Indivisible Upper Yellowstone – Weekly Journal
The Week of Saturday, October 16 through Friday, October 22, 2021 [Vol.3 No.14]
Shaky Supply Chain
The Week’s Most Notable
it might be more accurate to characterize this past week as the “tip of the great unknowns.” There are things happening, none good, in very important aspects of our country that are confusing and difficult to explain. Start with the economy. There is inflation, which people can see in the prices of the food they buy; but the Fed says that the inflation is temporary. That may be true for electronics, vehicles, gasoline, and some commodities, but it’s unlikely to be true for food. When clerks have to change price labels every day on grocery store shelves, those prices are not going back anytime soon. On the other hand, wages are, in general, rising. That might have something to do with inflation, but as an explanatory story it breaks down with specifics such as food. Food is going up for a variety of reasons, including breakdowns in the supply chain, shortage of agricultural labor, sudden demand from the restaurant industry, and what’s known as the “monkey see, monkey do” pricing of national food distributors. So, is inflation a problem? It sure is for some people, but for the country as a whole, economists don’t really know. Just like they’re not certain about why millions of people quit their jobs. They were not fired, or laid off, they simply quit – about 6 million since July. That’s one clear source of the labor shortage. Inflation, supply chain problems, labor shortages, parts of the economy overheated, like housing, and other parts stone cold. None of it fits into a convenient or believable analysis of what’s happening to the economy.
Another of the great unknowns is the status of the pandemic. Yes, officially it does look like the pandemic is receding. New infections have dropped from 200,000 a day to around 80,000; still way too high but better. The problem is – winter is coming. Epidemiologists unanimously warn that the winter months mark a rise in cases, and that this year the situation looks like it will be complicated by a much more active flu season. How will our improving vaccination rate but dropping rate of mitigation, such as masking, play out in the coming months? U.S. media have given it scant coverage, but there is talk of a “fourth wave” of COVID-19 already in Europe and spreading on the advance of a Delta Plus variant. (See the last page.) We will know much more in about two months, just in time for the year-end holidays.
Then there is the state of the American democracy and the status of Democratic legislation in Congress. It is appropriate to conflate the two. While there are signs that the Trump/GOP Big Lie may be frazzling, Republican legislatures across the country are stacking voter suppression laws, gerrymandering, and manipulation of the election process against the time in 2022 and/or 2024 when they hope to be able to say only Republican victories are legitimate. Nominally, the Democrats in Congress have developed the legislation to prevent that with Freedom to Vote Act of 2021, but passing it will require modification of the filibuster rule, and that is being held up in the hands of Senators Manchin and Sinema. Ditto for Biden’s agenda with the infrastructure bills, in particular, the bill that depends on a budget reconciliation process (it used to be called the $3.5 trillion bill). Media reporting on the fierce jockeying to close both infrastructure bills has been atrocious, or more to the point, contradictory. For one thing, it’s just being discovered that Sinema is probably more of a problem than Manchin, especially when it comes to unpredictability. Both, who now hold – not to put too fine a point on it – the fate of Western Civilization in their hands, are keeping their hands behind their backs. Take every attempt by the media to interpret that with a huge grain of salt.
Saturday, October 16
[Coronavirus] U.S. Coronavirus Totals: Cases: 45,819,323; Deaths: 746,663
[Haiti] 17 Missionaries Kidnapped in Haiti – The mostly American Christian missionaries and their families were taken from a bus near Port-au-Prince, they are being held in lieu of $1 million ransom per person. U.S. Military and State Department personnel were immediately involved, although the situation in Haiti is extremely chaotic and difficult to navigate.
[Afghanistan Bombings] Taliban to Deal with Bombings of Shiite Mosques – Two attacks by suicide bombers on Shiite mosques killed 41 and injured more than 70. The radical Sunni Muslim group ISIS-K claimed responsibility. It’s an indication of the unfinished business of consolidating control by the new regime and explains why the CIA has been involved with discussions on how to deal with ISIS in Afghanistan.
[Strikes] Hollywood Strike Averted – The agreement must still be ratified by members, but the IATSE unions, which represent more than 40,000 workers, tentatively agreed to a new contract with increased pay for streaming services, more frequent breaks, and other benefits. This would have been the biggest strike in Hollywood history.
Sunday, October 17
[China Economy] Economic Growth Slows Dramatically in China – Plagued by supply chain problems and power outages, the growth in the Chinese economy dropped 7.9% from the second quarter and 18.3% from the first quarter. China is still experiencing extraordinary demands from the rise in domestic purchasing from Western countries.
