Indivisible Upper Yellowstone – Weekly Journal
The Week of Saturday, June 19 through Friday, June 25, 2021 [Vol.2 No.49]
A Mixed Bag
The Week’s Most Notable
This week a lot happened but no single thing seems to stick out as highly memorable. Biden did get a “breakthrough deal” on a bipartisan infrastructure package, but it’s given little chance of holding together. Highlighting infrastructure in a bad way, half of a 12-story condominium tower in Florida collapsed, apparently killing more than 150. Biden proposed some programs to tackle the rising crime rate, and got about half a clap for his efforts. Some prominent media folks and a few Republicans decided, inscrutably, to slur the U.S. military and the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff in particular. (What poll said that was a good idea?) There will be a House Select Committee to investigate the Jan. 6 insurrection. The Supreme Court upheld free speech by allowing a cheerleader to use the F word in a personal Snapchat for which she was expelled from school. Giuliani got his law license temporarily revoked, while former VP Pence all but said goodbye to politics. The U.S. government officially recognized UFOs but won’t join in any of the conspiratorial speculation. And so it went this week.
Saturday, June 19
[Coronavirus] U.S. Coronavirus Totals: Cases: 34,405,862; Deaths: 617,257
[Coronavirus] Brazil Records More Than 500,000 COVID-19 Deaths – With their head of government, Jair Bolsanaro, the poster child for COVID-19 denialism, and with less than 12% of their population fully vaccinated, Brazilians are gaining on the U.S. for the worst COVID-19 death record, but still are behind by more than 110,000 deaths. Of course, as in most developing countries, their COVID-19 statistics are reliably and often massively underestimated.
Sunday, June 20
[Afghanistan] Taliban Takes Two Provincial Capitals – As predicted, when U.S. and allied forces leave regions of Afghanistan, the Taliban will move in after defeating lackluster Afghanistan military units. It’s likely that eventually this progression will affect enough of Afghanistan to become an international problem, yet again. There is some slight hope that the Taliban’s military progress will be slow enough for them to opt for a more “negotiated” realignment of the country. [Update: U.S. intelligence assessment warns that Afghanistan government could collapse within six months.]
Monday, June 21
[Supreme Court] SCOTUS Ruling Nudges NCAA toward Athlete Payments – The ruling applied to education-related payments to athletes, and said nothing about salary payments; still, the unanimous ruling indicated that the court was looking unfavorably on the monopoly position of the NCAA. Though obviously baby steps, this ruling has legs.
[California Courts] Appeals Court Blocks California Assault Weapons Ruling – Although the initial ruling that overturned California’s assault weapon ban was shocking, the appeals court ruling was not, mainly because it doesn’t overturn the ruling but temporarily continues the ban while the case proceeds through the courts. The case will be tied up in litigation for a long time, which will not stop it from becoming a political issue in future California elections.
[Health Insurance] Medicaid Enrollment Exceeds Medicare for the First Time – Largely due to the pandemic, Medicaid added 9.7 million new enrollees, bringing the total to 74 million. The increase pushed Medicaid coverage beyond the 63 million Americans under Medicare. This happened even while 12 states continue to reject Medicaid expansion.
Tuesday, June 22
[Voting Rights Bill] Senate Republicans Filibuster Voter Rights Bill Debate – The move left the Democrats with two good talking points, one against the filibuster, and the other about Republicans not even wanting to debate voting rights. There was considerable interest about the vote: would it be effective against Republicans or positive for influencing Manchin and Sinema. Very much “inside baseball” as far as most of the public is concerned.
[New York Primary] Adams Leads NYC Democratic Mayoral Primary – Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams led 13 other Democratic primary candidates by the end of the day on Tuesday. However, in New York City’s first ranked-choice election, the process of counting votes, which has just begun with the mail-in ballots, is still open for Maya Wiley and Kathryn Garcia, although they trailed by more than 10 points. For the record, the Democratic NYC mayoral candidate is almost guaranteed to become mayor in the fall elections.
Wednesday, June 23
[Florida Building Collapse] Half of 12 Story South Florida Condo Collapses – As if to punctuate the congressional debate about infrastructure, the massive partial collapse of a high-rise in Surfside, Florida has at least 100 missing and one dead. The scene is reminiscent of the devastation at the federal building in Oklahoma City, although in this case the cause is unknown. Intensive rescue operations are underway, but the scale of the devastation and the stormy weather conditions will make it difficult. [Update: 159 missing, 4 dead, rescue phase ending, no definitive cause found yet.]
