Indivisible Upper Yellowstone – Weekly Journal
The Week of Saturday, May 8 through Friday, May 14, 2021 [Vol.2 No.43]
If you’ve been vaccinated…
The Week’s Most Notable
The sudden CDC announcement on Thursday that it was no longer necessary to wear masks, indoors or outdoors, if you have been fully vaccinated, evoked all kinds of emotions. Officially and as far as most of the media was concerned, this is great news, if abrupt. In fact, it was something worthy of celebration. That, it was; however, dancing in the streets was not apparent. It’s probable that after a year and several months of living in COVID-19 constriction, a significant relaxation was greeted with “good” but let’s see what happens next. What happens next has largely been a mad scramble to adjust tourism, schools, work – just about everything – to what is obviously a new regime, even if it is not complete and not fully spelled out. The whip end of the announcement was clear – only if you’ve been fully vaccinated. Vaccination makes you a member of the club and puts pressure on those who haven’t been vaccinated. On the other hand, it was also immediately obvious to ask, “How do we know somebody’s been vaccinated? Because they say so?” Odds are, many if not most people are going to carry on wearing masks, or not, as they did before. However, it appears progress is being made, so, huzzah.
War in Israel/Palestine – some call it war, some call it advanced rioting. Generally, rioting is not conducted with tanks, missiles, and jets dropping bombs. So, another war has broken out in Israel/Palestine. It looks very much like other such wars. The Palestinians, this time led by Hamas, are squaring off against the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) with scores of civilian casualties already recorded. The Israelis seem intent on using the incident to smash as much of the Palestinian military infrastructure as possible. However, there is something new on the Palestinian side, or more exactly among Israeli-Palestinians, Israeli citizens who are Arab and Palestinian and now organizing against the Israeli government. All wars in the Middle East are complicated and difficult to disentangle, this one may become worse than most. As usual, the U.S. will probably have to do much of the disentangling. Wish Biden luck.
Parties built on a cult of personality love them purges. The leader’s way, or the highway. It’s simple; kiss the ring of the dear leader, or kiss the pavement. The titular decapitation of Elizabeth Cheney (R-WY) would be bizarre though interesting, if it weren’t for the fact that the Republican Party supposedly represents 40% (or more) of American voters – tens of millions of people. Do we consider such intolerance, in this case for refusing to tell lies, a one-off spasm of political identity, or a genuine and enduring mark of devotion for the dear leader? Whatever it is, it’s not what most people consider the American way.
Saturday, May 8
[Coronavirus] U.S. Coronavirus Totals: Cases: 33,463,072; Deaths: 595,565
[Coronavirus] India Reaches 4,000 Deaths in a Day for the First Time – Most medical observers agree that the total number of deaths is undercounted by a factor of four or five; nevertheless, 4,000 deaths a day is a gruesome official record. Throughout India the hospitals are no longer able to cope with the incoming patients – COVID-19 or otherwise – and crucial medical supplies are running out. Indian officials are for the first time identifying the India variant (B.1.617.2) as the driving factor in the rapid spread of infection. The variant is already causing havoc in neighboring Nepal, Sri Lanka, and probably Thailand. [Update: WHO names India variant as a global health threat.]
[Afghanistan] Girls’ School Bombing in Kabul Kills 50+ – The intent of Islamic extremism to punish women has been clear for a long time; this event is both a reminder and perhaps an augury for the future. [Update: 68 fatalities, mostly schoolgirls, most of them killed by secondary bombs designed to go off when the children ran into the streets.]
Sunday, May 9
[Coronavirus] Biden Administration Promotes Pandemic Optimism – Although there were numerous pronouncements and statements over the weekend by White House officials signaling their optimism about “turning the corner” on COVID-19, the real marker was the plethora of advertisements, endorsements, media coverage – all the hallmarks of a serious national effort, this time focused on getting people vaccinated. This is what a real all-out effort looks like.
[Pipeline Cyberattack] Russian Gang Linked to Pipeline Shutdown – Out of the huge underworld of cybercrime the ransomware specialists are among the most successful. In this case their initial demands for $5 million were paid. The group responsible, called DarkSide and based in Russia, has been doing this kind of thing for many years, only this time, apparently, things got out of hand. For the record, thanks to panicky overreaction to gasoline availability, this one cyberattack did more damage to the economy than any terrorism attack outside of 9/11. That it could happen at all remains the unsolved problem.
