Indivisible Upper Yellowstone – Weekly Journal
The Week of Saturday, December 26 through Saturday, January 1, 2022 [Vol.3 No.24]
New Year 2022
The Week’s Most Notable
The U.S. finished the week with a single day record 446,567 new cases of coronavirus, and for the most part it didn’t even make the headlines. There have been various counts, some totaling over 500,000. This was predicted and will get worse. It was the Christmas bump; there will be another one following the New Year, with most experts predicting the peak to hit around mid-January. The numbers could be close to a million cases per day. Most of this will be Omicron-caused and fortunately, those who are vaccinated will perhaps be less afflicted. Still, this vast number of people – and the real number is probably greater – is already affecting hospitals, airlines, police forces, and public services of all sorts. Likewise, although the death rate has fallen from more than 3,000 to 1,500, that is still pushing the U.S. toward one million dead before the end of 2022. These are not happy numbers, but it’s important to be realistic about this pandemic. There are limits to what science and medicine can do, and some of those limits are set by the self-destructive behavior of people. Not being vaccinated, not wearing masks, not following distancing perpetuates the pandemic and leaves the door open for new mutations, such as Omicron.
Saturday, December 25
[Coronavirus] U.S. Coronavirus Totals: Cases: 53,613,993; Deaths: 838,834
[Coronavirus] Airlines Cancel 2,500 Flights – Principal reason given: flight crews out sick with COVID. By the end of the week flight schedules worldwide were in chaos.
Sunday, December 26
Desmond Tutu [1931 – 2021 (90)] South African Anglican archbishop, theologian, Nobel Peace Prize awarded for his work in the struggle against apartheid in South Africa.
Monday, December 27
[Coronavirus] CDC Changes Isolation Time for Asymptomatic Infections – The headline encapsulates a problem: say what? More simply put: the CDC cut isolation time for people with coronavirus but not showing symptoms from 10 to 5 days. There’s more. The agency reduced the recommended quarantine time for people who are vaccinated but not boosted to five days after exposure. People should also wear masks for five days after they’ve quarantined, but if they have received booster shots, they should wear masks for 10 days but don’t need to isolate. The CDC was instantly criticized by doctors and nursing groups for the confusing instructions and, more importantly, for bending to the pressure of getting people back to work. The main problem with the Omicron variant is that vaccinated people aren’t as sick, but are still taking themselves out of work and that’s disrupting the economy.
[Coronavirus] Shortage of Coronavirus At-Home Test Kits – The symptoms for the common cold, the flu, and the Omicron variant are very similar. The only way to differentiate is to take a test. Most (but not all) at-home COVID-19 rapid tests can do the job, but the U.S. is in short supply of these tests. More than 200 million kits became available in December, which apparently is less than half the demand. (Observationally, the problem is that people often need take multiple tests.) Biden announced plans for the government to purchase 500 million kits for free distribution, probably arriving sometime after the l predicted high point of the Omicron crisis in mid-January.
[Coronavirus] Israel Testing Fourth Booster Shot for COVID-19 – The government plans to offer a fourth Pfizer booster shot to health workers, citizens over 60, and people with compromised immune systems. The anti-VAX cults in the U.S. are going to love that.
Tuesday, November 28
Harry Reid Jr. [1939 – 2021 (82)] Senate Majority Leader 2007 – 2015; one of the most powerful and respected Democratic leaders of his era.
John Madden [1936 – 2021 (85)] Pro football coach (Oakland Raiders, Super Bowl XI, NFL Hall of Fame), leading U.S. sportscaster.
[Jan. 6 Investigation] Jan. 6 Committee to Shield Some Trump Documents – The committee agreed not to expose documents that do not appear to have bearing on the January 6 insurrection. This was a preemptive move to avoid a complaint by Trump lawyers before the Supreme Court. SCOTUS may still require further limitation and abridgment of Trump documents before the committee can use them.
Wednesday, December 29
[Epstein Case] Ghislaine Maxwell Found Guilty of Sex-Trafficking – Guilty on five of six counts, each count carrying a maximum sentence of 40 years in prison.
[Coronavirus] New York City Again Becomes Center of Coronavirus Infection – As each day sees a new record in coronavirus infections in the U.S., New York City saw 39,591 new cases on Wednesday. More than 110,000 New Yorkers have tested positive since Christmas Day. Some 30% of the city’s 4,400 emergency workers called in sick on Wednesday.