Monday, October 18
[Colin Powell] Colin Powell Dies of COVID-19 Complications – The 84-year-old former U.S. Secretary of State, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, National Security Advisor, and four-star Army general who was once considered as a strong prospect for a presidential candidate, died of complications from chronic illness exacerbated by COVID-19. He was fully vaccinated for COVID but his underlying conditions rendered that ineffective. He will long be remembered as the most popular public official of his time, and then the most reviled for his speech before the United Nations defending U.S. policy in Iraq.
[Jan.6 Investigation] Trump Sues to Block Release of January 6 Documents – In a clear delaying tactic, Trump has charged in federal court that the House committee investigating the insurrection is engaging in a fishing expedition detached from legislative purpose. This is a shift from denying access under executive privilege, which Trump has no authority to claim. In this case it is likely that the court will appoint a special master to review documents before they can be sent on to the committee, much as was done with documents seized from Trump lawyer Michael Cohen.
[Abortion] DOJ Files with Supreme Court to Block Texas Abortion Law – Following the lines of argument by the three dissenting justices, the DOJ is claiming that the law is obviously unconstitutional and therefore, pending final decision by the Supreme Court, should not be put into force. [Update: The Supreme Court ruled that it will hear this argument on November 1, but will leave the law in force during the interim.]
Tuesday, October 19
[Jan. 6 Investigation] House Select Committee Recommends Criminal Contempt for Bannon – Because of Steve Bannon’s open defiance of a congressional subpoena to provide documents and testimony, the committee accelerated the Contempt of Congress process. [Update: The House approved the Contempt of Congress charge for Bannon on Thursday. The case now goes to the DOJ and the U.S. Attorney of Washington D.C.]
[Indictment] GOP Rep. Jeff Fortenberry Indicted for Lying about Campaign Contributions – A federal grand jury found that Fortenberry (R-NE) had lied about a $30,200 contribution to his campaign from Gilbert Chagoury, a Lebanese Nigerian billionaire.
[Western Drought] California Declares Statewide Drought Emergency – Recognizing the extreme drought conditions, Gov. Gavin Newsom called upon Californians to reduce water usage by 15%. The good news is that weather forecasters are predicting persistent and very significant precipitation in California by the end of the week – enough perhaps to end the current drought.
[Coronavirus] UK Announces “Watch” over COVID-19 Delta Variant Sub Variant, Delta Plus – British PM Boris Johnson indicated that the spread and influence of the Delta Plus variant may be at least partially responsible for the recent rise in new cases throughout the United Kingdom.
[Medicine – Transplant] Altered Pig Kidney Successfully Used in Human Transplant – Surgeons in New York successfully attached the kidney from a genetically altered pig to a brain-dead woman. There were no signs of rejection. This is not an immediate breakthrough, there are many tests to come, including how long the kidney will last; but it does constitute a breakthrough in the techniques and approach that can be applied to various kinds of transplant cases. As one doctor put it, this is truly “a big deal.”
Wednesday, October 20
[Coronavirus] White House Outlines Plans for Vaccinating Children – Pending an emergency use authorization, the Biden administration has made plans for vaccinating children ages 5 to 11 with the newly approved Pfizer vaccine. This could happen as early as the first week in November. Distribution of the vaccine will go to a wide variety of outlets including doctors’ offices, pharmacies, hospitals, community centers, and school clinics. The hope is that by closing the vaccine gap for all of the people mobile enough to spread COVID-19, the U.S. can further approach a kind of herd immunity.
[Coronavirus] FDA Approves Moderna and J&J Boosters – The approval means that all three U.S. vaccines now have approved boosters, which indicates the sense of urgency that these boosters be made available. The issue is that the original vaccines are, more or less, beginning to lose potency after about six months. The CDC wants to offer a viable way of increasing immunity without engaging in an immediate debate over widespread “re-vaccination.” In other words, they’re not mentioning that some kind of booster may be necessary not only now but in the future.
[Coronavirus – Brazil] Brazilian Senators Recommend Criminal Charges for Bolsanaro over Pandemic – An 11-member panel of the Senate recommended that Bolsanaro be charged with crimes against humanity for failing to address the loss of 600,000 Brazilians to COVID-19 and for misusing public funds in that regard. Of course, Bolsanaro is not the only national leader exposed to this charge.