[Mass Shooting] Colorado Springs: Seven Killed at Birthday Party – The gunman was a boyfriend.
Monday, May 10
[Coronavirus] FDA Conditionally Approves Pfizer Vaccine for Ages 12 to 15 – Pending CDC approval, this will be the first-ever COVID-19 vaccine for children. On the one hand, vaccinating children must be an important part of an overall strategy; on the other hand, the U.S., along with other developed countries, had pledged to vaccinate front-line workers and the elderly in other countries before vaccinating children. [Update: CDC endorses Pfizer vaccine for ages 12 to 15; it should become available within a few days.]
[LGBTQ] Biden Restores Healthcare Protection for Transgender People – As Biden’s Health Secretary, Xavier Becerra, put it, “It is the position of the Department of Health and Human Services that everyone – including LGBTQ people – should be able to access healthcare, free from discrimination or interference, period.”
Tuesday, May 11
[Liz Cheney] Cheney Will Not Go down Quietly – Whether positioning herself for 2024, or standing on principle, we may never know, but Liz Cheney has risked her political life. In a fiery speech from the well of the House she said, “Remaining silent and ignoring the lie emboldens the liar, I will not participate in that. I will not sit back and watch in silence while others lead our party down a path that abandons the rule of law.”
[NRA] Federal Judge Dismisses NRA Bankruptcy Petition – Judge Harlan Hale of the Northern District of Texas said the NRA had not filed the petition in “good faith” and was using it to gain “unfair litigation advantage” against the New York AG seeking conviction for misusing charitable funds. There are many months of litigation yet to come.
[Climate Change] Biden Administration Approves Controversial Martha’s Vineyard Windfarm – Because the proposed windfarm is located offshore from the rich and famous, it’s been contested from the beginning. The Biden White House’s approval for 62 turbines producing power for about 400,000 homes marks a demonstrative turn from fossil fuel energy.
Wednesday, May 12
[Cybersecurity] Biden Issues Lengthy Cybersecurity Executive Order – Apparently this was already in the works, and the pipeline incident provided an appropriate foreground. The 34-page order is primarily designed to increase coordination among agencies and to develop a review board to study cyber incidents. Numerous hacks, including on government agencies, Microsoft Exchange servers, and other businesses have amped up the pressure to do something, especially to the Russians, who are behind much of it. In the previous administration an aggressive response was off-limits.
[Elections 2020] Kevin McCarthy: “Nobody is questioning the legitimacy of the presidential election” – If this isn’t the acme of contradiction, what is? The same day that the Republican House threw out one of its leaders for being unwilling to submit to the Big Lie (that Trump won the election)] McCarthy has the – chutzpah? stupidity? – to claim the issue is over; somebody must think it doesn’t matter what he says.
[U.S. Economy] Inflation Ramps Up – As expected, with the good news about the pandemic and the return of consumer confidence, Americans are diving into their backlog of things they want with a buying spree, pushing the consumer price index to 4.2%, the fastest rate of rise since 2008. Wall Street is taking the boom opportunity to do a sell off. Republicans are crying inflationary disaster. Economists are saying let’s see what things look like by the end of the year.
[Israel-Palestine War] U.S. Sends Envoy to Report on Violence between Israel and Palestine – This is about as milquetoast a response as possible. The U.S. would rather be dealing with domestic issues; good luck with that.
[Government] House Republicans Remove Liz Cheney from Leadership Position – Trump called her, among other ad hominem attacks, a “bitter, horrible human being.”
Thursday, May 13
[Coronavirus] CDC Blockbuster: Fully Vaccinated People Do Not Need to Wear Masks Indoors – There were some caveats, like where masks are required by other laws/rules for those who have conditions requiring preventive caution; but what most people heard as the take-home was “We have all longed for this moment when we can get back to some sense of normalcy.” CDC Director Rochelle Walensky sounded like Athena hurling good-news lightning bolts, and just about as dramatically unexpected. Apparently almost no one, including the technical specialists, were warned about this vastly consequential change in policy. The fallout, good and bad, came swiftly in the form of a collective sigh of relief and the barking of politicians, businesses, schools, and confused people. Like a lot of things that happened this week we will mostly have to wait and see how this all plays out.
