Indivisible Upper Yellowstone – Weekly Journal
The Week of Saturday, January 8 through Friday, January 14, 2022 [Vol.3 No.26]
The Week’s Most Notable
Should people be shocked that Kyrsten Sinema and Joe Manchin refuse to modify the Senate filibuster rules? Of course not. They’ve been saying this for months. Yes, most people probably reckoned they would come around and see the light. Just like the 50 Republican senators, who are the real cause of the blocked attempt to protect voting rights. Sen. Sinema provided a rationale based on bipartisanship: “I will not support separate actions that worsen the underlying disease of division infecting our country.” She and Manchin continue to push the idea that only voting rights protections that the Republicans agree to will hold. Apparently, they don’t accept that the driving rationale behind Trump-GOP voting manipulation is that only elections won by Republicans are legitimate. They apparently believe that the party fully engaged with using the Big Lie will negotiate on voting rights in good faith. Since both of them have heard every possible counterargument over the years, and none of it stuck, it’s probable that their beliefs are ingrained, much as they are with Trump Republicans, or perhaps they have been effectively incentivized. Someday we may know the full story.
Meanwhile, the Democrats don’t like to talk about it, but the Biden agenda has been shredded. With the possible exception of the Build Back Better bill, every piece of legislation remaining – immigration, gun control, education, healthcare, whatever – depends on working around the filibuster. Apparently, not going to happen. Voting rights legislation, if any, will have to have Republican support. That will leave most of the state-based rigging of election rules and voting officials intact. Unfortunately, the mechanisms used to change the outcomes of elections are all but invisible to most people. The end result, one-party rule, usually comes about gradually and without fanfare. If the Republicans gain control of the House this fall, that will mark the first step.
Saturday, January 8
[Coronavirus] U.S. Coronavirus Totals: Cases: 62,216,408; Deaths: 860,529
Sunday, January 9
[Kazakhstan] Government, Russian Troops Quell Protests – According to Kazakh officials, the country has been “stabilized.” That is, police and government troops, with the help of Russian troops, have arrested more than 6,000 people, and 164 have died. [Update: By the end of the week Russian troops were being withdrawn.]
[Ukraine] Talks on Ukraine Stumble – While the Russian rhetoric continues to be bellicose and the media reporting continues to talk about stumbles and grumbles in the talks between the U.S., Russia, Ukraine, and, oh yeah, the rest of Europe, it’s well understood there is no solution per se. What the Russians are demanding, essentially to limit (muzzle) NATO, is not going to happen, but sometime down the road, months from now probably, there will be some kind of agreement that makes it look like Putin got something. [Update: Note that this week the Russians turned over 40 people indicted for cybercrimes in the U.S. That probably wouldn’t have happened if both sides were careening toward war.]
Monday, January 10
[Coronavirus] COVID Hospitalizations Surge to Record Level – Thanks to the Omicron variant, new infections have reached the million a day level, but since Omicron causes fewer pathogenic results the gross number of people infected is probably less important than how many wind up in the hospital. This too is now at record levels, reaching 132,646 on Monday. [Update: The numbers continued to climb all week. The seven-day average is now over 800,000 new cases a day, and the number of hospitalizations is beginning to overwhelm healthcare systems in at least 10 states.]
[Election 2020] Trump Rounds on Rounds – It started a week ago Sunday: Sen. Mike Rounds (R-SD) said on This Week with George Stephanopoulos, “If we are being honest, there was no evidence of widespread fraud that would have altered the results of the election.” His point was that it was time for Republicans to move on from the 2020 election and concentrate on attacking the Democratic agenda. He knew, of course, this sentiment would not go down well with Trump; it didn’t. On Monday Trump launched an intemperate and personal attack on Rounds, with statements such as “He’s a jerk.” “I will never endorse this jerk again.” Rounds is not alone; it remains to be seen if there will be other voices and if the ad hominem attacks will be sustained.
[Medicine] A Turning Point in Transplant Medicine: Successful Transplant of a Pig Heart into a Human – It’s been in the works a long time, but this is a big deal. Doctors at the University of Maryland Medical Center successfully used a genetically altered pig heart and transplanted it into the chest of a 57-year-old Maryland man with a life-threatening heart disease. This is a proof of concept. What remains are some formidable questions: How long will the transplant heart continue to function? Will there be unexpected side effects? The procedure is incredibly expensive; can the cost be reduced to a more practical level? What are the ethical and moral questions, especially involving genetically altered animals?
Tuesday, January 11
[DOJ] DOJ to Form Domestic Terrorism Unit – Although the laws concerning domestic terrorism are nowhere near as complete or effective as they are for foreign terrorism, the DOJ announced the formation of a unit to counter rising threats from US-based extremists. Whether this new unit is a sincere response to the FBI’s failures on the January 6 attack on the Capitol, or a systematic and serious attempt to deal with domestic terrorists, remains to be seen.