Thursday, December 30
[Colorado Fires] Hundreds of Homes Burned in Colorado – Called the most destructive fire in Colorado history, it appears that up to a thousand homes and buildings were destroyed by an intense wildfire fed by 100 mph winds. The fires, mainly originating in grassland, ripped through communities such as Louisville and Superior, roughly midway between Denver and Boulder. More than 30,000 people were evacuated. So far, amazingly, there have been no reports of fatalities. Conditions enabled by climate change – unseasonable warmth and dry conditions – are considered prime factors in creating the explosive fire.
[Economy] Unemployment Claims Dropped below 200,000 – The moving four-week average declined to 199,250, the lowest since October 1969. The robust employment is part of a rather confusing economic picture for the year. Economists are concerned that conditions created by the Omicron variant could reverse the employment trend in 2022.
[Ukraine] Biden and Putin Have Second Call over Ukraine Crisis – Biden threatened sanctions if Russia invades Ukraine, Russia threatened to break the relationship if sanctions are imposed. Most likely, huffing and puffing. However, there’s always a chance that due to internal Russian political pressures, Putin might need to do something dramatic. That’s always dangerous.
Friday, December 31 – New Year’s Eve
Betty White [1922 – 2021 (99)] American actress and comedian, pioneer of early television, with a career that spanned seven decades.
[Coronavirus] CDC Warns against All Cruise Travel – Note that this is a recommendation, still, guaranteed not to make the cruise companies happy. Sometimes described as “floating petri dishes,” cruise ships already have a negative reputation when it comes to infections and epidemics.
Saturday, January 1 – New Year’s Day
[Coronavirus] U.S. Coronavirus Totals: Cases: 55,863,519; Deaths: 847,162
There is a trend in news coverage, based largely on reports from South Africa, that the Omicron variant is milder, peaks early, and will die out quickly. Corollary happy news includes Omicron as the end-stage of the pandemic. Some of this speculation is based on data. However, epidemiologists in South Africa cautioned that the principal study comes from a county that is demographically younger than average even for South Africa and that it is the middle of the summer in that country. There is also the concern that there may be regional or even local variations in the Omicron virus that will produce different outcomes. In any case, the huge number of infections in countries such as Great Britain, U.S., and France will have an impact on their healthcare systems and economies, regardless of whether the pandemic is peaking or not. Psychologically it helps to be optimistic but, as we have seen, the COVID-19 virus is, to use a nonscientific term, stubborn. It is more likely to become endemic – around all the time though not necessarily as destructive as it currently is.
Politics, Legislation, Election Notes
Can’t happen here. Between New Year’s Day and November 8, Americans will need to make up their minds how seriously to take the threat to democracy. How close are we to putting an authoritarian, someone like Trump or worse, in permanent power? Republican legislatures in key states are rigging their electoral systems and personnel to legally reject any election outcome that doesn’t keep them in power. This is the essence of an authoritarian system. There are many ways to look at this; here’s one that might be useful: Trump-Republicans also believe the country is in trouble, but from their perspective it’s because of the liberals/Democrats who create chaos by lying, by cheating in elections, and by oppressing patriots. Their antidote for chaos is to put someone in charge, and it’s okay if that someone is relatively dictatorial and undemocratic (e.g., someone like Trump). How this happens to play out can be seen in the history of countries such as Hungary – first, domination of the media so that propaganda is unfettered, then an electoral majority and an autocratic leader, followed by stacking the courts with partisans, then changing key laws (including elements of the Constitution) to favor the party in power. (Ask yourself, how close are we already to this model?) This can all happen without public violence and under the cover of a steady stream of media distraction and propaganda. Most people don’t know it’s happening, and quite a few of those that do, are okay with it.
That can’t happen here! – but it almost did. Through the next several months the House Jan. 6 Committee will conduct a public process of revealing the details of plotting and attempting to execute a coup against the legal and verified election of a president. Pay attention to those details and judge for yourself how likely it is with a few strategic changes and tactical tweaks, such a coup could work. Then make up your mind what you are going to do about it.
Pinned Point: Until the filibuster rules are modified, most of the Biden agenda will not pass the Senate.
Quote of the Week
1. The GOP creating the infrastructure to overturn future elections
2. The decline of legislating (little debate, little traditional committee process)
3. The rise of alternative medicine on the right
4. The unceremonious collapse of police reform
5. The uncertain future of redistricting reform
Aaron Blake, “The 5 Most Undersold Political Stories of 2021,” The Washington Post, 12/30/2021.
[The IUY Weekly Journal assumes readers are at least casually familiar with names and events. For more details, check with internet search.]