[Cyberattack] D.C. Police Hit with Ransomware Attack – This is not getting the attention of the pipeline incident, but a second serious ransomware attack this week was engineered by the so-called Babuk group, also Russian, asking for a $4 million ransom from the D.C. police. Their threat, to release data, actually took place as they began releasing police officers’ disciplinary files and FBI messaging. The seriousness and implications of this breach have, literally, shaken police departments around the country. Expect this to amplify calls for doing something about ransomware, etc.
Friday, May 14
[Israel/Palestine] Israeli Airstrikes Escalate, More Rockets into Tel Aviv – While it looks like war, the reality may be different. Both sides have sent out “diplomatic feelers” concerning a cease-fire. There is some chatter that the Israeli military has gained what it wanted, destruction of some important mostly underground Palestinian infrastructure. Although there has been some jockeying of troops around the border, observers are not seeing the full-scale mobilization normally associated with full-on defensive or offensive activity. The U.S. will be more than happy to help broker any de-escalation of tensions. Next week may be critical.
[Capitol Riot] House Committee Agrees to Bipartisan Independent Commission to Investigate the January 6 Attack on the Capitol – Another breathtaking surprise for the week: A bipartisan committee of 10 will be charged with investigating the events of January 6, before and after, and make a report by the end of the year. Democrats wanted the focus to be solely January 6; Republicans wanted investigations of “left-wing insurrection” around the country all year, obviously a nonstarter. But here we are, a House Homeland Security investigative committee with a Democratic chair, subpoena power, and a limited mission. Let’s hope this holds together.
[Government] House Republicans Elect Elise Stefanik as New Number Three – Stefanik has been about as politically consistent as a weathervane on an Albany barn; she is far less conservative than Cheney, but appears to have no problem genuflecting to Trump. That’s what it takes in today’s rudderless, amoral GOP.
[China on Mars] Also under the U.S. Radar: China Lands a Rover on Mars – Zhurong has landed. Its three-month mission: To explore Mars for signs of life. Whatever we can do, they can do.
[Coronavirus] U.S. Coronavirus Totals: Cases: 33,668,931; Deaths: 599,314
The British PM held a news conference on Friday to talk about the possibility of further lockdowns and other restrictions returning to the UK. This was not what was promised, and yet despite the enormous political pressure to keep up the good news, Boris Johnson’s government apparently felt it was necessary to do a preemptive warning. About what? The Indian variant of the COVID-19 virus. It’s spreading, doubling infections approximately every week at the moment. It appears that it is about 50% more infectious than the already more infectious English variant. Whether it is vaccination evasive is not known. Whether it is more lethal is also not known, although preliminary results seem to show that it is not. Epidemiologists believe it will become the dominant strain in the UK, probably in less than two months. It should be noted that the Indian variant has been detected in the U.S. but so little genomic testing is done here, that we don’t know how far it has spread.
Constitutional, Political, Election Notes
The Cheney affair, which sounds so outrageous to most Democrats, liberals, and independents demonstrates the power of right-wing propaganda and the 50 to 60 million people who consume it.
AOC on MTG: “Her fixation has lasted for several years now, at this point, I think the depth of that unwellness has raised concerns for other members as well.” The GOP’s designated attack dog is still unrestrained and potentially dangerous.
Biden’s favorability has risen to 63% (AP poll) and his pandemic handling to 71% favorable. He’ll take it.
Never Trumpers threaten to form third party. Oxygen supply is available for those holding their breath.
Pinned Trend: India virus in U.S. – Here, 3% of new cases, up from 1%. In the UK, 13% up from 8%.
Pinned Point: Until the filibuster rules are modified, most of the Biden agenda will not pass the Senate.
Quote of the Week
But the latest explosion of hostilities has a long tail, following numerous aggressive actions by both Israeli security forces and far-right Jewish supremacist groups in Jerusalem. Two weeks ago, bands of Jewish extremists, including some settlers from the West Bank, marched through Palestinian-populated areas of the holy city, chanting “Death to Arabs,” attacking bystanders and damaging Palestinian property and homes. Israeli attempts to evict a number of Palestinian families in the East Jerusalem neighborhood of Sheikh Jarrah — a microcosm of what Palestinians view as part of a long history of dispossession and erasure at the hands of the Israeli state — had stirred Palestinian solidarity protests in various parts of the occupied territories and Israel proper.
Ishaan Tharoor, “American Officials Call for ‘Calm’ in Israel. But the US is Part of the Problem,” The Washington Post, 05/10/2021.
[The IUY Weekly Journal assumes readers are least casually familiar with names and events. For more details, check with internet search.]