Indivisible Upper Yellowstone – Weekly Journal
The Week of Saturday, July 3 through Friday, July 9, 2021 [Vol.2 No.51]
Fourth of July
The Week’s Most Notable
it feels almost unnatural to report a week where almost nothing really good or really bad took place in the U.S. It couldn’t be called euphoria but the mood of the U.S. public is definitely upbeat. It was there in black-and-white in the Gallup Live Evaluation Index Poll – the percentage of Americans reporting themselves as “thriving” jumped to a record high. A year ago, the figure was 46.4%, the lowest on record; this week was recorded at 59.2%. Reasons: A perceived end to the pandemic, cash flowing from the federal government into lower and middle-class pockets, a steady improvement in the general economy, and a certain sense of stability returning to some parts of the government. Something north of 80 million Americans transported themselves somewhere over the holiday weekend, like it was a new-found freedom to hit the road. Is it possible that Biden and the Democrats will get some credit?
Rain on the parade. The pandemic is not done with us. Two pieces of news should give pause for thought: Pfizer plans to ask for approval of a COVID-19 vaccine booster shot. Seems that reports from Israel indicate the Pfizer vaccine loses much of its punch, especially for some of the new variants, after about six months. This is the first indicator that the effectiveness of vaccines, either with duration or against variants, is likely to be inconsistent. Booster shots for nearly 100 million people just in the U.S. – what will those logistics be like? The other piece of news is the deployment of a federal COVID-19 surge team to southwest Missouri where the Delta variant is raising hell with a largely unvaccinated population. The Delta variant now accounts for almost 60% of all new cases in the U.S. As predicted, U.S. numbers – infections, hospitalizations, and deaths are going up once again – and winter is coming.
Saturday, July 3
[Coronavirus] U.S. Coronavirus Totals: Cases: 34,599,888; Deaths: 621,261
[Tropical Storm Elsa] Elsa Now Headed for Cuba and Florida – Sometimes hurricane and more often tropical storm Elsa has churned away in the Caribbean for days and now seems to be finally turning north to cross Cuba and strike the West Coast of Florida early in the week. It is not expected to do much re-strengthening and will stay below the hurricane level. Still, it can bring quite a punch of rain and wind as it flows through Florida and up into the Carolinas.
Sunday, July 4
[July 4] White House, Americans Celebrate Almost Normal Fourth of July – In his Fourth of July remarks Biden noted that although the country did not reach his goal of vaccinating 70% of all adults, they did reach 67% and that has a significant impact on the spread of the coronavirus. Although the pandemic is by no means over, Americans seem to have a sense that the quality of life is improving.
[Ransomware Attack] White House Activates Plans for Cyber Warfare Countermeasures – The ransomware attack on Friday that targeted hundreds of companies worldwide and produced a demand on Sunday for $70 million to restore data, has provoked a strong reaction by the U.S. government. Once again, the attack was linked to Russian cybercrime gangs, specifically REvil. It’s expected that Biden and other government leaders will organize to put pressure on Putin to throttle the mainly Russian-based attacks.
Monday, July 5
[UK Coronavirus] British PM Johnson: Covid Restrictions to End July 19 – By the end of the week new Covid infections in Britain reached 30,000 a day, as a wave of Delta variant infections sweeps across the island. The Health Minister went so far as to say that number could reach 100,000 a day. No wonder health officials and epidemiologists decried the arbitrary July 19 end of mitigation, explaining that in effect the UK was engaged in a massive involuntary public experiment to see whether vaccinations could keep the rate down. The core of the situation is that the PM had made a politically binding promise to end mitigation, first for June 19, and now for July 19. This was mainly for his own party, which is as intransigent about vaccines and Covid as Trump’s party in the U.S.
Tuesday, July 6
[Coronavirus] Biden Warns of Delta Variant Threat, Calls for More Vaccinations – The fact is 160 million people are fully vaccinated, that’s the good news; it also means about 160 million people are not vaccinated or are only partially vaccinated. These people are particularly susceptible to the Delta variant (roughly a hundred percent more infectious than the original virus). The irony is that the bulk of the unvaccinated are in states with Republican controlled governments, where efforts to mitigate against COVID-19 and push for vaccination are more negative than positive.
[New York City Elections] Eric Adams Wins NYC Democratic Mayoral Primary – A win in the Democratic primary is tantamount to winning the mayor’s office in the fall. The city used ranked choice voting for the first time and it proved to be confusing.
