Indivisible Upper Yellowstone – Weekly Journal
The Week of Saturday, November 27 through Friday, December 3, 2021 [Vol.3 No.20]
Omicron – Working on It
The Week’s Most Notable
It was a week where the uncertain scope of the Omicron variant threat loomed over the world, and four Republican states offered unemployment pay for not taking a COVID vaccine. At last count 28 countries have Omicron cases. Labs around the world are attacking the problems presented by the unusual number of significant mutations in this variant. On the other hand, some Republican pundits have already called Omicron a hoax. Marcus Lamb, Phil Valentine, Dick Farrel, Marc Brenier, are all right-wing media COVID vaccine flamers that have died from COVID. If it were possible, now would be a good time to focus on those whose worldview is determined by planet Right Wing News – a mental place where political power and group identity are more important than life.
It won’t happen until early summer, but is anyone surprised that the Supreme Court conservatives will do what they were appointed to do – dismantle if not eradicate abortion rights? Oral arguments this week left little doubt about attitudes among the six court conservatives; in fact, their positions appeared more radical than expected. They won’t be saying, “Roe v. Wade is overruled.” What they probably will be saying is, “It’s up to the states.” That means that soon after the decision, around 23 states will enact antiabortion legislation much stricter than currently in force. Much of that will be challenged in court, but the restrictions will likely stay in place pending court action. Roughly half the states will still have some form of legal abortion, which will be under challenge both legally and legislatively. Abortion will become much more patchwork, chaotic, and divisive. Midterm elections will have abortion as a key issue.
Saturday, November 27
[Coronavirus] U.S. Coronavirus Totals: Cases: 49,194,104; Deaths: 800,898
[Coronavirus] Swiss Referendum Upholds COVID Restrictions – The current Swiss law requires a vaccination certificate or a negative test for entry into most public spaces. A referendum could have ended that restriction; but it didn’t. Swiss voters upheld the law by more than 60% of the vote.
[Coronavirus Israel] Omicron Mitigation: Israel Closes Its Borders and Re-Institutes Phone Tracking – Israel becomes the first country to close borders against the Omicron variant. The plan is to prevent new cases from arriving and to institute intensive track and trace for cases that arise inside Israel. There are no plans for business or school lockdowns.
Sunday, November 28
[Coronavirus] Moderna Working on Omicron Variant Vaccine for Early 2022 – The announcement actually said the company doesn’t know how much the Omicron variant will affect current vaccines, only that the mRNA-based vaccines will be adaptable. The statement also confirmed that “booster shots” from Moderna, like other drug companies, are really just another shot from the existing vaccine – not a specially prepared or updated concoction.
[Honduras] Social Democrat Wins Presidency in Honduras – Xiomara Castro, the first female president of Honduras, defeated Nasry Asfura of the National Party, which had been in power for 12 years. The margin was 50.67% to 35.85%. The election marked a major shift in political attitudes in Honduras, where the public apparently has had enough of the corruption and drug violence associated with the right-wing regime. Currently, Honduras is the principal source of migrants coming to United States.
Monday, November 29
[Coronavirus] Biden Calls Omicron Variant “cause for concern, not panic” – What else could a leader say? At the point when he said it, very little was known about the Omicron variant. He promised a strategy, not only to fight Omicron but COVID in general throughout the winter – without, he said, resorting to shutdowns or lockdowns, but using widespread vaccination, posters, testing, and more. As if that was not enough to keep the denialists and right-wing opposition stoked for months.
[Coronavirus] CDC Recommends COVID Booster Shots for Everyone Older Than 18 – The CDC, like most such agencies worldwide, is betting that existing vaccines might lose some effectiveness against Omicron, but will still be able to protect most people from the worst effects (hospitalization, death). On the other hand, initial vaccinations are beginning to lose strength, hence the rise of calls for boosters.
[Ghislaine Maxwell Trial] Maxwell Trial for Sex Trafficking Begins – As part of the Jeffrey Epstein story, the Maxwell trial will provide lurid media and conspiracies material for some time. The case is not as open and shut as it might seem, not the least because the principal actor is already dead. There also are many prominent people who would like to see this case ended as soon as possible. In the past, related cases were pushed out of court quickly and with surprisingly weak judgments.
Tuesday, November 30
[School Shooting] Oxford, Michigan School Shooting – Three dead, a 15-year-old shooter in custody. [Update: Four dead. This might have been “just another school shooting,” except that the shooter had been showing signs of his intention for some time, and had been confronted by teachers and school administration – with his parents – the same day as the shooting. By the end of the week, warrants were issued for his parents; among other things for having recently purchased the handgun as a birthday present for their son. After skipping their arraignment and apparently attempting to flee, they were caught after a statewide manhunt.]
[Coronavirus] Narrow FDA Recommendation for Merck COVID Treatment – In a surprising 13-10 decision an FDA panel recommended Merck’s antiviral pill despite concerns of limited effectiveness and possible reproductive effects. The FDA may or may not follow the recommendation, particularly since Pfizer is now in the queue with a reportedly more effective treatment. On the other hand, in anticipation of Omicron variant surges, the FDA may support Merck.
