IUY: Weekly Journal, Vol.2 No. 46, Week of May 29 – June 4, 2021

Indivisible Upper Yellowstone – Weekly Journal

The Week of Saturday, May 29 through Friday, June 4, 2021 [Vol.2 No.46]

Defending Democracy

The Week’s Most Notable

On Memorial Day, President Biden made the usual speech at Arlington National Cemetery. It contained the usual reminders of wars past and the motivation of patriotic heroism, but his speech contained something unprecedented: “Democracy is worth fighting for and dying for; but democracy itself is in peril, here at home and around the world. What we do now, how we honor the memory of the fallen, will determine whether or not democracy will long endure.” Echoing Lincoln, Biden began the process of reframing what American elections, legislation, and the “soul of America” are ultimately about in the coming years – preserving democracy. He understands this to be preserving “all men are created equal” in the multicultural approach to governance. He also knows the current far-right Republican party rejects multiculturalism and is publicly promoting nondemocratic behaviors such as voter suppression, election day intimidation, and allowing partisans to override ballot counting. In short, the Republican electoral policy is that any election they don’t win is automatically illegitimate – a cornerstone of authoritarianism.

Despite a lack of focus, this was unofficially “notice the violent crime week.” With surprising little fanfare, other than what would be expected from right-wing media, the rising rate of violent crime throughout the U.S. (homicides up nearly 40%) is beginning to show up in polls – both Democrat and Republican – and in a rising drumbeat of media coverage. So far, Biden and the Democrats have been able to tuck this issue behind COVID-19 and the economy, but that already looks like it won’t last. The issue is also instantly enmeshed with police reform and the right-wing attack on the “defund the police” movement. Most analysts relate the rise to pandemic conditions; some are even claiming that it will decrease now that the country is “normalizing.” Unfortunately, as complicated as reality might be, violent crime gets attention, and the attention almost always turns into right-wing advantage.

Saturday, May 29

[Coronavirus] U.S. Coronavirus Totals: Cases: 34,106,679; Deaths: 609,552

[Coronavirus] U.S. Travel Highest Since Pandemic Onset – More than 7 million largely vaccinated and mask-less people took to the air and an estimated 37 million hopped into vehicles, going places for the Memorial Day weekend.  Usually, when countries get exuberant about outlasting the virus, there’s a lockdown coming. But this time, thanks to almost 200 million vaccinations, the majority of adults are fully vaccinated. This could break the link between the rise in the number of cases and the number of hospitalizations and deaths.

Sunday, May 30

[Texas Voter Suppression] Texas Dems Block Voter Suppression Legislation – Waiting until the very last minute, the Democratic legislators walked out and killed the quorum necessary to pass the legislation. It was a bold and unexpected move. It forced Texas’s Republican governor to call a special session and continues the high-profile PR debate about the extreme elements in the bill. The bill will pass in the special session. [Update: In a fit of political pique, Gov. Abbott threatened to pull the pay from all state legislators. Probably not going to happen.]

[Israel Elections] Netanyahu May Finally Be Out – After 12 years in office, numerous legal and criminal procedures, corruption upheaval, and electoral chaos, it appears the opposition to Netanyahu agrees on one thing: it’s time to get rid of him. Center and right-wing opposition parties have agreed on a power-sharing arrangement, which though not technically a done deal, appears to have cleared a path for Netanyahu’s departure.

[Infrastructure] GOP Senate Negotiator Says “Real Compromise” Is Possible – Sen. Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV) remarked about the possibility of Democrats and Republicans finding a compromise on the infrastructure bill, as both sides have “given ground” in terms of dollars involved. Unfortunately, what she does not mention is that Democrats want to pay for the bill using tax increases on corporations and the wealthy, and the Republicans will have none of it. It’s important to remember the background timeline: Pelosi and Schumer announced a couple of months ago that by the end of June Democrats will have taken the outline of the infrastructure bill and converted it into legislative language. This is an arduous process. Once the text of a bill is ready, it will be delivered to both House and Senate for deliberation. That will take most of July and probably into early August. The bill will pass the House, but the usual sticking point will be in the Senate where at some point, say August, the bill will, in all likelihood, need to be passed by budget reconciliation and that will require the votes of senators Manchin and Sinema. Until that day, expect the legislative waffling and warbling on both sides to be continuous, mostly to build pressure for the final vote. There will be some real negotiating, almost impossible to detect with the background of party propaganda and media hype.

Monday, May 31

[Capitol Riot] House to Mount Own January 6 Investigation – As expected, members of the Democratic House leadership are discussing approaches to taking up an investigation of the Capitol insurrection, which the Senate rejected last week. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi favors a special committee with subpoena power.

