Indivisible Upper Yellowstone – Weekly Journal
The Week of Saturday, July 17 through Friday, July 23, 2021 [Vol.3 No.1]
Fire, Flood, Pandemic, and Politics
The third year of the Weekly Journal
Summarizing and briefly analyzing current (mostly political) events from a progressive perspective was and is the goal of this Weekly Journal. It’s intended for busy people – a way to quickly review the week. However, it’s often been difficult to keep it brief. The Trump administration generated a lot of “news,” most of which was produced for effect, not consequence. That didn’t end when Trump left office, as the current GOP is like a colony of various propaganda units tasked with flooding the media with anything to catch attention. It’s hard to keep up separating the BS from the truth, especially for casual observers; it’s even difficult for those who do it every week. Difficult, yes, but necessary for everyone to do their part. It was necessary to help flip the House in 2018. It was necessary to support electing Biden in 2020. It is necessary to protect our democracy in 2022. The stakes are still very high; the value of information obvious. So, the Indivisible Upper Yellowstone Weekly Journal goes into its third year.
Suggestions and new subscribers are welcome. Some have suggested adding graphics and pictures. That would be lovely, but unfortunately email, especially Google Mail, doesn’t lend itself to professional looking graphics. Besides, the focus here is the information, text. There are many topics, in fact whole areas of information such as culture, which are seldom covered. As ever, the issue is brevity. Other suggestions or comments? Send them along to email@example.com. Other people to include in the mailing list? Use the same address for any requests.
The Week’s Most Notable
The U.S. West is burning up, literally and figuratively. Big parts of Europe, followed by Iran, India, and China are flooding. And of course, there is the surging global coronavirus pandemic, spearheaded by the new Delta variant. It’s not the apocalypse, but it might look like a practice run. It’s important to understand that climate change runs through all of it, even the pandemic. Unfortunately, in the U.S. the climate change issue means dealing with everything complicated by partisan politics, very partisan politics. It’s so bad that the GOP almost unanimously supported denial of mitigation and vaccination, a denial that would have inevitably wound-up self-selecting to kill its own people. This is in the face of a surge by the Delta variant that has more than tripled the number of new cases in the past two weeks – most of them in under-vaccinated red states. It’s been difficult to convince people of how incredibly infectious this variant is. For example, with the original virus if one person in a family of eight came down with it one other family member might become infected. With the Delta variant all of the family would become infected. It’s important to understand that people inside the right-wing information bubble don’t know any of this and don’t hear it either.
Saturday, July 17
[Coronavirus] U.S. Coronavirus Totals: Cases: 34,839,719; Deaths: 624,889
[European Floods] Flood Victims in Germany, Belgium Exceed 180 – There have been worse floods in Europe, but this storm was notable for its surprise and dramatic impact. In fact, although the worst of it occurred in Germany and Belgium, the track of the storm produced flooding and damage across a wide swath of central Europe and on into Turkey, Iran, and eventually China. Conditions for this kind of flooding – hyper saturated hot summer air and a dramatic cold front trigger – are a more regularly occurring part of climate change.
[Western Wildfires] Seventy Active Wildfires in the US West – The massive 453 square mile Oregon Bootleg Fire leads the list, while wildfires in the Idaho Panhandle, Western Montana, Oregon, and Northern California continue to spread. This is preliminary to what is expected to be another heat dome forming by the end of next weekend.
Sunday, July 18
[Pandemic Mitigation] Surgeon General Endorses Masks – As if to punctuate the rise in Delta variant cases, Surgeon General Vivek H. Murthy said that he backs local use of masks, even by mandate, to deal with the increase. His remarks followed the restoration of an indoor mask requirement for Los Angeles County. Anti-mask riots are likely to follow in communities where coronavirus denial is strongest.
[Spyware] Israeli Spyware Part of Unchecked Private Surveillance Explosion – The Israeli firm NSO Group, a leader in the worldwide use of unregulated private spyware, has been linked to illegal surveillance of journalists, business executives, human rights activists, and politicians. This finding is a result of months of investigation by a consortium led by the Washington Post and 15 media partners. Addressed as “tip of the iceberg stuff,” the story provides an introduction into the burgeoning world of private surveillance.
Monday, July 19
[Stock Market] U.S. Stocks Drop Because of COVID–Related Economic Fears – A 2% drop by the Dow and 1.6% drop by NASDAQ and S&P 500 signaled Wall Street’s nervousness about the rise of the Delta variant and the impact it may have on the U.S. economy.
[Capitol Riot] First Sentencing for Capitol Rioter: Eight Months in Prison – This sentence is in all likelihood precedent-setting. The sentencing of Paul Hodgkins, who was recorded on the Senate floor during the riot and charged with obstructing an official proceeding, also includes two years of supervised release.
