Indivisible Upper Yellowstone – Weekly Journal
The Week of Saturday, July 31 through Friday, August 6, 2021 [Vol.3 No.3]
The Week’s Most Notable
Nothing unusually notable happened this week, which is why we could classify it to be in the dog days of summer. There are lots of things more or less happening in the background: Congress is about to pass an astoundingly large bipartisan infrastructure bill. The American West is still burning, with at least two months to go. Hurricanes are brewing in the Atlantic, but are not yet news. Republicans continue to grow their list of cleverly delusional and carefully constructed grievances, adding “the immigrants did it” as the cause of the Delta variant crisis. Right-wing media, especially Fox, is cultivating their love affair with Putin and his mini-me populist-authoritarians in places like Hungary, Poland, and Brazil. The economy is irregularly advancing. Trump was quiet. Most places were bloody hot. That was also true in Tokyo, where Olympic athletes sweat bullets in front of an ocean of empty seats. Most of all, Americans began to worry about the coronavirus again, as the numbers of new cases rocketed beyond 100,000 per day behind the driver of the Delta variant. Given the anti-science and suicidal declarations of the Republicans, the confusion of orders and recommendations by government agencies, the growing trend of employers to monitor employee health, and the coming of school days when nobody seems to know just how badly the Delta variant will affect school protocols – it’s no wonder the almost carefree feeling of early summer is fading fast.
Saturday, July 31
[Coronavirus] U.S. Coronavirus Totals: Cases: 35,806,761; Deaths: 629,643
[Coronavirus] Florida Hits New COVID-19 Single Day Record – The new daily record reached 21,683 cases, the highest number since the beginning of the pandemic. The culprit is the Delta variant and the complicit Florida government under Gov. Ron DeSantis (R), which refuses to acknowledge the surge and deal with it realistically. Hospitalizations are already reflecting the huge influx of new cases. DeSantis is making a huge bet that his pro-viral stonewalling will not cost him politically. Apparently, lives are not a consideration. [Update: DeSantis and other Republican governors introduced a new excuse: The immigrants are bringing the disease. Of course, Florida has almost no new immigrants.]
[Eviction Moratorium] Federal Eviction Moratorium Ends – In a tale of atrocious timing, some 15 million people in 6.5 million U.S. households find themselves behind on rent – thanks to the economic effects of the pandemic – and suddenly without coherent federal support. Everybody knew this was coming, everybody understood how big an impact this would have, and in fact there is about $48 billion already allocated to help both renters and landlords, of which only a small fraction has been distributed. This is something of a SNAFU for the Democrats and the Biden administration, one that affects many constituents, especially those in large cities. As a result, the coming week will be filled with protests, recriminations, calls for quick fixes, and a lot of unnecessary confusion.
Sunday, August 1
[Coronavirus] Biden Administration Notes Rise in Vaccinations – After months of declining vaccination rates, much of the U.S. is now seeing a strong uptick in new vaccinations. Whether this is because of a relatively concerted effort to encourage vaccination, or because people are seeing friends, relatives, and neighbors fall to the Delta variant, the numbers are up, averaging about 700,000 a day, though still far below the millions a day of last spring. The U.S. finally passed Biden’s milestone of 70% of adults with at least one dose, but whether the new rise in vaccinations will eventually cover the distance to herd immunity – that remains to be seen.
[Infrastructure] Senate Reveals Details of New $1 Trillion Bipartisan Infrastructure Bill – The painstaking process of turning political handwaving into the technical-legal language of actual legislation has been completed. All 2,702 pages of it. It’s an unspectacular but necessary step, and now attention turns to debating, modifying, and amending the bill. Democrats are hopeful that final compromises can be reached within a week to 10 days, and the final vote taken. This may be optimistic, but the fact remains that it looks very much like the bill will pass – much to many people’s surprise.
[Coronavirus] Fauci Warns of “Pain-and-Suffering” to Come – Most Americans are just coming down from the “thank God it’s over” high, Republicans are still denying the problem, and the administration struggles to push vaccination rates, while Fauci, speaking almost literally for the majority of epidemiologists, notes that without huge gains in vaccinations, much of the nation faces stunning rises in infections, hospitalizations, and deaths. All due to the super-infectious nature of the Delta variant. Fauci made it clear that he didn’t expect widescale lockdowns, just a beyond-rational-belief struggle to get Americans to put masks on and do social distancing.