[DOD Purchasing] Pentagon Will Start Over on Cloud Computing Contract – If it didn’t involve $10 billion, this might not be worth mentioning but. . . . Remember a while back (almost two years) when the Department of Defense gave a contract for cloud computing to Microsoft? Its prime competitor in the bidding, Amazon, screamed loudly that not only did Microsoft not have the best bid, but the DOD was showing deference to Trump’s hatred of Amazon’s owner Jeff Bezos. Along comes a new administration, and guess what? The bidding starts over.
Wednesday, July 7
[Haiti] Haitian President Jovenel Moise Assassinated – Moise was supposed to step down after completing his five-year term, which he refused to do. Now chaos returns to Haiti and the U.S. is put in the difficult position of deciding whether to honor Haitian requests and send U.S. troops to help restore order. [Update: U.S. decides not to involve troops.]
Thursday, July 8
[Tropical Storm Elsa] Elsa: Part Two – After sloshing across Florida and the Carolinas, did tropical storm Elsa wander out into the ocean, never to be seen again? Unfortunately, no. It turned north, gathered up some moisture, and now is poised for a run up the East Coast at least as far as Massachusetts. Flash flooding and beach erosion will be commonplace; hopefully nothing worse.
Friday, July 9
[Government] Biden Signs Broad Consumer-Oriented Executive Order – Of course, it came late on Friday, a kind of omnibus executive order with 72 points, most of them aimed at consumer-related problems. For example: placing limits on employee noncompete agreements, requiring airlines to refund for dysfunctional Wi-Fi or baggage handling, over-the-counter sales of hearing aids, and the right of consumers to repair their own cars without voiding warranties. It will take some time for the details to percolate through the economy – and probably all the way to consumers and the courts. Nevertheless, Biden has staked out a kind of consumer rights high ground that he hopes will be steps along the way to reducing economic inequality and toward creating more open competition.
[CDC Coronavirus] CDC Recommends No Masks for Fully Vaccinated Teachers and Students – Although this is meant to apply to high school and college, it’s a bit odd since there are no vaccines for children 12 and under.
[Coronavirus] U.S. Coronavirus Totals: Cases: 34,711,576; Deaths: 622,703
Japan has dropped the other shoe and decided to ban spectators from the Olympics. Apparently, they hope this will quell some of the calls for canceling the games altogether. Meanwhile, Japan declared a new state of emergency as the Delta variant is beginning to unfold ugly numbers in Tokyo and other major cities, while correspondingly revealing the weakness involved with the country’s relatively low vaccination rate of just over 15% fully vaccinated.
Politics, Legislation, Election Notes
Congress is out of session for July 4 recess, but that doesn’t mean legislative sausage isn’t being made. The Democrats have been trying to fulfill a tall order: Continue to craft a bipartisan infrastructure bill that gets its piece of the action without stepping on the second, much larger, Democrats-only infrastructure bill due for budget reconciliation. The first bill has to have some tricky language to keep Republicans on board. Most people are waiting for McConnell to swing his axe. The second bill, it’s tempting to call it the infrastructure-jobs omnibus bill, features most of the socially oriented infrastructure items such as childcare. Most of this needs to live within three difficult structures: It has to find approval from Joe Manchin and Krysten Sinema, who so far have been talking in terms of a $2 trillion limit; it has to contain enough meat to satisfy Democratic progressives; and ideally should be something that can be packaged and sold to the American public, particularly the part about paying for it by raising taxes on corporations and the wealthy. That’s s a lot, easily threatening to make it too big to handle or market. Any serious slip-ups will be huge, quickly seized upon by right-wing propaganda, which will attack this bill mercilessly anyway. The idea is to bring both pieces of legislation to a vote before Congress takes it summer break in August. (Remember that Pelosi and Schumer always have the option of keeping Congress in session.)
Pinned Trend: No new word on the Delta+ variant, but the original Delta variant is getting a great deal of attention, finally.
Pinned Point: Until the filibuster rules are modified, most of the Biden agenda will not pass the Senate.
Quote of the Week
Ambitious politicians often stage stunts to appeal to their party’s base; the dumber they think that base is, the dumber the stunts will be. But Trump is a former president. No one expected him to discover dignity for the first time in his 75 years, yet so much of what he is doing these days is just petty and small. And what is this suit [against Facebook, Google, Twitter, and their CEOs] about? It’s about money, of course. As soon as Trump announced the suit, fundraising texts were blasted out to his supporters. Trump’s latest ridiculous lawsuit shows how small he has become.
Paul Waldman, “Trump’s Latest Ridiculous Lawsuit Shows How Small He Has Become,” The Washington Post, 07/07/2021.
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