[China Population] China Opens to Three-Child Policy – Acknowledging its declining birth rate – characteristic of most developed or industrializing nations – the leadership of the Communist Party is now in the position of needing to actively promote childbirth, as China is beginning to develop a labor shortage in crucial industries. Whether this is a threat to environmental population management remains to be seen. Most countries will eventually need to juggle native birthrates, immigration, and economic development.

[Tulsa Massacre] National Coverage for Hundredth Anniversary of Tulsa Massacre – For the first time, widespread national media coverage was given to mark the 1921 massacre in which white mobs killed at least 300 black people and destroyed 35 square blocks of a prosperous community known as Black Wall Street. It wasn’t the only such atrocity but it was unusual in the ferocity of the event and the depth of cover-up that followed.

Tuesday, June 1

[U.S. Coup] Flynn Says U.S. Should Have Myanmar-like Coup – Normally rhetorical firebombs from people like Michael Flynn are easily ignored or dismissed; but this time he uttered a magic word, “coup.” Coming from an ex-U.S. General and uttered in a QAnon conclave, where talk of a second Civil War often flitters through febrile minds, this may have struck a meme. Combined with Trump’s announcement that he will be back in office by August, it set the tone for not only a grand liberal troll but for a view of the future shared by a large percentage of the GOP. Unfortunately, attention must be paid. As law enforcement people will tell you, even the threat of violence cannot be ignored.

[Cyber Attack] Russian Ransomware Cyberattack Closes Largest U.S. Meat Plant – JBS, a Brazilian company that operates the largest beef processing plant in the U.S., was shut down for several days by a ransomware operation originating in Russia. First a major pipeline, now a major food supplier, it’s beginning to look like the U.S. has some vulnerabilities. Assuming that nothing at this international level happens in Russia without Putin’s blessing, mark these two attacks as somehow related to Russia’s “tweak the Eagle’s beak” policy prior to the scheduled Biden-Putin meeting. In any case, there is much egg dripping from faces of U.S. cyber security officials. Expect a shakeup in people, policy, and priorities.

[Immigration] Biden Ends Trump’s “Remain in Mexico” Policy – Sequestering Central American asylum-seekers in Mexico was always a thorn of contention between the countries involved. Ending the policy has allowed about 11,000 migrants to pursue their claims from within the U.S.

[Florida Transgender Athletes] DeSantis Signs Law Banning Transgender Females in School Sports – High on the conservative anti-social justice warrior’s wish list, Florida is following the national Republican policy of targeting LGBTQ people in any way they can. Caring nothing about lives, coverage is what they crave. [Update: New Biden proclamation makes June Pride Month. Biden also issued an executive order expanding Title IX to protect LGBTQ students.]

[Climate Crisis] Biden Suspends Arctic Oil and Gas Leases – Reversing the Trump “drill baby drill” policy does not end the problem; the leases were already granted and court fights will ensue. The Interior Department will now conduct a comprehensive analysis – a “can we clean this up” review of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge situation. Expect this to drag on for at least a year.

[New Mexico Election] The Win in New Mexico Was Expected, the Margin Was Not – Democrat Melanie Stansbury won her special election House seat by 25 points; Biden won the district by 23 points. Beware reading messages in tea leaves, but since her Trumpist opponent hammered away at crime, some are thinking the GOP talking points around crime are not so effective. Don’t bet on it.

Wednesday, June 2

[U.S. Economy] Census Bureau Study Indicates COVID-19 Relief Bill Money Worked – Among other things, food shortages fell by 42% and depression cases dropped by 20% as the coronavirus relief money did as planned, bailing out some of the poorest families in the country.

[Coronavirus] Biden Announces Final Vaccination Push – Capping a truly massive national mobilization that so far has gotten COVID-19 vaccine into more than 60% of adult American arms, Biden outlined plans to get the country to 70% by his target date of July 4. The light at the end of that tunnel is Anheuser-Busch offering free beer for the recently vaccinated.

[Trump Blog] Blog? What Blog? – It was up on the web a little over three weeks, but Trump’s attempted blogging looked more like a big blunder, and boring at that. Who says Trump doesn’t learn from his mistakes?