[Western Wildfires] Oregon Bootleg Fire, Down; California Dixie Fire, Way Up – Officially, the August fire season is just beginning in the West, but that hasn’t been the story this year. The Bootleg Fire began more than a month ago and is already the third largest fire in Oregon history. It is now about 74% contained, a major improvement. On the other hand, the Dixie Fire in Northern California, already the third largest in the state’s history, is only 32% contained and continues to destroy homes, towns, and thousands of acres of forest. At last count, there already are 91 significant wildfires in the United States.
Monday, August 2
[Supreme Court] Supreme Court Denies Church Challenge of COVID Restrictions – Justice Stephen Breyer denied certiorari to Calvary Chapel of Bangor, Maine, which argued that “the so-called Delta variant of the coronavirus and the threat of an unconstitutionally motivated restriction, hangs over the church like a sword of Damocles.” Despite recent Supreme Court rulings in favor of religious rights, public health and the right of government to protect it is not part of that argument.
[Capitol Insurrection] Two More Officers Present at Capitol Insurrection Commit Suicide – Altogether, four officers have died by suicide, which reflects the complicated psychological impact of fighting a riot so emotionally and ideologically fraught as the one that attacked and trashed the Capitol building. It’s likely that these suicides will now become a specific topic for the ongoing House Select Committee investigation.
Tuesday, August 3
[Olympics] Simone Biles Wins Olympic Bronze on Balance Beam – Olympic athletes usually don’t get much attention for winning a bronze medal; however, Simone Biles makes an extraordinary exception. Almost universally recognized as the greatest female gymnast of all time, she was expected to win many medals in this year’s Olympics. She unexpectedly bowed out of almost all competition because of psychological pressures, and then made what is hailed as a triumphant comeback. It caps not only her iconic status as a gymnast, but her effort to make a statement about athletes, the pressure to win, and control of their own lives.
[Cuomo Affairs] Biden Says Cuomo Should Resign – Reaching a boiling point in the fetid stew of New York Governor Andrew Cuomo’s sexual-harassment accusations, in a clearly unusual, if not unprecedented, rebuke from a sitting president, Biden’s remarks joined the chorus of New York politicians, members of Congress, and prominent New Yorkers in calling for Cuomo to resign. The resignation is unlikely, given Cuomo’s proclivity for counterattack. It’s more likely that he will be impeached or indicted, although both of those conceivably could take months.
[CDC] CDC Revises Eviction Moratorium – Clearly under political pressure, and using a shaky legal argument that even Biden acknowledged was likely to be challenged, the CDC decided to extend the moratorium – specifically in areas highly affected by the Delta variant – for 60 days. Clearly a band-aid, but it may be enough to cover emergency renter-landlord support until the floating unspent allocation of $48 billion is distributed and the courts strike down the new moratorium.
[Ohio Primaries] Trump Wins, Progressive Dems Lose in Ohio Primaries – Among the Republican candidates for a vacant U.S. House seat, ex-coal lobbyist Mike Carey, Trump’s pick, dominated the field. In a similar primary for Democrats, the corporate centrist, Shontel Brown, won her congressional district by 4,000 votes, defeating progressive firebrand Nina Turner.
Wednesday, August 4
[Coronavirus] Biden Administration to Open Foreign Travel to the Vaccinated – Currently the U.S. has more countries’ citizens on the not allowed entry list, than those that are allowed. Plans are to change that by allowing entry for those who can document vaccination. Interestingly, most countries are experiencing rapid increases in their coronavirus cases due to the Delta variant, and the U.S. has rather quickly resumed its leadership as having the worst record for new infections.
[Coronavirus] Florida School Districts Defy DeSantis, Impose Mask Mandates – Setting up an interesting confrontation, several prominent Florida school districts (Broward County, Dade, Leon County) said they would keep or reimpose their requirements for masks in schools. They will be defying Gov. DeSantis’s executive order barring all schools from imposing mask mandates and threatening to cut off funding to schools that didn’t comply. Presumably this will become a legal issue, although the timeline is very short; most Florida schools open in about two weeks.
