Indivisible Upper Yellowstone – Weekly Journal
The Week of Saturday, August 7 through Friday, August 13, 2021 [Vol.3 No.4]
The Week’s Most Notable
The marquee story of the week was the resignation of New York’s Governor Andrew Cuomo. While the Cuomo story provided hot copy, the most important story of the week was the release of the IPCC climate change report. It lays out the evidence that the world has already locked itself into a more than 1.5°C increase in average temperatures and, with that, more weather-related disasters, higher and more acidic oceans, and changes in global climatic patterns. Unfortunately, it is a measure of human desuetude that the Cuomo story received far more coverage than the IPCC report. Discussions of climate change and what to do about it continue to demonstrate global dysfunction. It is much like the similar dysfunction with the COVID-19 pandemic, where the problems and solutions are known, but the political and economic will to deal with the issues on a global scale is inconsistent and weak. From the pessimist’s point of view, it may be the signature of humanity that we can be magnificent in responding to immediate local emergencies, but incapable of sustained global response.
Congress has gone into summer recess, which will reduce the public noise, but it will be a time of feverish activity in both the House and Senate as congresspeople, their staffs, and a small army of experts will wrestle with the specific language required for the bipartisan infrastructure bill, the budget reconciliation infrastructure bill, and the newly consolidated voting rights act, all of which will be presented, debated, and hopefully voted on during the fall session.
Saturday, August 7
[Coronavirus] U.S. Coronavirus Totals: Cases: 36,587,161; Deaths: 633,371
[Bipartisan Infrastructure] Senate Avoids Filibuster, Advances Bipartisan Infrastructure Bill – The 67-27 passage of a procedural motion almost guarantees that the bill will be passed by the Senate this week. If so, it represents a symbolic, if not fundamental, change in the willingness of the Senate to do bipartisan legislation – under the right circumstances.
Sunday, August 8
[Wildfires] Dixie Fire Now Second Largest in California History – As of Sunday morning the fire was only 21% contained and has so far destroyed one city, Greenville, more than 400 homes, and has burned 462,000 acres. It leads the list of more than 110 fires in the West, with Montana now also appearing near the top of the list in number of fires. Similar fires are burning worldwide – 42 killed in Algerian wildfires, more than 2,000 people evacuated from fires on the Greek island of Evia.
[Afghanistan] Taliban Captures Three More Provincial Capitals – It now seems inevitable that the Taliban will attack Kabul within a week and that the country is collapsing into its control. By all accounts, the Afghanistan military have proven to be woefully unable to deal with the Taliban surge – despite 20 years and the billions of U.S. dollars spent on their training and armament.
[Coronavirus] Federal Judge Suspends Florida Ban on Cruise Ship Vaccine Passports – In an ongoing and hot legal battle, the latest ruling by a federal court allows cruise lines to require proof of vaccination from all passengers. Gov. DeSantis had issued the order in May as one of several actions intended to obstruct mitigation of the COVID-19 pandemic.
[Summer Olympics] Tokyo Olympics End – In some respects they were the strangest summer games in history – no spectators, all participants under COVID-19 monitoring and restrictions, and the peculiar pall over the proceedings by the atmosphere of gigantic but empty stadiums. Network media reported a drastic drop of nearly 40% in viewership, although that number didn’t include people watching the games via the Internet. NBC claims to have made money on the games, the Olympic organization claims them to have “been successful,” the Japanese government has been relatively quiet, and the games will proceed to reappear in Paris three years hence.
Monday, August 9
[IPCC] Code Red: IPCC Report Issues Ominous Warning – The key to the report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) was a description of five scenarios developed by 234 climate scientists, none of which believed the world would hold to the 2015 Paris Agreement of keeping the global temperature change below 1.5°C. Such an increase more or less guarantees worsening violent weather, oceans rising, more acidic oceans, changes in global climatic patterns, and other significant changes. The report was not wholly pessimistic, as it noted a greater willingness on the part of governments and the world populace to do something about climate change. However, UN General Secretary Antonio Guterres warned, “The report’s findings are a code red for humanity and we owe it to the entire human family to cut emissions fast and sharply to avoid catastrophe.”
