Indivisible Upper Yellowstone – Weekly Journal
The Week of Saturday, June 26 through Friday, July 2, 2021 [Vol.2 No.50]
Northwest Heat Wave
The Week’s Most Notable
This was one of the hottest weeks on record, especially for the West, where official all-time records were set, including 118°F for Portland, Oregon. Temperatures were high throughout the country although not in the all-time record range. In the East, tropical storms are already hitting the coast and the hurricane season looks to begin in earnest over the Fourth of July weekend. All in all, not a good start for the summer, which promises to be plagued with forest fires, crop crippling drought, and unusual tropical activity. Much of this weather is the effect of climate change. It seems more than a little ironic that some people were saying this would be “the happy summer” because Americans were free to travel and the pandemic threat is easing.
Halfway through the year, a good point to take stock of where we are in the U.S.
COVID-19 pandemic: More than 48% of the population has been fully vaccinated, enough so that new cases are fewer, and fewer of those who do become sick go to the hospital or die. However, the pandemic is not over and for the relatively large number of people who for one reason or another are not vaccinated, the new Delta variant is a very serious threat.
The economy: After staggering around this spring, the economy – employment, retail sales, supply chains – is beginning to pick up momentum, which will be accompanied by inflation, but at a rate the Federal Reserve seems able to handle.
Democracy: Most Americans don’t feel it in their bones yet, but without the support of a seriously well-written and revised federal voting rights act, the attack on democracy is approaching a crisis in 2022.
Race relations: As the Trump-Republican Party openly becomes the party of white nationalism, minorities are watching and waiting to see how the second coming of Jim Crow plays out.
Crime and violence: Although subject to over-dramatization, the proliferation of guns, tensions built up by the pandemic, and economic instability have increased violent crime. This variously coincides with a serious examination of policing policy. Overall, a very mixed bag.
Borders and immigration: Another not good but over-dramatized situation, which seems to be most significant when right-wing media casts its attention in that direction.
Education: The situation is closely tied to the effects of the pandemic, but it looks like most schools will open under “normal” standards this fall. Like much of the economy, school systems will spend time adjusting to things that happened under lockdown, mainly students and teachers playing curriculum catch up.
Politics: Biden and the Democrats deserve major credit for managing the pandemic, injecting money and confidence into the economy, and generally providing a welcome sense of stability to government. Nonetheless, half of the country will not give them credit. The two key issues on the political front burners, infrastructure and voting rights, will cook through the summer, probably with some interesting and perhaps unpredictable results.
Saturday, June 26
[Coronavirus] U.S. Coronavirus Totals: Cases: 34,492,428; Deaths: 619,620
[Infrastructure] Biden Clarifies He Will Sign Bipartisan Infrastructure Bill – At first it looked like Republicans were going to use Biden’s linking of the bipartisan infrastructure bill and the much larger Democratic budget reconciliation bill as an excuse to bail out of the bipartisan bill, but that’s not what happened. Biden quickly jumped in and said the two bills were not linked and that he would sign the bipartisan bill in any case. The Republicans in the Senate, including apparently McConnell, shrugged and said “Okay”. So, the conundrum persists: on one hand McConnell is devoted to the promise that Biden shall pass no significant legislation, and on the other there seemed to be a fair number of Republican senators who actually want to take infrastructure back home to their constituents. For now, it looks like infrastructure is on.
[Climate Change] Heat Wave in the Pacific Northwest – With 108F in Portland, records for heat began falling with no end in sight until much later in the week, at best. Forming as a ridge behind the so-called “heat dome,” the vast dome of high-pressure over most of the central part of the U.S. Cities from Northern California to British Columbia will suffer some of the highest temperatures ever recorded in that part of the country. [Update: Canada recorded its highest ever temperature of 118° F in Lytton, BC. Two days later, Lytton is destroyed by fire. Temperatures near or above 110° F are common all along the Pacific coast.]