Tuesday, July 20
[Mueller Investigation] Tom Barrack, Trump Ally, Charged as Unregistered Foreign Agent – Allegedly working as an agent for the United Arab Emirates, he is also charged with lying to the FBI. Barrack, former head of Trump’s inauguration committee and a major fundraiser, acted as a go-between and lobbyist for UAE businessmen and Congress. [Update: Barrack released on bail of $250 million, fourth highest on record. The bond security is only $5 million cash.]
[Coronavirus] India’s Coronavirus Death Toll Closer to 4 million – A study by the U.S. Center for Global Development reports that the official India death toll of 400,000 is about an order of magnitude short of the roughly 4 million people recorded as dying during the same period, but not registered as dying from COVID-19. India has long been known for counting only the deaths that occur in hospitals after COVID-19 testing. Definitive numbers are unlikely to ever appear.
[Private Spaceflight] Bezos Goes Outré – The world’s richest person shelled out a tiny fraction of his wealth to take a ride – in his own rocket – to the edge of the Earth’s atmosphere. Not likely to fire the imagination of many.
Wednesday, July 21
[Jan. 6 Committee] Pelosi Rejects Two GOP Nominees for Jan. 6 Committee – A typical sequence of events for this era: Dems and GOP spend months hammering out a bipartisan January 6 commission; Senate GOP rejects it. Pelosi forms a select committee in the House, calls for five Republican members. McCarthy nominates 3 out of 5 professional disruptors (including Jim Jordan); Pelosi rejects the two worst. McCarthy explodes about unprecedented, partisan committee and pulls all five. Apparently, the GOP really doesn’t want the Capitol Insurrection to be investigated.
[Infrastructure] Senate Republicans Block Infrastructure Debate – It’s just a test vote, pushed by Schumer to flush out Republican quislings on the bipartisan infrastructure bill. Previous negotiations indicated that at least 10 Republicans would vote for the bill, but Democrats are wary of the old GOP “Lucy and the football snatch” gambit, meaning they appear to be going along with a measure and then torpedo it at the final vote – after wasting a lot of time. Next week could be make or break for this bill.
[Coronavirus – Economy] Delta Variant: Economists Say No Problem, Analysts Say Biden’s Economy in Trouble – Summer has always been the silly season for political punditry; this one is worse than most. A Wall Street Journal report finds many economists predicting a healthy second half of the year for the economy as consumers spend and the Delta variant doesn’t get out of hand. Other reports, also hitting major media, is that the Delta variant will get out of hand and the economy is in trouble, plus, somehow, it’s Biden’s fault.
[Pipelines] U.S., Germany Reach Agreement on Nordstream 2 Pipeline – This seems like an obscure piece of news, but it’s actually pivotal for the economy of Europe and for world power dynamics. The Nordstream 2 pipeline is supposed to bring natural gas from Russia to Germany. It’s vital for both economies, yet it also represents a political dilemma. Once built, the pipeline becomes a point of leverage – no one will want to endanger it, but the temptation to use it as a threat becomes greater. For years the U.S. has opposed the pipeline, in part because it threatens Ukraine’s national security and gives too much power to Russia. It’s believed the new deal includes commitments by Germany to protect Ukraine and not to allow the Russian leverage on the pipeline to affect immediate political policy. In short, economics wins as usual.
[Coronavirus] Daily Coronavirus Infections Triple as Delta Variant Takes over – In just over two weeks the surge has gone from 13,700 new cases on July 6 to more than 37,000 new cases on the 20th. As expected, the worst of the increases are in states where the vaccination rate is low – currently Florida, Texas, Missouri, and Southern California.
Thursday, July 22
[Economy] Jobless Claims Jump – The Labor Department estimated there would be about 350,000 new applications for unemployment benefits; the actual number turned out to be 419,000. The news rattled Wall Street and was taken by some to be an indication of a faltering economy. Still others said that the impact of the new infections by the Delta variant was shaking up the employment picture, probably temporarily. Over the next couple of months, the economic situation will represent a battle between fundamentals – consumers and businesses spending more money, versus the Delta variant depressing economic factors in at least some regions of the country.
[Afghanistan] U.S. Airstrikes Counter Taliban Advances – There has been some confused reporting about U.S. involvement in Afghanistan after the troops are removed. The U.S. reportedly will continue to use airpower to support the Afghanistan government.
[Common Flu] Put “Flu Season” Back on the Calendar – Last year saw the lowest incidence of flu since 1997, thanks entirely to the mitigation efforts against COVID-19. This year, with so many of those efforts relaxed or simply dropped, the flu is expected to make a comeback. If so, it will complicate diagnosis and treatment of coronavirus symptoms, particularly the Delta variant which presents itself like a standard flu. Testing will be key.
[Coronavirus] Biden Administration to Greatly Expand COVID-19 Testing – The current figures show a serious decrease in the amount of testing done in the U.S., far below the levels common in much of Europe and especially Great Britain. At a time when the Delta variant is pushing the incidence of new infections, it’s become imperative to get comprehensive and accurate testing. This includes the now almost emergency expenditure of nearly $2 billion to beef up testing.