[Coronavirus] Florida and Texas Schools Defy Governors’ Anti-COVID-19 Mandate Orders – School districts in Austin and Miami announced they would issue COVID-19 mitigation mandates (masks, distancing) in defiance of orders by Gov. DeSantis (R-FL) and Gov. Abbott (R-TX. Taken together the rebelliousness of key school districts reveal the depth of the controversy about COVID-19 mitigation for young people. This is a national issue, which schools are finding difficult to address, especially in the threatening and changing conditions of the Delta variant. The difficulty is highlighted by the fact that Florida and Texas currently have the worst records for new coronavirus infections in the U.S. [Update: Texas judge temporarily lifts ban on vaccine mandates.]
[Coronavirus] Arkansas Down to Eight ICU Beds In COVID-19 Surge – The numbers in Arkansas are representative of several states (Texas, Florida, Mississippi, Alabama, Tennessee, parts of California) where the massive increase in the number of infected people is again straining hospital resources. Nationally the Delta variant driven numbers of new infections now exceed 150,000 per day, the worst since winter of 2021. Texas and Florida contribute more than 30% of the total.
[Coronavirus] Pentagon to Require COVID-19 Vaccinations for All Military Personnel – The military already requires 19 different vaccinations. So much for the GOP/right-wing screaming about vaccinations for COVID-19.
Tuesday, August 10
[Infrastructure] Senate Passes Bipartisan Infrastructure Bill – They said it couldn’t be done – Democrats and Republicans working together – but the $1.1 trillion infrastructure bill passed 69-30, including the Yea vote of Mitch McConnell. This alone represents a major achievement for the Biden administration. From here the bill goes to the House, where it will be subject to controversy and amendment. In particular, House progressives will use their leverage to guarantee that both the bipartisan infrastructure bill and the budget reconciliation infrastructure bill are passed at (about) the same time. The media coverage over the next two months will be loaded with the chaff and some substance of negotiations; however, passage of the bills now seems more likely than not.
[Infrastructure] Senate Democrats Announce Blueprint Budget Plan for $3.5 Trillion Infrastructure Plan – It is only the beginning, but the announcement signaled agreement among the 50 Senate Democrats to launch the largest infrastructure plan in American history, one that will require budget reconciliation to pass Congress. The bill’s immediate future brings it to the House, where it will face a grueling effort to create specific legislative language that will ensure passage in both the House and Senate. The upcoming congressional summer break will provide nearly a month for preliminary jousting on the amendments.
[Cuomo Resignation] Andrew Cuomo Resigns as Governor of New York – Amid the escalating allegations of sexual-harassment and misconduct, Cuomo said he would resign in two weeks. He was pushed to this conclusion by a nearly unanimous Democratic Party, including Biden. Numerous criminal and civil investigations are underway, but Cuomo will not face impeachment by the State of New York.
Wednesday, August 11
[U.S. Economy] U.S. Inflation Rises at Slower Pace – The rhetoric surrounding inflation has been heated; the actual economy, not so much. A key July Labor Department report indicates that the core consumer price index (CPI) rose only 0.3%, well below expectations. While inflation continues in some areas, as the Fed predicted, it does not seem to be an enduring general inflation.
[Coronavirus] California Mandates Vaccines or Weekly Testing for All Teachers – While some governors are banning vaccine mandates, California’s Governor Gavin Newsom (D) issued a mandate for all California school teachers, a move supported by teachers’ unions.
[Coronavirus] Rand Paul Discloses Wife Owns COVID-19 Drug Maker Stock – Leading anti-vaccine, pro-coronavirus senator caught with glaring conflict of interest, confirming obvious hypocrisy.
[Coronavirus] CDC: Research Indicates COVID-19 Vaccines Don’t Increase Miscarriages – The study of 2,500 pregnant women showed that being vaccinated resulted in about the same rate of miscarriage as that of the general population.