[Afghanistan] Taliban Organizes UN Donor Conference – This is another sign that Taliban government 2.0 is a little different from the original as it seeks donations to avoid economic collapse. Interestingly, the countries so far signed up for a potential UN conference include Russia, China, Pakistan, India, Iran – but none from the Western countries.
[Voting Rights Bill] Senate GOP Once Again Blocks Voting Rights Bill – As expected, Senate Republicans rejected even discussing the Freedom to Vote Act, providing an ample talking point for Democrats. The Republicans offered no specific rationale other than their “stop the Democrats’ radical agenda.” Of course, the real reason is that the bill contains many elements that are directly aimed at counteracting Republican state legislation restricting voting rights.
Thursday, October 21
[Infrastructure] Veterans Quit Sinema Advisory Panel, Charge Her with Abandoning Constituents – The resignation and following PR attracted quite a bit of attention, in part because the media is finally paying attention to the role Sinema might play in finalizing or killing Biden’s infrastructure agenda. A spokesperson for the veterans said, “Sinema has become one of the principal obstacles to progress, answering to big donors rather than her own people.”
[Coronavirus] DeSantis Calls for Florida Special Legislative Session to Block Vaccine Mandates – The Biden administration’s executive order calling for mandates to vaccinate all federal employees and businesses with more than 100 employees is the target of proposed legislation to make such mandates illegal in Florida.
Friday, October 22
[Mueller Investigation] Lev Parnas, Giuliani Ally, Convicted on Campaign Finance Charges – Many may not remember, but Parnas was involved with Igor Fruman in digging up dirt on the Bidens in the Ukraine. Parnas was indicted for distributing Russian oligarchs’ money to elements of the Trump campaign.
[Stock Market] Dow Closes on All-Time Record High – After three straight weeks of gains, the Dow closed at 35,677, an all-time high. Apparently, Wall Street has not been shaken by Biden’s decisions, the continuing pandemic’s, or the economy’s jitters.
[Coronavirus] U.S. Coronavirus Totals: Cases: 46,265,386; Deaths: 755,721
As if booster shots weren’t confusing or controversial enough, the CDC has tossed another ringer into the issue by saying that it has approved a “mix and match” approach to using a different brand of vaccine as a booster shot. That means, for example, if you started with Johnson & Johnson, you could have a Pfizer or Moderna booster. A number of professionals don’t consider booster shots as controversial but rather unnecessary; however, the CDC says that a slow decline of immunity from original vaccinations needs to be countered in some way. In fact, the need to boost immunization after about six months is common to all the vaccines and will become a major issue in the near future.
Delta Plus and a fourth wave. Back in July, Great Britain dropped all of its COVID mitigation rules (“Freedom Day”). It had just seen its COVID-19 infection rate drop from about 40,000 cases per day to well below 20,000, still high but heading in the right direction. Skip three months and, as of Friday, October 22, Great Britain had more than 50,000 new cases per day for several days running. The death rate is also climbing. The government is in stasis, but epidemiologists point to specific problems: a serious decline in the rollout of vaccines that now trails most of Europe, and the Delta Plus variant. This variant is not new, it appeared in India back in April and was also found in the U.S. Since then, knowledge of Delta Plus has been subsumed under the broader category of Delta variant. (Actually, who knows how many sub-variants of Delta are being rolled into the general rubric. The state of virus DNA testing, worldwide, has deteriorated that much.) Delta plus is apparently as infectious as the original Delta, but perhaps more virulent, and perhaps more able to escape vaccine immunization. If so, although the studies are still in progress, it goes some of the way to explain the dramatic rise of cases in Great Britain. They are now calling it the fourth wave. Simultaneously, there are serious outbreaks all over Eastern Europe, with new hotspots including Denmark, the Netherlands, and Belgium. There is a chance, hopefully a good chance, that the increasing vaccination rate in the U.S., especially with children, will help us avoid a fourth wave.
Pinned Point: Until the filibuster rules are modified, most of the Biden agenda will not pass the Senate.
Quote of the Week
Truth Social’s terms forbid users from saying anything to “disparage, tarnish, or otherwise harm, in our opinion, us and/or the Site.” At last, free speech has been restored to the Internet!
Paul Waldman, “Why Trump’s Pathetic Social Media Platform is Probably Doomed,” The Washington Post, 10/21/2021.
[The IUY Weekly Journal assumes readers are least casually familiar with names and events. For more details, check with internet search.]