[Supreme Court] Mississippi Files Brief to Overturn Roe v Wade – Of course it’s come to this. If the court accepts the brief, arguments will begin this fall. Most betting is that the brief will be accepted but the case will be rejected.
Friday, July 23
[Olympics] Opening Day of the 2020 Tokyo Olympics – Competition began on Wednesday, the controversy – especially over the pandemic – has been continuous, there are no spectators to speak of even for the opening ceremony. It promises to be a very strange Olympics.
[Wildfires] California Dixie Fire Becomes a “Megafire” – Joining the Oregon Bootleg Fire in the category of a megafire, the Dixie Fire has grown to cover more than 221 square miles in northern California. It’s late July, the fire season is just beginning in California.
[Afghanistan Refugees] U.S. Agrees to a Plan and Money for Afghan Refugees – The U.S. does not have the greatest reputation for saving native people who have supported our troops during our military excursions. (Think of the Kurds.) In this case, the Biden administration has agreed to $100 million in aid and an evacuation plan.
[Coronavirus] Some Republicans Appear to Be Reversing Position on Vaccines – After months in the “what pandemic?” and “we don’t need no stinkin’ vaccine” camp, a few noteworthy Republicans – usually associated with surges of the Delta variant in red states – such as McConnell, DeSantis, and the governor of Mississippi, have rather abruptly formed a small chorus chanting the praises of vaccination. Motivation and impact remain a bit mysterious.
[Coronavirus] U.S. Coronavirus Totals: Cases: 35,147,892; Deaths: 626,562
Roughly a year ago, reports surfaced about a new aspect of the pandemic. People who had contracted COVID-19 and apparently recovered, suddenly developed serious medical problems that persisted, sometimes for many months. Eventually scientists demonstrated the correlation between having had coronavirus and the appearance of the other diseases; the condition was given a name: Long Covid. It was a difficult diagnosis because it affected all kinds of people, from kids to grandparents, men and women, those who had severe COVID-19 and even those who showed no symptoms. It was characterized by no specific illness, affecting, variously, heart, lungs, liver, brain, nerves and more. For the most part, it was severe; people with Long Covid generally couldn’t work or even conduct a normal life. It took months to verify that the coronavirus was at work, and it’s only been within the last two or three months that the general medical establishment began to take the problem seriously. Initially it was thought that Long Covid affected only some fraction of a percent of those infected. Recently, in the UK and Israel, the figure looks more like 3% to 5%. In short, tens of thousands of people are becoming “long haulers.” Long haulers need a lot of expensive medical care. At this level, there is a significant medical, economic, and social impact. Epidemiologists are beginning to speak in terms of “primary COVID effects” – hospitalization and death, and “secondary COVID effects” – Long Covid.
Politics, Legislation, Election Notes
Take your pick: Democrats are hopeless; Democrats have almost got it all worked out. The media opinion over the two infrastructure bills and the voting rights bills seems to have bifurcated, split in two like a viper’s tongue. It’s frustrating, like the confusion caused when they say the Democrats want to “get rid of the filibuster” (do away with the filibuster altogether) or “modify the filibuster” (make, for example, a carveout for voting rights). Part of the media, not necessarily the right-wing media, draws a picture of Democrats in disarray (like that was something unusual) and the prospect of passing either infrastructure or voting bills becoming ever more unlikely, or that difficult negotiations are in progress and will wind up with agreements that lead to passing both infrastructure and voting rights bills. Neither casting, usually without details, is very helpful. No wonder that by default most Americans pay very little attention to the congressional sausage making. Those of us who care whether we’re getting bratwurst or little sizzlers look at the current set of ingredients and divine that odds are better than even that the Democrats will get a bipartisan infrastructure bill, a $3.5 trillion budget reconciliation bill, a modification of the filibuster, and probably a unified Voting Rights Bill before Congress goes into fall recess.
Pinned Trend: New variants: in the U.S. the Delta variant is now well known and by the end of next week will account for more than 90% of all cases. In Peru, the potentially more lethal Lambda variant has appeared. New variants such as “Delta+” and one in Vietnam get some media coverage but appear to be largely untracked.
Pinned Point: Until the filibuster rules are modified, most of the Biden agenda will not pass the Senate.
Quote of the Week
In a unanimous vote by lawmakers, Sierra Leone became the 23rd African country to abolish capital punishment. Critics called it an inhumane vestige of colonialism. . . . Nearly half of Africa’s 54 independent countries have abolished the punishment, more than double the number from less than two decades ago.
Ruth Mclean, “One by One, African Countries Dismantle Colonial-Era Death Penalty Laws,” The New York Times, 07/23/2021.
[The IUY Weekly Journal assumes readers are least casually familiar with names and events. For more details, check with internet search.]