[Coronavirus] Some States See Rise in New COVID-19 Infections Due to Delta Variant – Arkansas, Nevada, Utah, and Missouri have had notable rises in COVID-19 infections, which health authorities are tracing to their lower than 50% vaccination rate. The Delta variant now accounts for more than 20% of all new infections in the U.S. It is at least 100% more infectious than the original virus, and is dangerous for anyone not vaccinated, young or old. Warnings from CDC and other health agencies that the Delta variant has become a significant threat increased throughout the week.
[Gun Control] Biden Proposes a Multifaceted Program to Counter Violent Crime – In response to the perceived rise in homicides and other violent crime, with its attendant political outcry from the right and even some on the left, Biden announced a wide range of approaches including more money for police, spending on community violence prevention programs, and cracking down on gun sellers who violate federal laws. The scattershot approach seemed to intensify Republican complaints while doing little to inspire Democrats.
[Election 2020] Michigan GOP Report: No Evidence of Widespread or Systematic Fraud – The surprising report produced by the Republican-led Michigan Senate Oversight Committee presented a point-by-point rebuttal of Trump’s claims of voter fraud. Citing lack of any credible evidence to the contrary, the report rejected Trump’s claims that Michigan was stolen from him.
[U.S. Military] Rep. Gaetz, Tucker Carlson, Laura Ingraham, Other Right-Wing Media Attack Military – Right-wing attacks on the military, while not unprecedented, amount to a real head scratcher. Traditionally the military is the golden calf of Republicans and the right wing, untouchable, forever fundable. And yet, Ingraham called for defunding the military (familiar phrase), at least until it does away with wokeness and CRT. Who understands what they’re talking about? Who cares? Since when is bashing the military a good look?
Thursday, June 24
[Economy] Inflation Spike Temporary or Not? – That inflation spiked on some items – lumber, used cars, electronic components – is a fact. The interpretation of how severe and enduring this inflation will be has become a political football. Fed Chair Jerome Powell said on Tuesday that the spiking inflation will be temporary and recovery will follow from adjustments to the current supply chain problems.
[Infrastructure] Biden Negotiates Bipartisan Bill on Basic Infrastructure – After several weeks of torturous negotiations, up to eleven Republican s and five Democratic senators worked with Biden to announce a deal on an $973 billion package covering five years and $1.2 trillion over eight years. The agreement confined itself to more or less traditional infrastructure – roads, ports, railroads – and through a combination of collecting delinquent taxes and repurposing some unspent pandemic money would be paid for without raising taxes. Biden also stressed that in addition to the bipartisan infrastructure bill, Democrats would produce their own infrastructure bill relying on budget reconciliation to pass. In an environment where McConnell had promised that none of Biden’s agenda would pass, it sounded like a big chunk of it might even proceed with bipartisan support and a 60-40 Senate approval. It was hard to believe, literally. It took less than four hours for the onslaught of outrage from the right-wing media and other GOP members of Congress. McConnell portrayed the “partisan Democratic infrastructure bill” as an act of bad faith, presumably a launching pad for trying to undo the bipartisan agreement.
[Supreme Court] “Vulgar Cheerleader” Case: Supreme Court Rules in Favor of Free Speech – The 8-1 decision emphasized that while schools have some responsibility for what students say outside of the school, the general principle is that First Amendment rights apply, in this case to a vulgar Snapchat by a disgruntled cheerleader.
[Jan. 6 Investigation] Pelosi Announces House Select Committee on Capitol Riot – Following the Senate rejection of a bipartisan 9/11-style investigative commission for the events of January 6, 2021, the Capitol insurrection, Pelosi had promised that an investigation process would be created in the House. Details of the select committee’s mandate and composition are yet to be determined. Its process will be resisted by Republicans involved with the event, its proceedings will provide media fodder for a year or more, the Democrats are in charge this time, and the DOJ will be less reluctant to enforce subpoenas.
[Giuliani] NY Appellate Panel Suspends Giuliani’s Law License – Based on his communicating “demonstrably false and misleading statements to courts, lawmakers and the public at large,” the panel temporarily revoked Giuliani’s license and strongly intimated that it might be made permanent, pending appeal. Most observers agree this is only the beginning of Giuliani’s legal difficulties.
[Mike Pence] Pence Distances Himself from Trump – Perhaps it was inevitable, since Trump continues to abuse the reputation of his former VP even as Pence continued to perform an elaborate rhetorical dance around the fact that he certified the Biden election. However, in a speech at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library Pence said “he will always be proud” that he and Congress reconvened to certify the 2020 vote. This probably was the prologue to a Pence disappearing act.
Friday, June 25
[George Floyd] George Floyd Murderer Sentenced to 22.5 Years in Prison – Former Minneapolis policeman Derek Chauvin, found guilty of murder, was given a sentence well above minimal guidelines. He will be eligible for parole in 15 years. It was one of the longest sentences ever given a former police officer, yet was found unsatisfactory by those who wanted the maximum of 30 years.
