Indivisible Upper Yellowstone – Weekly Journal
The Week of Saturday, September 4 through Friday, September 10, 2021 [Vol.3 No.8]
COVID Vaccine Mandates
The Week’s Most Notable
This week amply demonstrated the world’s dilemmas in dealing with COVID-19. First and foremost, the pandemic isn’t over. The numbers show that because of the Delta variant most countries are barely holding even with their mitigation efforts, and death rates are climbing nearly everywhere. The most embarrassing numbers are in the U.S., which is now leading the world by averaging 160,000 or more new cases and more than 1,500 deaths every day. Second, many countries put themselves in a very bad position by promoting the idea back in June that if you are vaccinated life could return to normal. Among other things, this has led to filled sports stadiums, large concerts, and open public meetings. Unfortunately, vaccines are not a panacea: They are very good but less than 100% effective, their protection weakens over months, new variants like Delta decrease vaccine effectiveness, and finally there is the threat of Long Covid. Though not perfect, vaccines provide a necessary foundation – they generally ameliorate illness and keep most people out of the hospital and out of death’s clutches. However, as we are learning, other mitigation – masks, distancing, lockdowns, track and trace, quarantine, ventilation – are usually needed in combination for specific circumstances. This requires informed, flexible, and pragmatic management – invoking the third dilemma, organized political resistance to fighting the pandemic. Take, for example, the Republican governors threatening lawsuits over Biden’s mandate that federal employees be vaccinated.
As usual, the worst-case situation for fighting the pandemic is in the U.S. Roughly a third of the population, 90 million people, aggressively deny any combination of the pandemic, vaccines, and other mitigation. The bulk of this number is associated with the Republican Party, right-wing media, and extremist religious/political views. By refusing vaccination and other mitigation they jeopardize themselves and any prospects for successful management of the pandemic. Sadly, anti-vaccine/anti-masking propaganda works, so it continues to be funded and organized for political purposes. While most Americans are appalled, it would be helpful to speculate on how it is possible for so many people to have so little trust in the American institutions of government, medicine, law, and the public good – that they are willing to die for it and to take others with them.
Saturday, September 4
[Coronavirus] U.S. Coronavirus Totals: Cases: 40,873,482; Deaths: 668,569
[Afghanistan] Kabul Airport Reopens for Domestic Flights – As part of the Taliban program to put a normal face on their new government, a team from Qatar was brought in to repair parts of the airport control system to enable resumption of domestic flights and presumably regional flights in the near future. With difficulty, some refugee flights have also been permitted. Meanwhile, it’s important to keep watch on the background events: The Taliban continues to consolidate their control, they are turning their attention to reverting society back to Sharia Law, the Afghan economy is within a few months of near collapse, and the specter of winter famine. With potentially millions of people affected by these changes, there is great potential for tragic events with global repercussions.
Sunday, September 5
[Afghanistan] Taliban Announce Ending of Panjshir Province Resistance – Pockets of resistance to the new Taliban government continue in a few locations, mostly operating from bases outside of Afghanistan.
Monday, September 6 – Labor Day
[Government] Seven Million Lose Unemployment Benefits – Three major federal programs for people who lost work during the pandemic expired on Labor Day. Although Wall Street and economic indicators show that the Delta variant is having a negative impact on the economy, neither Congress nor the White House showed any interest in retaining unemployment benefits.
[Ivermectin] Ohio Judge Reverses Order for Hospital to Use Ivermectin on COVID Patient – This case is a good example of how messy the interface between law, medicine, and practical application can be. The hospital was first ordered to administer the ivermectin with a doctor’s order, but refused on the grounds that it was designed for cattle and not proven effective against COVID-19. The current judge found precedent for the hospital’s decision and ruled in its favor. However, the patient had already received ivermectin for 13 days; his wife said he was recovering well enough to be taken off the ventilator, so they were not planning to appeal.
Tuesday, September 7
[Abortion] DOJ Vows to Review All Options for Challenging Texas Abortion Law – This seems a perfect example of an “easy to say, hard to do” promise. In political terms it makes good copy, but in practical legal terms the DOJ will be scraping at bits and pieces to find relevant cases. The courts, especially the Supreme Court, and the DOJ are expecting actual test cases involving the new law any time between now and December. Until then, the Supreme Court is likely to decide on more traditional abortion cases brought by other states, for example Mississippi, than it is to handle a case under the Texas law brought through the chain of appellate courts. There’s a good chance that the confusing legal situation may have a dampening effect on protests and demonstrations.
[Afghanistan] Taliban Establishes New Afghan Government – Officially called a “caretaker government,” the ruling leadership Council (Rehbari Shura) appointed 30 all-male ministers to government posts. The country will be run under Sharia Law and the majority of ministers are relatives and/or political operatives associated with various members of the ruling council. As in Iran, there is a boundary between the religious-doctrinal leadership and the secular government, although in practice the religious council has the final word.
[Mexican Supreme Court] Mexican Supreme Court Decriminalizes Abortion – The ruling struck down imprisonment of women for having abortions. Abortions are still illegal.
