Indivisible Upper Yellowstone – Weekly Journal
The Week of Saturday, July 10 through Friday, July 16, 2021 [Vol.2 No.52]
COVID-19 Disinformation Kills
The Week’s Most Notable
A reporter asked Biden about social media support of COVID-19 misinformation, “What’s your message to platforms like Facebook?” Biden replied, “They’re killing people.” This is true. There will be many people convinced by mis/dis-information borne by social media who will not get a vaccine, who then become sick because of the highly contagious Delta variant and die. Eventually there will be thousands of them. Unfortunately, social media – Facebook, Twitter – are not alone. Fox News and other right-wing media outlets are mainly supporting Covid vaccine denialism or out and out anti-vaxx positions through their most popular spokespeople (Carlson, Ingraham) and assorted mixed messages; they also will wind up killing people. They will not be held accountable, nor will they be prevented from doing this, at least in the short run. There is no way, especially legally, to confront or force a reckoning on anyone or any media organization promoting lies about the efficacy of vaccines. It’s very much akin to the election Big Lie problem; no one has figured out a way to force people spouting Big Lie disinformation into an effective public confrontation – verifiable facts versus phony facts. Legally, challenges wind up in First Amendment purgatory. Debates and PR campaigns quickly devolve into tit-for-tat chaos. Tens of millions continue to believe that there is evidence of a stolen election, when that evidence is bogus; yet there is no way (yet found) to convince them it is bogus.
Consequently, on a daily basis at least 40% of Americans are bombarded with statements like this from Fox and Friends’ Brian Kilmeade, “They’re going to be knocking on your doors, I guess with a cotton ball and a needle, and they’re going to look to put a needle into your deltoid – stop asking questions.” Pure propaganda in service of gaslighting vaccination at a cost of lives. This is already happening in southwest Missouri, which will be followed by regions in other states where vaccination denialism coupled with low vaccination rates will result in increased hospitalizations and deaths. Yet few will say and even fewer know that propaganda suckered people into their own avoidable demise.
Saturday, July 10
[Coronavirus] U.S. Coronavirus Totals: Cases: 34,739,152; Deaths: 622,908
[International Economics] G-20 Agree on Minimum Corporate Tax – On the road that began with the G7 a few weeks ago, the top 20 largest economies have agreed to support a minimum tax of at least 15% on international corporations operating in their individual countries. The hope is to, eventually, prevent the so-called “race to the bottom” where countries compete for corporate presence by offering ever lower tax rates, usually leading to some countries offering virtually tax-free or even subsidized terms. Not all countries have agreed to this new arrangement, notably Ireland, which was an original offender in leveraging low taxes. In other words, there are a lot of devilish details to work out before this strikingly collective policy becomes real.
[Climate Change] Death Valley Records Probable Highest Temperatures Ever – Pending verification of 130°F, this will become an all-time highest temperature in the U.S. Death Valley has an unofficial record of 134°F set in 1913, but that record is controversial because of the equipment used. Climatologists monitor the trends in Death Valley because the extremes help define climate change.
Sunday, July 11
[Cuba Protests] Largest Protests in Cuba in Decades – In a confluence of COVID-19 (Delta variant) fears, decades of shortages, especially in foods, the end of the iconic Castros, and greater Internet access to worldwide information, negative public opinion about the current government in Cuba is spilling into the streets. This will find plenty of support from U.S. sources, but a Cuban society still a long way from a general uprising or civil war.
[CPAC] Trump’s the One for CPAC – To no surprise, Trump garnered 70% support from the far-right Conservative Political Action Conference audience, although Florida Gov. DeSantis garnered 21% and leads the pack if Trump does not run in 2024. Trump loves this kind of fight.
[Euro-Football] Italy Defeats England for European Soccer Championship – It required a 3-2 penalty shoot-out at the end. The game was attended by 60,000 closely packed English fans, a wonderful superspreader event for the new Delta variant, and a hotbed for subsequent racist expression.
Monday, July 12
[Voting Rights] Texas Democratic Lawmakers Decamp for Washington DC – Without a quorum the Texas state legislature can’t pass its newly revised voter suppression laws (a.k.a. “Voter Integrity Bill”). It’s low political theater, but it does give the Democrats a public platform for about a week, or until the media gets tired of it.