[Australia Coronavirus] Lockdowns Begin in Sydney, Other Australian Regions – The cause is the Delta variant, which is approximately 100% more infectious than the original virus. Approximately 8 million people are involved in the lockdown, which is supposed to be maintained until July 9. Overall, Australia has been able to escape the worst of the pandemic, but its vaccination rate is only about 11% fully vaccinated, which makes it vulnerable to the Delta variant.
Sunday, June 27
[U.S. Airstrikes] Biden Orders Airstrikes on Iran-Backed Militia in Iraq and Syria – We’ve seen this scenario before; it seems almost ritualistic in the first year of a new president’s office that bombs are dropped over somewhere in the Middle East. In this case, Biden acted on intelligence that Iran was preparing bases in Iraq and Syria for future attacks, and took preemptive action. It will be duly noted by interested parties.
[Coronavirus] India Pandemic Statistics Are Suspect – The same can be said for many countries, particularly those with authoritarian governments. In India’s case, the University of Washington’s Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation reckons that India has suffered more than 1.1 million deaths, compared to the officially reported 390,000, and that the total infections reported at about 30 million are actually closer to 300 million.
[France] Major Electoral Setback for Far Right, Marine Le Pen – It was billed as a showdown for France’s right-wing parties, an indicator on the way to next year’s national election. Right-wing regional candidates failed to take 20% of the vote nationally, which leaves the regional map of political alignment unchanged.
Monday, June 28
[Coronavirus] Pfizer, Moderna Vaccines Could Provide Long-Term Immunity – A new study, published in Nature, indicates that mRNA vaccines may be triggering long-lasting, perhaps even lifetime immunity. The vaccines may still require a booster for COVID-19 variants.
[Supreme Court] SCOTUS Denies Hearing of Transgender Bathroom Case – Basically, the majority opinion by Gorsuch made it clear that the Supreme Court didn’t deal with “bathrooms and locker rooms, or anything else of the kind.” The lower court ruling, which allowed transgender use of bathrooms, will stand.
[Tropical Storm] Tropical Storm Danny Drenches Part of South Carolina – Already the fourth tropical storm of the season, Danny will quickly die out as it moves inland. Meanwhile, hurricane Elsa gathers strength in the Caribbean.
Tuesday, June 29
[Supreme Court] CDC Eviction Moratorium Upheld – The Supreme Court stayed out of the “is it on, is it off?” brouhaha over the pandemic originating CDC moratorium on evicting people from their homes and apartments. The policy is scheduled to sunset at the end of July, and the Supreme Court was clearly unwilling to undo the extension for that date.
[Northwest Heat Wave] Portland, Seattle Other Western Cities Break High Temperature Records – With temperatures more common in the deserts of the Southwest, Portland registered 118° F in Seattle 107° F. The heat is moving inland, such as Spokane with 110°F while the coast remains hot but below record levels. Reports of heat related fatalities are beginning to rise.
Wednesday, June 30
[Rumsfeld] Donald Rumsfeld dies at 88 – The former Defense Secretary under presidents Ford, and GW Bush was the principal architect of the Afghan and Iraq wars, an ignominious achievement. He is gone to the “known unknown.”
[Cosby Legal] Bill Cosby Released from Prison – The Pennsylvania Supreme Court ruled that a mistake by a prosecutor that allowed Cosby to in effect testify against himself, which was then used by another prosecutor to convict him was a miscarriage of judicial procedure. After three years of imprisonment, Cosby was released immediately. Further court action is likely. This incident continues to illustrate the difficulty of charging, convicting, and holding men as rapists.