Thursday, June 3

[Cyber Attack] DOJ Raises Priority of Ransomware Investigation – It was predictable, when ransomware and cyberattacks begin to seriously affect business, the bottom line, not to mention national security, that agencies up and down the federal line would be under pressure to take the issue seriously and get some results. Hence, the DOJ has now upped the rank of ransomware to the highest priority: terrorism…

[Economy] Economic Data Show Improvement – Employers added 559,000 jobs in May, not as high as expected, but close and still indicating an improving economy. Likewise, the unemployment rate dropped from 6.3% to 5.8%. Interestingly, the economy seems to be improving enough that Biden let it be known he was no longer opposed to dropping the $300 additional unemployment insurance benefits. Doubtful the Republicans will give him any credit.  

Friday, June 4

[International Economy] G7 Agrees on Global Minimum Corporate Tax Rate – At least rich countries can agree on money: there shall be a minimum global corporate tax rate of 15%. This is to head off the ongoing “race to the bottom” where countries offer ever lower tax rates, making it ever harder for other countries to collect whatever taxes they impose. The next step is to take this agreement into some kind of global pact.

[Mueller Investigation] Donald McGahn Testifies before House Committee – After dodging House subpoenas for almost 2 years, McGahn’s testimony behind closed doors will be available in text form in roughly a week. Since most of his testimony for the Mueller investigation is already a matter of public record, there is not likely to be much in the way of revelation.

[Gun Control] Federal Judge Up-Ends Decades Old California Assault Weapons Ban – Focusing on the popular AR-15, which Judge Roger Benitez called the Swiss Army knife of assault weapons, he said that the definitions of banned military weapons should no longer apply to guns such as the AR-15. For the record, the AR-15 is the most commonly sold weapon in the U.S. (some 50 million); it is extremely versatile and in fact modifying it has become a subculture.

[Trump Facebook] Trump Facebook Suspension Continues at Least until 2023 – The Facebook Oversight Board will reconsider the situation in January 7, 2023.

[Coronavirus] U.S. Coronavirus Totals: Cases: 34,192,773; Deaths: 611,815

Coronavirus Notes

On reaching 600,000 dead: Because Americans are celebrating liberation from constipated life under COVID-19, few, including most of the media, have noted that we reached 600,000 COVID-19 related dead this week. Only a few events in our history come close: already in the rearview mirror, the Second World War (405,400). The Civil War (620,000) will be surpassed within the month, and the Spanish flu (640,000) by the end of summer. What is staggering, beyond the numbers, is the apparent ability of Americans to absorb the impact of Covid carnage without much comment. This leads to an observation that for all the lip service honoring the dead, which might be real at the personal level, it is clearly not true at the national level. Without the promotional subsidy provided by government or other leadership, there’s hardly any ceremony or commemoration. In the current partisan neurosis of our politics, government and the Democrats want to promote the good coronavirus news and the Republicans want to forget the bad, so nobody highlights reaching 600,000 dead. This says a lot about private grief, and of public grief being largely a matter of propaganda.

Constitutional, Political, Election Notes

Say it once, say it twice: Manchin and Sinema will have their epiphanies – or not – sometime in August, probably over the infrastructure bill. Until then, political statements and media coverage will mark occasionally significant jockeying. As should also be said again, most American voters don’t give a damn about the details of filibuster. 

Wonder why Republicans don’t follow the big lie? This is always hard for Democrats and many Independents to get their heads around. First, right-wing propaganda, especially Fox News, never uses this term. For them, as heard by the 40 million or so in their information bubble, it’s always the stolen election. Fox and the other right-wing media and commentators repeat, and repeat, and repeat that the 2020 election was rigged. Second, if they hear any other explanation for why Biden is president, that’s immediately labeled fake news. Finally, everywhere a Republican turns – whether to the media, political representatives, even their churches and trusted friends – the narrative is reinforced.  It’s the language of their tribe. For them, the words “big lie” triggers an instant response, “fake news.” End of story.

Pinned Trend: The India variant is, thank goodness, a problem but not a disaster for most of the world. The current vaccines seem to work. Now let’s hope that’s true for the new Vietnam variant.

Pinned Point: Until the filibuster rules are modified, most of the Biden agenda will not pass the Senate.

Quote of the Week

Like the Swiss Army Knife, the popular AR-15 rifle is a perfect combination of home defense weapon and homeland defense equipment. . .. This is an average case about average guns used in average ways for average purposes. One is to be forgiven if one is persuaded by news media and others that the nation is awash with murderous AR-15 assault rifles. The facts, however, do not support this hyperbole, and facts matter.

 Judge Robert Benitez, U.S. District Court, Southern District of California, Miller vs Bonta, 06/04/2021.

 

[The IUY Weekly Journal assumes readers are at least casually familiar with names and events. For more details, check with internet search.]

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