[Coronavirus] California Partially Reverses K-12 Mask Mandate – Indicative of the confusion between state and federal pandemic management, the California Department of Public Health issued a guidance banning K-12 students from their campuses if they did not wear a mask, regardless of their vaccination status. The CDC had already issued orders saying that masks were not required in schools for students who are vaccinated. California backtracked, ruling that schools could choose their own masking rules.
Tuesday, July 13
[Voting Rights] Biden Delivers High-Rhetoric Speech on Voting Rights – Perhaps as an indicator of the high stakes involved, Biden delivered what amounts to a philosophical positioning speech, calling Republican voter suppression efforts “the most significant test of our democracy since the Civil War.” Hyperbole aside, it’s been difficult for the Democrats to even get fellow Democrats to behave as if this was an existential crisis for the government of the U.S. For example, if Manchin and Sinema were convinced of this seriousness, would they be kvetching about Senate protocol known as the filibuster? Apparently, they seem to think we will still have a bipartisan government after the 2022 election. Nevertheless, Biden’s speech was, for him, dramatic.
[Infrastructure Legislation] Senate Democrats Announce $3.5 Trillion Infrastructure Package – It was well known that the Democrats were using the Fourth of July recess to finalize their infrastructure planning. It still was a bit of a surprise to discover that Bernie Sanders and his team had negotiated a $3.5 trillion package and secured at least initial support from all 50 Democratic senators. It represents a stunning compromise between the corporatist and progressive elements of the party. While there is still much to be negotiated, especially on the specific language of the bill, there is so much in it – expanding Medicare, climate change measures, education support, homecare, housing, and immigration measures – that it represents a vast omnibus bill with the kind of programs + money Democrats have tried to get through Congress for decades. And the pay-fors? Increased taxes on corporations and the wealthy. Not going to be a popular bill with Republican senators.
[Coronavirus] Delta Variant Cases Rise in 45 States, Targeting the Unvaccinated – Overall, COVID-19 infections are rising throughout the country, but concentrating in Florida, Texas, and California in locations where vaccination rates are low. However, the current worst conditions are found in southwest Missouri, an area which has one of the lowest vaccination rates in the country.
[Coronavirus] Tennessee Government Goes Anti-Vaxx – After firing the state’s top vaccination official without explanation, the state legislature put pressure on its Department of Health to stop all vaccination outreach targeted at children. The pretext: “they are attempting to circumvent parents and peer-pressure minors to be vaccinated.” Of course, a regular mandatory program of child vaccination has been standard state and national policy for many decades. (Concurrently Tennessee has one of the highest increases in COVID-19 cases in the country, almost entirely from the Delta variant.)
Wednesday, July 14
[Climate Change] Massive Flooding in Germany and Belgium – The magnitude of the flooding is just becoming known; by the end of the week more than 200 had died, nearly 1,500 were missing, and there were literally billions of dollars in damage. It is the worst flooding of the modern era and can be linked to the effects of climate change.
[Coronavirus] EU Reacts to Rising COVID-19 Cases, Imposes Mandates; Riots Ensue – As everywhere in the world, the Delta variant is now spreading across Europe, aided by the relatively low vaccination rates in most countries. The rise in cases and the eventual pressure on hospitals have prompted, so far, Greece, France, Spain, and the Netherlands to reinstate various pandemic mitigations. In turn, far right elements in Athens and Paris have taken to the streets in protest. Most epidemiologists note that such a viral spread should not be happening in mid-summer, and fear what will happen this fall and winter.
[Election 2020] End of the Trump Administration: the Reichstag Moment – A flurry of new books documents the end of the Trump administration and some of the events surrounding the January 6 insurrection. Among many revelations, the most striking is from Gen. Milley, Chair of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, who told friends “I was on guard for a Reichstag moment [when the Nazis burned down the German parliament], they may try a coup but they’re not going to fucking succeed.” Much of the new material will probably find its way to the House Select Committee investigation, which reportedly will begin next week.
Thursday, July 15
[Economy] Monthly Child Tax Credit Payments Begin – As of today, 35 million families will start receiving monthly child tax credit (CTC) payments from the government. The amounts are $300 per month for children under six, and $250 per month for qualifying children ages 6 to 17. This was part of the pandemic-related American Rescue Plan, passed in March. It is limited to this year but Democrats hope to make it permanent child support. After a period of strange quietude, Republicans are beginning to roll out objections, such as “It’s wrong to forcibly take money from someone and give it to others simply because they have children.” That’s like saying it’s wrong to take money from others and subsidize oil companies because they happen to have oil. Betting is that the CTC will be extremely popular and have wide ranging impact on child poverty.