[Big Lie] Judge Allows Dominion Lawsuit against Trump Allies – Dominion Voting Systems sued a number of Trump associates for defamation. This ruling specifically names Trump lawyers Sidney Powell and Rudy Giuliani and My Pillow founder Mike Lindell for making claims “knowing that they were false or with reckless disregard for the truth.” All similar lawsuits have a long way to go, but the legal tea leaves continue to indicate the odds are in Dominion’s favor.
Thursday, August 12
[Census] 2020 Census: U.S. More Diverse and Urban – In some of the first of the 2020 Census data, the White percentage of the American population dropped from 63.7% to 57.8%. The data also showed that the U.S. continues to become more urban, as 80% of the population gains were in urban areas.
[Coronavirus] FDA Approves COVID-19 Booster Shot – This may not look like opening a can of worms, but the need for a booster shot has wide implications such as, is it really needed? who gets them? how to get them? who pays for them? how long will we need them? This first approval only applies to Pfizer and Moderna vaccines for immunocompromised individuals.
[Coronavirus] Supreme Court Rejects Proposed Block of Indiana University COVID-19 Vaccine Mandate – Given the precedent, this ruling was expected, but the issuing justice – Amy Coney Barrett – was a bit of a surprise and instantly infuriated the right-wing media.
[Afghanistan] Biden Sends 3,000 Troops to Afghanistan to Secure Embassy – It looks like and is an obvious gaffe in planning for the removal of American officials and supporters from Afghanistan. The Taliban have moved more quickly than thought possible and may occupy Kabul before the month is out.
Friday, August 13
[Climate Change] World Record: July Was the Hottest Month Ever – According to NOAA, July was the hottest month since recordings began 142 years ago – 2.77° F above average.
[Coronavirus] U.S. Coronavirus Totals: Cases: 36,364,700; Deaths: 634,181
Consider the spectacle: Gov. DeSantis threatens Florida administrators with salary cuts if they go ahead with vaccine mandates; Pres. Biden promises to make up any loss of salary. Could the state-federal conflict be clearer, or crazier?
Politics, Legislation, Election Notes
The angry American: You might’ve noticed in the past week or two the increased coverage of rage and violence in America – on planes, in stores, online, and of course in politics. So far, it really depends on where you live for this to seem like a real problem. It’s not surprising that people are upset; we’ve been led to believe for months that the pandemic was all but over, the economy would recover completely, and that politics would return to normal. None of this was really true. Add some general disappointment, the inflammatory propaganda from Trump-style right-wingers, some inflationary pressures, the general sense that while things looked better by the end of 2020, they don’t look better now, so more people are frustrated and lashing out. Will it get worse? Two things stand out: how much the Delta variant affects the pandemic, and, relatedly, the fate of the economy. Hard to predict. We at least have a government that is trying to do something about the problems, especially the pandemic. In general, if the economy doesn’t tank, then people’s spirit will remain relatively high. And the economy is unlikely to tank because of all the money from anti-pandemic and infrastructure government spending.
Pinned Trend: Other COVID-19 variants are out there, but continue to receive intermittent coverage.
Pinned Point: Until the filibuster rules are modified, most of the Biden agenda will not pass the Senate.
Quote of the Week
[Jeffrey Rosen], former president Donald Trump’s last attorney general, has told U.S. senators his boss was ‘persistent’ in trying to pressure the Justice Department to discredit the results of the 2020 election. [He] also characterized as ‘inexplicable’ the actions of his Justice Department colleague, Jeffrey Clark, who was willing to push Trump’s false claims of election fraud and whom Trump considered installing as acting attorney general to replace Rosen.
Katie Benner, “Former Acting Attorney General Testifies About Trump’s Efforts to Subvert Election,” The New York Times, 08/07/2021.
[The IUY Weekly Journal assumes readers are at least casually familiar with names and events. For more details, check with internet search.]