[Climate Change] Biden Visits Hurricane Ida Devastation, Calls for Congress to Fund Disaster Relief – Biden used his visit to the areas of New York and New Jersey worst hit by Hurricane Ida to emphasize that climate change is real and needs to be addressed: “[F]olks, the evidence is clear: Climate change poses an existential threat to our lives, to our economy.” Simultaneously the White House asked Congress to allocate additional money for domestic disaster damage, and to fund refugee programs for Afghans.
[Voter Suppression] Texas Governor Signs Voting Restriction Law – After several months of protests and maneuvering by Texas Democrats, both houses of the Texas legislature passed the law along party lines. The law includes banning 24 hour and drive through voting, limits mail-in balloting, and boosts the role of poll watchers. Texas already has the most restrictive voting laws in the country, mostly aimed at discouraging voting by people of color.
Wednesday, September 8
[Coronavirus] County Judge Rules Florida Can’t Enforce Ban on School Mask Mandates – In what is sure to be a long line of legal challenges, Leon County Judge John Cooper ruled that school districts can enforce their vaccine mandates as long as they offer a medical opt-out alternative. [Update: A Florida appeals court struck down this ruling.
Thursday, September 9
[Coronavirus] Biden Announces Executive Orders on Vaccine Mandates – Prefaced by his statement, “Our patience is wearing thin, we’re going to protect vaccinated workers from unvaccinated coworkers,” Biden introduced two executive orders: One requires COVID-19 vaccinations for federal workers and all healthcare workers at institutions receiving Medicare or Medicaid funding. The second order, being developed by the Labor Department, will mandate vaccines for businesses with more than 100 workers, or require them to undergo weekly coronavirus testing. It’s this last order that has drawn the most vociferous opposition from Republicans, who have generally gone the “dictator” route of opprobrium.
[Coronavirus] Los Angeles School Board to Require COViD Vaccines for Students 12 and Up – This vaccine mandate for the nation’s second-largest school district (about 225,000 students) was opposed by some parents on the grounds that the vaccines were experimental, a dubious caveat as the Pfizer vaccine is now fully FDA approved and has been injected into more than 150 million American arms.
[Abortion] Biden Administration Files Suit to Block Texas Abortion Law – The suit highlights two of the most egregious constitutional problems with the law: It blocks a woman’s right to an abortion (14th amendment due process), which is still valid constitutional and federal law, and it sets up what AG Merrick Garland calls “a bounty hunter element” that will precipitate all kinds of legal and social chaos.
[Alaska Wilderness] EPA to Restore Protections for Alaska’s Bristol Bay – Mining rights were sold by the Trump administration to a Canadian firm; the EPA change will block that development under the Clean Water Act. The mine was strenuously opposed by a broad consortium of environmentalists, Alaska natives, fishing operators, and recreational anglers.
[Anti-Riot Law] Federal Judge Rules against Florida Anti-Riot Law – U.S. District Judge Mark Walker called the law “vague and overbroad” thereby violating First Amendment rights of free speech and assembly. The law would permit arrests on criminal charges against peaceful protesters, or even those who only happened to be nearby. The state will appeal, beginning the judicial ladder-climb probably leading to the Supreme Court in a year or so.
Friday, September 10
[Coronavirus] Biden Continues Aggressive Tone in Favor of Vaccine Mandates – With polls showing that vaccine mandates are approved by a substantial majority of Americans, Biden has come out swinging against increasingly shrill, sometimes bordering on demented, criticism by Republicans. Notoriously, several Republican governors accused Biden of being a dictator and threatening to challenge his executive order on a government employee mandate in the courts – to which he replied “Have at it.”
[Coronavirus] U.S. Coronavirus Totals: Cases: 41,744,485; Deaths: 677,018
Politics, Legislation, Election Notes
Republicans continued their campaigns of boldly obvious exaggeration and puerile bluster. Possibly some of their tribe take it seriously, but mostly it’s more of the “poke the liberals,” genre. Democrats have spent the last several weeks holed-up with their law books, legal advisors, and all sorts of negotiators/lobbyists to hammer out the details and language of the three monumental pieces of legislation that will become law if passed by this Congress: the $1.1 trillion bipartisan infrastructure bill (Investment and Jobs Act), the $3.5 trillion budget reconciliation infrastructure bill, and, more surprisingly, a compromise Voting Rights Act. The House in particular looks like a racetrack with so much horsetrading going on, as congresspeople jockey for their favorite pieces of the bill, trying to meet their lobbyists/donors’ requests, and the desire to find the right mix of program and price to get the thing passed. The next six weeks are likely to create a paroxysm of legislative activity not seen since the time of the Civil War – complete with blasting cannonades of unbridled angry rhetoric from Republicans and a flurry of PR sallies by various factions of the Democrats. It will be difficult to follow, but of outstanding historical importance.
Pinned Trend: The “really bad mutants” watch continues for COVID-19 variants.
Pinned Point: Until the filibuster rules are modified, most of the Biden agenda will not pass the Senate.
Quote of the Week
‘At the end of the day it really doesn’t impact me or anyone else,’ DeSantis said of people who refuse to get vaccinated. But it does, for many reasons. And the comment says a lot about where the GOP is on this issue.
Aaron Blake, “Ron DeSantis and the Worst Fallacy About Vaccine Skepticism,” The Washington Post, 09/07/2021.
[The IUY Weekly Journal assumes readers are least casually familiar with names and events. For more details, check with internet search.]