[Coronavirus] Surgeon General Warns of COVID-19 Misinformation – Calling COVID-19 related medical misinformation “a serious threat to public health,” the Surgeon General specifically pointed to social media for attacking COVID-19 vaccination and other forms of pandemic mitigation. He said it was causing confusion, sowing mistrust, harming people’s health, and undermining public health efforts. He was being polite.
Friday, July 16
[Coronavirus] Biden, CDC Call out Facebook for Spreading Vaccine Disinformation – This seems to be the week that the federal government woke up to the reality that medical disinformation about COVID-19 and vaccines is a big factor in not reaching vaccination goals. Biden specifically fingered Facebook for not effectively policing anti-vaccination propaganda, saying that “the only pandemic we have is among the unvaccinated” and that efforts to discourage vaccination are “killing people”.
[Voter Fraud] Study: Few Cases of Arizona Voter Fraud – Actually, the Associated Press report cites 182 cases out of more than 3 million votes cast, with only 4 leading to charges and no convictions. Of course, Arizona Republicans supporting the bizarre ballot review in Maricopa County immediately called this “fake news.” At the moment there is no effective way to reconcile the competing claims.
[DACA] Federal Judge Strikes Down Part of DACA – U.S. District Judge (Houston) Andrew Hanen ruled that President Obama’s executive order overstepped his authority in creating the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program. While the judge did not attempt to close the program, or retroactively affect current DACA participants, his ruling specifically ends approving new DACA applicants. The Biden administration will immediately appeal the ruling, which will have at least two iterations in lower courts before ultimately winding up at the Supreme Court in a year or two. It’s also possible that Congress might create legislation concerning DACA.
[Coronavirus] U.S. Coronavirus Totals: Cases: 34,929,856; Deaths: 624,602
Politics, Legislation, Election Notes
To clarify: There are two infrastructure bills in Congress. Practically, they both are shaped in the Senate. One is called the “bipartisan infrastructure bill” of about $1 trillion and deals mainly with “hard infrastructure” – roads, bridges, ports and the like. So far, this bill is meant to be paid for by juggling already existing sources, a controversial beefing up of the IRS, and some smoke and mirrors. As a bipartisan bill it depends on having 10 Republican votes to pass the filibuster proof 60-votes. At the moment, the bipartisan authors claim that they have the support. It is very fragile, and very much depends on final agreement on how it will be funded. If it falls apart, all or much of it could be – with difficulty – folded into the Democrats’ “infrastructure budget reconciliation bill.” This week, the Democrats revealed the outline of this $3.5 trillion bill. (The two bills total about $4.5 trillion, the largest such bills ever passed by Congress and have the potential to reshape much of the American economy and the role of government.) The budget reconciliation bill is Democrats-only, which means it’s best to ignore media chatter and anything the Republicans do or say about it. The Senate parliamentarian however, is not irrelevant, as her rulings may determine which components of the bill are eligible for budget reconciliation. Besides satisfying the parliamentarian, the big dynamic in forging this bill is among the Democrats, primarily Manchin/Sinema and their ilk versus the progressives. So far it looks like there is agreement, although demons may still lurk in the details. According to plan, the bill will be paid for by raising corporate and wealthy individual taxes. The Democrats hope to have both infrastructure bills fully outlined and partially written before the summer recess in August. The plan is to finish the work in September. If these bills pass, or even one of them, it will be a helluva big deal.
Pinned Trend: After months of tentative coverage, the Delta variant is now in the media everywhere, which makes sense since it has become the main driver of rising pandemic numbers worldwide.
Pinned Point: Until the filibuster rules are modified, most of the Biden agenda will not pass the Senate.
Quote of the Week
‘Don’t Fauci My Florida,’ read drink koozies and T-shirts that Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis’s campaign team rolled out just as his state sees some of the highest coronavirus hospitalizations, new infections, and deaths per capita in the country. It’s the latest example of Republicans running on their opposition to virus-fueled shutdowns and mask mandates.
Hannah Knowles, “DeSantis Sells ‘Don’t Fauci My Florida’ Merch as New Coronavirus Cases Near Highest in Nation,” The Washington Post, 07/14/2021.
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