Thursday, August 5
[Climate Change] Gulfstream in Danger: New Study Cites Ocean Current Change – Nature Climate Change published a new study outlining the potential for collapse of the Atlantic Gulfstream due to changes in temperature and salinity caused by global warming. It is hard to emphasize how far-reaching and dangerous such a change would be for the global climate. If the Gulfstream stops flowing, it could bring extreme cold to parts of northern Europe and North America, raise East Coast sea levels, and disrupt monsoon seasons. Disturbance of the Atlantic Gulfstream is not a new concept, but as in this report, evidence for its possibility is growing stronger.
[Infrastructure] CBO Sites $256 Billion Deficit over a Decade for Bipartisan Infrastructure Bill – This is called throwing a spanner into the works; using some fig leaf maneuvers the Senate authors of the bill maintained that they could cover its costs. The Congressional Budget Office, which evaluates and grades all legislation with a price tag, begged to differ. In reality, this kind of bill has a lot of wiggle room, and senators can find convenient sources to claim that they are covering the costs. It’s not expected this dose of reality will affect the progress of the bill.
[Coronavirus] U.S. Plans to Offer COVID-19 Vaccine Booster Shots – It’s almost as if the controversy over booster shots didn’t exist. For one thing the WHO has advised countries to forgo booster shots in lieu of providing more vaccines for countries that are experiencing shortages. For another thing, there is considerable uncertainty in the medical community on what, who, where, and when a booster shot might be applicable. Dr. Fauci commented that U.S. plans for booster shots are targeted for people with immunocompromised systems.
Friday, August 6
[Coronavirus] U.S. Once Again Takes Lead in New Coronavirus Infections – Since COVID-19 spread out of China more than a year and a half ago, the U.S. has consistently had the worst infection numbers, except for a few months when India officially had more. Now that the U.S. is back over 100,000 new cases every day, it has again taken the lead. It’s all about the vaccinations and the U.S. is falling short. There are still major regions of the country, almost all of them in the South and in Republican counties, where vaccine denialism has left large numbers of people vulnerable to the ultra-infectious Delta variant.
[Coronavirus] Biden Extends Student Loan Moratorium – In another legacy of the pandemic, the moratorium on paying off student loans, the Biden administration has announced an extension until the end of January 2022. This affects some 42 million Americans. The loans must still be paid, but interest is not due for the time covered by the moratorium.
[Coronavirus] U.S. Coronavirus Totals: Cases: 36,449,998; Deaths: 632,667
Politics, Legislation, Election Notes
Fox’s Tucker Carlson spent a week doing his show from Hungary. Should you care? About 10 years ago Hungarian Viktor Orbán picked up the Putin playbook for how to get rid of democratic governments: monopolize national media, stack the courts, gerrymander the politics, change the national constitution to favor a single party, win most local and national elections, use state police power to quietly quash opposition, put your cronies and family in charge of almost everything, and establish what they openly call an “illiberal democracy.” It’s also been called authoritarian populism, rule of the state-oligarchs, or lipstick on the pig of fascism – you get the point. Carlson says “If you care about Western civilization and democracy and families and the ferocious assault on all three of those things by the leaders of our global institutions, you should know what is happening here right now.” Like Trump, Tucker loves authoritarian leaders. The key point is – no more hiding. The American right-wing and its media is coming out of the closet, openly declaring their love of democracy while oozing their disdain for it, and their desire to unite behind authoritarian leaders. This is serious.
Pinned Trend: Just as Americans are becoming tired of COVID-19, along come the Delta, Lambda, Delta plus, and other more virulent variants. They’re all getting some coverage now, and people are starting to worry.
Pinned Point: Until the filibuster rules are modified, most of the Biden agenda will not pass the Senate.
Quote of the Week
Above all, [DeSantis] has been playing the liberal-conspiracy-theory card, with fund-raising letters declaring that the “radical left” is “coming for your freedom.”
Paul Krugman, “Variant Disaster,” The Washington Post, 08/02/2021.
[The IUY Weekly Journal assumes readers are least casually familiar with names and events. For more details, check with internet search.]