president has ever said those words, and it’s about time.”
[Giuliani Investigation] FBI Raids Giuliani’s Home and Office – Typically, when investigators obtain warrants for a lawyer’s property (not to mention a lawyer for a former president), they have very stringent rules concerning “probable cause” in order to convince a judge. Also, typically, it means they are closing in on the results of an investigation. Of course, given Giuliani’s colorful background, this was a media plaything for a couple of days but at some point, probably within the next several months, there will be indictments – or not.
[Astronauts] Astronaut Michael Collins Dies – The Lunar Module commander for the 1969 first human landing on the moon, Collins was 90 and suffering from cancer. Buzz Aldrin is the surviving member of the trio: Armstrong, Aldrin, and Collins.
Thursday, April 29
[Economy] Economy on the Eve of Expansion – New figures from the previous week indicate that the economists’ predictions for 6-10% growth rate in GDP this year are on track. Boosted by the federal stimulus money, a desire to “get out of the house,” and increasing optimism about employment – help wanted signs appearing everywhere – could bring the economy to the greatest growth it’s seen since 1984. As one economist put it, “The strong consumer showing at the end of the first quarter sets the tone for a summer boom.”
[Biden Campaign] Biden Follows Congress Speech with a Visit to Georgia, Pres. Carter – You might say it was a 79-year-old feeling his oats, or simply Democrats doing what they should, as Biden used the momentum from his speech to barnstorm Georgia just a tad and have a conversation with former President Carter; good PR moments all. (Note to Republicans: Biden’s not asleep, not dead yet.)
[Florida Voter Suppression] Florida Legislature Passes In-Depth Voting Restrictions – Based heavily on the Georgia model, among other things, Florida Republicans modified rules for mail-in balloting, made support for voters in lines illegal, and generally made it harder for people to cast ballots. As usual, their cover is “better run elections.”
Friday, April 30
[Coronavirus] White House Claims One Hundred Million Americans Fully Vaccinated – This means that nearly 50 million Americans were fully vaccinated in the month of March, by any standards a remarkable achievement. About 150 million more are needed to achieve some kind of herd immunity, which is now predicted to happen by summer.
[Border Wall] Biden Cancels Border Wall Projects – To no one’s surprise, Biden has put the kibosh on Trump’s Great Wall and will return about $3 billion to the projects from which Trump diverted the money.
[Coronavirus] U.S. Coronavirus Totals: Cases: 33,103,974; Deaths: 590,055
India disaster totally isolated – not. The tendency among American media has been to acknowledge the horrible numbers of people infected and dying in India, though generally behaving as if “well it’s a long way away.” While the official numbers for deaths because of the pandemic are highly suspect, the numbers for daily infections are probably 20%-30% accurate, which is chilling; it’s already at 400,000. Epidemiologists are now saying India could reach 500,000 infected per day within a few weeks. The obvious question is, why now? A few weeks ago, Indian officials blamed political rallies and religious ceremonies. Then they shifted to COVID-19 variants as part of the mix. Now it generally comes down to “we need more data.” The misnamed “double mutant” (and now a “triple mutant”) virus, which originated in the area around Mumbai (Bombay), the most infected region of India, was discovered back in October 2020. By now it has been detected in more than 20 countries, including the U.S., UK, Norway, Australia, and Germany. Systematic genetic testing for it began only recently. The big open questions, for which there are only preliminary and contradictory answers, are: Is it more infectious than other variants? Can it evade existing vaccines? Unfortunately, given the political sensitivity in India about negative pandemic information and the inclination of northern countries to adopt the wait-and-see mode, fully creditable reporting on the mutant viruses is limited.
Racism, Protest Notes
Isaiah Brown Jr., Virginia (4/28); Anthony Alvarez, Chicago (3/31); Mario Gonzalez, Los Angeles, (4/19); Ma’Khia Bryant, Columbus Ohio, (4/21), Daunte Wright, Brooklyn Center, Minnesota (4/11); Adam Toledo, Chicago, (4/15). These are some of the black people killed by police since the trial of Derek Chauvin in Minneapolis. Will Congress pass the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act?
Constitutional, Political, Election Notes
Hail Manchin! Update: Is Joe Manchin the Democrats’ version of John McCain? Meaning, will he spend the next several months playing every loyal-opposition card to gain himself leverage and benefits for his state, only to turn around at the last minute and vote yes on major Biden legislation such as infrastructure and voter protection? Or will he continue to perform the role of “Republican-light” through the final votes, scuttling Biden’s entire agenda? Note that Manchin is part of Schumer’s “Gang of 12,” a sub-caucus of Senate Democrats, including Sanders and Warren, that meets weekly to decide on strategy and tactics. This speaks to Manchin as insider, not unpredictable outsider.
Pinned Point: Until the filibuster rules are modified, most of the Biden agenda will not pass the Senate.
Quote of the Week
We remember the lives of all those who died in the Ottoman-era Armenian genocide and recommit ourselves to preventing such an atrocity from ever again occurring; [a] campaign of extermination [where] one and a half million Armenians were deported, massacred, or marched to their deaths.
President Biden, 04/24/2021. [Note: Only 30 countries have so labeled it.]
[The IUY Weekly Journal assumes readers are at least casually familiar with names and events. For more details, check with internet search.]