Indivisible Upper Yellowstone – Weekly Journal
The Week of Saturday, May 15 through Friday, May 21, 2021 [Vol.2 No.44]
The Week’s Most Notable
Last week, as missiles began to rain from the sky over Tel Aviv and bombs began falling in Gaza, it looked like once again Israel and Palestine were about to commit to total war. By the end of this week, it was over. Often labeled by the media as a “fragile ceasefire,” the serious fighting actually was over. Both sides claimed victory, with Hamas boasting how many rockets it fired and Israel claiming destruction of the Hamas tunnel infrastructure. As usual, reliable facts about the origin of the attacks are hard to come by, but the evidence so far leads in the direction of Israel deliberately provoking a Hamas reaction, probably to advance PM Netanyahu’s political fortunes. If so, it worked, Netanyahu’s “wartime government” has surged in popularity. Hamas is still in control, although Gaza once again lies mainly in ruins, more than 200 dead, and a humanitarian crisis looming for lack of supplies, medical support, and the ever-present COVID-19 threat. The other leader benefiting from the acute outbreak appears to be President Biden. He promised last weekend that the war would be over quickly; surprising many, it was. Biden did not and could not claim credit, but it appears that forceful U.S. diplomacy, combined with Israeli worries over an internal uprising of Palestinian-Israeli citizens, was the right combination of pressures. If the war has any long-term consequences, it might be that for a new generation of Jewish Americans, this did not put the Israeli government in a good light.
Saturday, May 15
[Coronavirus] U.S. Coronavirus Totals: Cases: 33,699,338; Deaths: 599,892
[Israel/Palestine War] Israeli Airstrikes Destroy Media Tower, Kill 10 in a Refugee Camp – Although claiming to be striking at Hamas military in, around, or under the media tower, the symbolic value of attacking the offices of Al Jazeera and the Associated Press seems to have registered as the more likely motivation.
[Arizona 2020 Election] Arizona GOP Election Official: Trump Statement “Unhinged” – Maricopa County Recorder Stephen Richer, a Republican who leads the county’s election department, forcibly rebutted Trump’s claim that the election database of Maricopa County had been deleted. The county still had a copy or two. A few hours later the so-called election audit, run by Cyber Ninjas, admitted it also had a copy. The incident demonstrated what the audit is all about – garnering ongoing PR coverage while gaslighting the American election process.
Sunday, May 16
[Trump Scam] UN Chief Calls for Israel-Hamas Ceasefire – UN Sec. Gen. Antonio Guterres indicated the wheels are in motion at the UN to bring the conflict before the Security Council. All over the world, and particularly in the U.S., governments are awakening to the necessity of dealing with the latest conflict. Most would prefer to ignore it. While the Biden government remains publicly aligned with the Israelis, private negotiation is said to be “tougher.” In the U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders has prepared a bill to cut Israeli subsidies. Similar leverages have been floated by other congresspeople. These are familiar reactions, most of which at best augment ongoing pressure.
[Cyberattack] Remember the Colonial Pipeline Sabotage? – It was only a couple of weeks ago and many politicians were screaming disaster. The pipeline has resumed normal operations and will need about a week to catch up with supplies. It was shut down for six days; earlier in the year it was shut down for 10 days because of the freeze in Texas.
[California Wildfires] California Wildfires Season Begins – A thousand-acre fire near Los Angeles, probably an arson event, has forced more than a thousand people from their homes.
[CDC Guidelines] CDC Spends Weekend Doing Damage Control – Cleanup over the confusion about masks and statements concerning schools kept CDC officials hopping all over the networks to explain what they meant, or didn’t mean, or what people got wrong, or whatever. Other than fodder for right-wing propaganda, most people seem to be sticking with whatever they were doing before the CDC announcements. Core message: If you’ve been fully vaccinated, you don’t need to wear a mask, indoors or outdoors, except in crowded conditions.
Monday, May 17
[Abortion] Supreme Court Signals a New Look at Roe v. Wade – For many, putting the Mississippi abortion law on the docket means that the conservative majority of the court intends to begin their work dismantling Roe v. Wade. The case will not be heard or decided until about a year from now. Expect this issue to be important in the 2022 elections.
[Coronavirus] Biden: Cases Are Down in All 50 States – Americans are not euphoric, but the news is good; COVID-19 is declining rapidly. Along with a general feeling that caution and continuity of mitigation seem like the right things to do, Biden reiterated that we still have a way to go for herd immunization, and that the U.S. has a need to help other nations combat the virus. To this end he promised another 20 million doses of vaccine for Covax.
Tuesday, May 18
[Police Relations] Washington State Initiates Most Wide-Ranging Police Reforms – Gov. Jay Inslee (D) announced he signed into law a dozen police reform measures including use of chokeholds, neck restraints, no knock warrants, and the use of excessive force. Inslee said that Washington state now has “the best, most comprehensive, most transparent, most effective police accountability laws in the United States.” In other words, something to compare against whatever the more authoritarian GOP states choose to do, or more likely not do.
[Trump Probe] New York AG’s Trump Investigation Expands to Include Criminal Acts – It began as a civil investigation, but the new move that combines the efforts of the New York AG’s office and the Manhattan DA will also include investigation of criminal offenses committed by the Trump Organization or any of its members. Practically, this is not a legal move but a PR warning, probably as much as anything designed to influence a key witness, Trump’s money manager Allen Weisselberg. Most observers expect legal action, probably in the form of subpoenas and indictments, before the end of summer.