[Gun Laws] Appeals Court Upholds California Ban on Large Capacity Ammunition Magazines – California voted on and approved a law limiting magazines to 10 rounds. The law has been under attack in the courts ever since. This ruling brings it past the en banc phase of appeals, the next step being the U.S. Supreme Court. SCOTUS is expected to change some of the fundamentals concerning U.S. gun laws, and may choose to wait with this case until that time. It’s worth noting that in the 7-4 decision, the four conservative jurists were vociferously against the decision.
Wednesday, December 1
[Jan. 6 Investigation] House Committee Recommends Holding Former DOJ Official in Contempt – Jeffrey Clark, once considered by Trump for Acting Attorney General, was subpoenaed by the committee to testify concerning his role in promoting DOJ involvement in policing the “stolen election” and subsequent participation in the plans for subverting the 2020 election. Unlike Bannon he did appear for deposition but refused to participate, forcing the committee to vote for the contempt charge to go before the House. [Update: Clark will apparently plead the Fifth Amendment under testimony, which strongly indicates that his lawyers think that he may be liable for criminal prosecution. He was scheduled for deposition on December 4, but the date was postponed because of his ill health. A similar case is developing for Trump attorney John Eastman.]
[Supreme Court] Supreme Court Takes up Mississippi Abortion Case – While the Texas abortion case is an outlier and will probably be struck down by this court, the Mississippi case is authentic, the place where the courts’ conservatives intend to plant their flag. That much was clear from the opening oral arguments. The Mississippi case shortens the period of legal abortion from 20-24 weeks (fetus viability) to 15 weeks. It appears obvious that some of the justices would prefer to do away with Roe, and abortion, entirely. The ruling is expected by the end of June or early July, 2022.
Thursday, December 2
[Government] U.S. Government Shutdown Averted by Stopgap Funding – Despite efforts of Senate Republicans to tie refunding the government to canceling government vaccine programs, Democrats and Republicans agreed on a stopgap measure to fund the government through February 18. (With the same pointless verbal badminton resuming then.) The deadline had been Friday. This is Congress’s version of kick-the-can, with the can being the U.S. economy.
[Coronavirus] Germany Announces National Lockdown for the Unvaccinated – Because of the standing of Germany in the EU, this move is seen as not only a major practical policy change, but a huge statement about vaccine denialism. Those without proof of vaccination will not be allowed in any but essential businesses nor in most public events.
[Belarus] U.S. and Allies Sanction Belarus over Migrant Crisis – As threatened, sanctions against Belarusian entities and individuals were put in place in response to the use of migrants as political pawns by the government. At the same time, the U.S. and NATO are dancing around the growing threat of a Russian invasion of the Ukrainian border. Nobody knows for sure if Putin’s actions are simply tactical feints, involving more than 100,000 soldiers, or serious preparation for invasion. Biden has already set up conversations with Putin concerning the situation, which in itself is a somewhat good sign.
[Economy] U.S. Added 210,000 Jobs, Lower Than Expected, but Unemployment Falls to 4.2% – Economists had expected nearly 500,000 jobs to be added in November; it was 531,000 in October. The sudden drop adds to the mixed signals about the economy, where inflation numbers, unemployment numbers, and GDP begin to look like they float around independently. Some economists see the influence of COVID-19 Delta variant, with the expectation that, depending on what happens with Omicron, things could get worse.
Friday, December 3
[Coronavirus] Numerous States Have Omicron Variant Cases – Maryland declared cases on Friday, joining California, New York, Colorado, Minnesota, Massachusetts, Missouri, Nebraska, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Utah, Wisconsin, and Hawaii. It’s about 50 cases altogether. Keep in mind that Omicron is in the “numeric phase” of infection, where the numbers go up numerically: 2, 6, 18; it takes a couple of weeks to build up to the more devastating geometric progression.
[Coronavirus] U.S. Coronavirus Totals: Cases: 49,878,074; Deaths: 808,116
Politics, Legislation, Election Notes
Trump investigations per se. Almost every week there is a report about some investigation, potential indictment, or other legal action involving the former president. So far, none of it has resulted in an actual charge. There is an apt analogy: Pinning a crime on a Mafia boss. They never do anything themselves. They hire lawyers to formulate plausible deniability. It may be possible to show connections between their actions in certain criminal events, but in many criminal cases it’s important or necessary to prove intent, which for people like Trump – who are skilled at implying things, such as orders, rather than stating them – it is difficult proof to gather. All of which is made considerably harder by the fact that he was the president of the United States. Criminal indictment and conviction of Trump on anything, is a longshot; but. . . . The ongoing efforts continue to pressure him and his people, and where criminal charges may not be available, civil charges might be the ticket.
Pinned Point: Until the filibuster rules are modified, most of the Biden agenda will not pass the Senate.
Quote of the Week
A six-justice [Supreme Court] majority is a different animal. A six-justice majority, such as the one now firmly in control, is the judicial equivalent of the monarchy’s ‘heir and a spare.’ The pathways to victory are enlarged. The overall impact is far greater than the single-digit difference suggests. On the current court, each conservative justice enjoys the prospect of being able to corral four colleagues, if not all five, in support of his or her beliefs, point of view, or pet projects. . . .
Ruth Marcus, “The Rule of Six: A Newly Radicalized Supreme Court Is Poised to Reshape the Nation,” The Washington Post, 12/02/2021.
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