[Climate Change] Northwest States Begin Record High Temperature Weekend – Sustained high temperatures above 100° F will be common along the inland Northwest: Washington, Idaho, Oregon, and Northern California. Western Canada is preparing for a possible national record of at least 114°F. Forest fire risk is extreme.
[DOJ – Georgia] DOJ Files Lawsuit against Georgia for Voting Restrictions – Legally this is a difficult case to make. The DOJ must prove not only that black voter will be harmed by the new Georgia laws, but that the harm was intentional (“were passed with a discriminatory purpose”). Since this is the first DOJ case against what will prove to be a number of state-based voter suppression laws, expect it to be an exceptionally lengthy and bitter litigation. In fact, it’s unlikely that the outcome will be early enough to affect the 2022 elections.
[UFOs] U.S. Releases UFO Report – Finally the U.S. government admits that unidentified flying objects exist, but that expression is to be taken literally – unexplainable things do exist, 144 instances to be exact, but the report found no proof of aliens. “Inconclusive” pretty much summarizes the report and is guaranteed not to make anyone happy.
[Coronavirus] U.S. Coronavirus Totals: Cases: 34,483,548; Deaths: 619,193
Introducing Delta+, no it’s not a toothpaste. In fact, it’s a new variant of the India virus, also originating in India, which in addition to the highly contagious and somewhat more virulent aspects of the Delta virus, has added some of the characteristics of the South African variant noted for its ability to escape vaccine immunization. Delta+ was identified in January and has been found in at least 11 countries, including the U.S. It’s in the “arithmetic phase”, where infections increase slowly. Whether it will replace (outcompete) the currently ascending Delta variant remains to be seen and, unfortunately, knowledge of its characteristics is imprecise. If it is in fact able to escape current vaccines, or significantly reduce their efficacy, it will present a massive challenge because it will require vaccine reformulation. As with the Delta variant, which was reported several months before it became a “public” problem, the Delta+ variant is something to keep an eye on.
Politics, Legislation, Election Notes
Biden’s bipartisan infrastructure deal: if it manages to become law, it will be one of the all-time greatest legislative feats. It will have proven that at least on infrastructure a significant segment of Republican legislators feel the need for bringing something positive back to their constituents – a bridge here, an improved airport there. He will also have given senators Manchin and Sinema their bipartisan victory, which at least in theory could release them to support other Democratic initiatives through budget reconciliation, and at least some negotiating wiggle-room on finding a way to modify the filibuster. Then Biden, in his joy, seemed to suggest that this deal would be veto-linked with the much bigger, much more controversial infrastructure bill that the Democrats are concocting to pass under budget reconciliation. McConnell, Graham, and other Republicans – not to mention a screaming right-wing media – immediately cried foul, that the Democrats were torpedoing their own bipartisanship. It’s a lame excuse, but it probably indicates that McConnell will pull at least two of the 11 Republicans senators reportedly committed to the bipartisan bill, and that will be the end of that. Democrats, including Biden, can and should scream louder than the Republicans, but in the end, McConnell doesn’t give a damn. He will have killed Biden’s initiative.
Voting rights bills enter a summer of flux. Senate Republicans don’t want any voting rights bills. Democrats are somewhat divided on what should be in the bills and, in fact, the summer may see some major bill components rearranged. It’s generally recognized that neither of the current bills cover the GOP state-level maneuvers to manipulate ballot counting. Underlying all the Democrats’ concerns is the fact that it will require modification of the filibuster before any voter rights bill will clear the Senate. The media is having great difficulty covering the entire subject; for example, half the media talks about “eliminating the filibuster” while the other half uses “modifying the filibuster.” Very different things.
Pinned Trend: Not only has the Delta variant becoming the dominant form in the UK but is at 23% of all cases here in the U.S. It looks like it will also be joined by its cousin, Delta+.
Pinned Point: Until the filibuster rules are modified, most of the Biden agenda will not pass the Senate.
Quote of the Week
I’ve read Mao Zedong. I’ve read Karl Marx. I’ve read Lenin. That doesn’t make me a communist. So what is wrong with understanding . . . the country which we are here to defend? . . . I want to understand White rage. And I’m White. . . . What is it that caused thousands of people to assault [the Capitol] and try to overturn the Constitution of the United States of America. What caused that? I want to find that out.
Gen. Mark A. Milley, Chair of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, in testimony to House Armed Services Committee, 06/23/2021.
[The IUY Weekly Journal assumes readers are at least casually familiar with names and events. For more details, check with internet search.]