Wednesday, May 19
[Jan. 6 Commission] McCarthy and McConnell Oppose January 6 Commission – Although the House passed the bill establishing a bipartisan January 6 investigation commission, a vote which included 35 Republicans, its chances in the Senate are nil thanks to McConnell’s opposition. (Another casualty due to the 60-vote requirement of filibuster.) Put simply, the Republican calculation is that it’s better to look bad now on the assumption that by the time the 2022 elections roll around what they did will be forgotten, whereas an actual commission would continue to make bad (GOP) news and spectacular headlines well into next year.
[Abortion] Texas Institutes Fetal Heart Beat Abortion Ban – Gov. Greg Abbott (R) signed a law banning abortions as early as six weeks into a pregnancy – the so-called fetal heartbeat limit. The law will be struck down in the courts up to, but maybe not through. the Supreme Court, which has just agreed to hear the Mississippi law that uses 15 weeks as a limit.
[Coronavirus] EU to Open Borders to Vaccinated Travelers – The desire for tourists is palpable in Europe, despite uneven COVID-19 situations among the 27 member countries. The plan is to accept visitors from countries that have approved levels of mitigation and from people who are fully immunized by approved vaccines. Three complications: How are the vaccinations going to be verified? What will the individual EU countries set as their own conditions? What will the policies be of the countries sending tourists? Tourism in 2021 may be more open but it won’t be simple.
Thursday, May 20
[Israel/Palestine] Israel – Hamas Ceasefire Declared – Hamas made its statement; the Israeli Defense Forces took out most of its primary targets; Netanyahu got his political reaffirmation; and beginning Friday morning this “war” is over. Picking up the pieces of a broken Gaza is going to be painful, expensive, and an international project. For the U.S., at least for young Jewish Americans, this might have been something of a wake-up call. Americans tend to see Israel through the Jewish-American lens, which is a decades-old proto-liberal point of view, when for quite some time, at least a decade, Jewish demographics in Israel have skewed dramatically to the far-right in politics. The practice, if not the stated policy, of Netanyahu led governments is a unitary Israeli state (absolutely no two-state solution), some kind of apartheid configuration, and Israeli ownership of most Arab lands. This does not look good to a Democrat-Liberal (Jewish or otherwise).
[Economy] New Unemployment Claims Dropped to 444,000 – This was a new low for the pandemic era and a clear sign that hiring is on the rebound. The number makes it likely that the disappointing April employment figures were an undercount. As predicted, the economy is in fact growing robustly – bordering on overheating.
[Capitol Security] House Passes $1.9 Billion Bill for Capitol Security – The bill is unlikely to pass as is in the Senate because Republicans (a) don’t like giving money to purely government projects, and (b) this project calls attention to Jan. 6, which is becoming a taboo subject for the GOP.
[IRS] Treasury Reveals Plan to Close “Tax Gap” – As promised by Biden, the IRS is developing a program to go after tax cheats to the tune of recovering up to $700 billion. This time they have the funds to go for it.
Friday, May 21
[Government] White House Offers Infrastructure Bill Compromise Proposal – Dropping their proposal from $2.25 trillion to $1.7 trillion seems like a sincere compromise effort from Democrats. It certainly elicited loud screaming from the “go big” faction of the Democratic Party. Of course, the Republicans rejected the offer since they have already said their own $568 billion offer was too big. Now Democrats are wondering if they should pump their offer back up to the original $2.25 trillion. Reality: Democrats will (likely) pass an infrastructure bill at or above $2 trillion by using budget reconciliation and with no Republican votes. Timeline: Details of the bill by end of June, with passage in July or early August.
[Mars] China Takes Its New Rover for a Spin on Mars – The U.S. isn’t the only country making tracks on Mars these days.
[Coronavirus] U.S. Coronavirus Totals: Cases: 33,862,694; Deaths: 603,408
Racism Protest Notes
Murderous police incidents continue to accumulate. Just this week: Louisiana State police released all footage related to Ronald Greene’s arrest; he was beaten to death while in custody. Minnesota AG to prosecute in Daunte Wright case where policewoman shot him to death instead of tasing him. North Carolina shooting of Andrew Brown Jr. called “justified” but body cam video makes the claim disputable.
Constitutional, Political, Election Notes
A consensus seems to be forming (outside of right-wing media) that the national Republican Party is descending into babble, propaganda, and seeming disarray. On the other hand, states controlled by Republican legislatures and governors are busy passing voter suppression legislation with remarkably consistent content (i.e., coordinated) and in many cases scheming to take vote tabulation out of the hands of nonpartisan officials and put it under control of partisan legislatures. The worse it gets, the more pressure it puts on Democrats to pass HR 1 and HR 4 (S1, S4263), the For the People Act and the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act. Passage will require modifying the rules of filibuster, and deal making with Senators Manchin and Sinema. Look for this to become a pressing topic in August, culminating with votes sometime in September.
Pinned Trend: India’s pandemic reporting is not reliable, but it appears that the Indian variant, H.1.617.2, is now the dominant strain in India. It Is more contagious than any previous strain, and still relatively little is known about it. Is this specific variant covered by existing vaccines, and if so, how well?
Pinned Point: Until the filibuster rules are modified, most of the Biden agenda will not pass the Senate.
Quote of the Week
I was filled with all the anger of the universe, but when I heard that one of my daughters was alive, I said thank God because this girl might capture some—even a little—of my daughters’ smiles because she is their sister.
Riyad Eshkuntana, who lost his wife and four children to bombing in Gaza, quoted by Reuters, 05/18/2021.
[The IUY Weekly Journal assumes readers are at least casually familiar with names and events. For more details, check with internet search.]