Thursday, July 1
[Trump Legal] Trump Organization and CFO Charged with Tax Crimes – Round one begins, although this is more of a proxy round between the District of Manhattan and the Trump Organization. The key figure in this round is the chief financial officer Alan Weisselberg, who apparently has so far resisted the pressure of the prosecutors to flip on Trump. Weisselberg has been specifically charged – along with the rest of the Trump organization – of pocketing perks and bonuses that are really part of general salary without reporting them to the IRS. Nobody thinks that this relatively low level of illegality is the foundation for a major legal assault. It is mainly step one, to get the process rolling and to get Weisselberg and perhaps a few others personally involved. Expect within the next few months more indictments, wider charges, and more focus on the overall pattern of the organization. Whether this will all wind up netting Trump remains to be seen – an argument can be made that taking down his organization is less problematic but just as effective as trying to take down Trump.
[Jan 06 Investigation] House Approves Select Committee to Investigate Jan. 06 Capitol Attack – As will be said repeatedly over the next many months, the committee was formed because Republicans refused to approve a bipartisan independent investigation, similar to the 9/11 Commission. As it stands, the Democrats run this committee and have an opportunity over the next six months to a year to answer as many of the open questions on the January 6 insurrection at the capitol as possible. The Republicans will of course scream “partisan politics” but the fairly regular headlines will keep the issue alive well into the 2022 electoral season. [Update: Pelosi selects seven Democrats and one Republican (Liz Cheney!) for the Select Committee. Republicans can name five additional members but are currently hung up on whether to choose any at all, appoints and rabble-rousers like Jim Jordan, or play it by the book.]
[Supreme Court] Arizona Voting Restrictions Upheld by Supreme Court – The two key issues of this case: Voting in the wrong district and illegitimate collection of ballots have the appearance of being relatively trivial, but as a matter of connection to wider laws they represent a strike down of Article 2 of the Voting Rights Act. That was the act half gutted by Jon Roberts when they did away with Article 5 requiring the DOJ to vet changes to voting laws in the states. This ruling almost completes the job of eviscerating the Voting Rights Act by making it difficult to contest anything the states do that hinders voting.
[Afghanistan] U.S. Troops Leave Bagram Airbase – This figuratively and literally signals the end of U.S. influence in Afghanistan. Bagram was the hub and heart of the U.S. effort to keep Afghanistan out of the hands of the Taliban. There are still some U.S. troops, mainly in Kabul to guard the U.S. Embassy, but the defense of the country is now up to its own military. Most expect to see rapid advances by the Taliban before the end of the year.
[DOJ] DOJ Orders Moratorium on Federal Executions – Whereas Trump and most of the right wing are temperamentally in favor of the death penalty, Biden and most Democrats are not. It’s not surprising that AG Merrick Garland relatively quickly called a halt to Federal executions.
Friday, July 2
[Hurricane Elsa] Elsa Becomes Season’s First Hurricane – On track to move somewhere over Florida, this is still a Category 1 storm that may or may not remain intact before striking the U.S. mainland sometime during next week.
[Economy] U.S. Added 850,000 Jobs in June – This is generally taken as a signal of a more rapidly recovering economy. While the distribution of job growth, and the availability of labor is still a matter of debate; there is little debate that the economy is becoming stronger, particularly as the consumer market is improving across a broad front.
[Coronavirus] U.S. Coronavirus Totals: Cases: 34,580,198; Deaths: 621,161
Pinned Trend: The Delta variant has reached 24% of all new U.S. cases, and warnings have gone out that people without vaccinations are a prime target for this highly infectious variant.
Pinned Point: Until the filibuster rules are modified, most of the Biden agenda will not pass the Senate.
Quote of the Week
Thanks to the six right-wing justices on the Supreme Court, our country has just become less democratic. In twin rulings issued Thursday, they said that states can make it harder for people to vote and they made it easier for big donors to sway elections in secrecy. You wonder if July 1, 2021, might come to be known as Oligarchy Day.
E.J. Dionne Jr., “Oligarchy Day at the Supreme Court,” The Washington Post, 07/01/2021.
[The IUY Weekly Journal assumes readers are at least casually familiar with names and events. For more details, check with internet search.]