[Coronavirus] Pfizer to Release Omicron-Specific Vaccine – Within the next several months Pfizer will release a vaccine formulated to counter the Omicron variant. It plans to manufacture 50 – 100 million doses. It is doing this at its own cost, which probably means it reckoned Omicron will still be a problem even after it may have peaked in some parts of the world.
Wednesday, January 12
[Jan.6 Investigation] McCarthy Rejects Jan. 6 Committee Request for His Testimony– – Calling the House committee “illegitimate” and accusing it of “abuse of power,” his defiance is a sign of his close ties to Trump and his signal that the committee will need to use the subpoena. Since McCarthy, as House Minority Leader, was privy to planning by Trump and Chief of Staff Meadows, his testimony is valuable enough to warrant the long-drawn-out process of going to the courts.
[U.S. Economy] Consumer Prices up 7%, Highest since 1982 – Inflation continues to be the hot-button issue, along with COVID, most particularly with Republican and the media. The Fed and private economists take the stubborn inflation seriously, and while continuing to note that COVID-related problems such as supply chain disruption affect the inflation rate, they expect inflation to begin dropping before summer. Some economists believe that the increases, at least in some industries, are highly opportunistic (greed) but at the same time sticky, unlikely to change quickly.
[Coronavirus] Administration to Distribute 10 Million COVID Tests – Along with the announcement that private insurers will cover the cost (reimburse) for COVID tests, and that the federal government will operate a website where free tests can be ordered, the plan to distribute tests particularly among schools is hoped to meet the sudden expansion of infections caused by the Omicron variant.
[Great Britain] Johnson Government Teeters on Public Disapproval for Illegal Parties – Whatever else Johnson and the conservative government have done over the years, the arrogant disregard of their own laws concerning “no gatherings” at Christmas time during last year’s pandemic has succeeded in pissing off the voting public like nothing else. The focus of the anger has largely been on Johnson himself, but the political/voting spillover, such as the disastrous loss in the North Shropshire by-election, has put the Conservative Party in a mood to remove him. Timing and the lack of a fully viable alternative will probably delay a change in government.
Thursday, January 13
[Voting Rights Act] House Passes Voting Rights Legislation for Senate – It’s an artificial construct, a specialized bill containing the Freedom to Vote Act and the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act, which allows a procedural maneuver enabling debate in the Senate without a 60-vote approval. From there to pass the legislation the Democrats would need to get around the Republican filibuster. Unfortunately, Krrysten Sinema (D-AZ) torpedoed the possibility of passing the bill in the Senate by refusing to allow modification of the filibuster.
[Supreme Court] SCOTUS Rejects Biden Vaccine Mandate for Large Companies – The conservative majority of the court conjured an interpretation of the OSHA mandate to regulate occupational hazards by adding the qualification “not to regulate public health more broadly.” So, in this case, a public emergency of the highest order, where some 80 million workers are endangered by the worst pandemic in American history, OSHA is exceeding its authority to regulate occupational hazards. In short, it appears some key justices agree with the Republican stance that the COVID emergency is not that real. They did toss a bone to the Biden administration by allowing mandatory vaccinations for healthcare workers.
Friday, January 14
[DOJ] Oath Keepers Leader Arrested, Indicted on Sedition – For months the DOJ has been under pressure to bring serious charges against key participants in the January 6 insurrection. This move, arresting the leader of Oath Keepers, Stuart Rhodes, and 10 other members, and charging them with seditious conspiracy is that serious. It is a difficult charge to prove in court.
[Jan.6 Investigation] Jan. 6 Committee Subpoenas Facebook, Google, Reddit, Twitter Records – After months of seeking cooperation and documents from the tech giants – without much success – the committee is finally resorting to subpoena, forcing the issue into the courts. As with all such subpoenas, it will be contested on details, as the majority of tech giants are not eager to cooperate (while professing to be eager). Their role in the development of the insurrection is crucial to the investigation.
[Student Debt] In Settlement Navient Corp. Agrees to Cancel $1.7 Billion in Student Debt – The agreement struck with 40 State AG’s will affect 66,000 borrowers with defaulted loans between 2003 and 2010. The company was accused of deceptive lending practices.
[Coronavirus] U.S. Coronavirus Totals: Cases: 66,260,142; Deaths: 872,263
Politics, Legislation, Election Notes
Omicron. Inflation. Centrist Sabotage. Midterm Massacre? (HuffPost) What will this headline be six months from now?
Pinned Point: Until the filibuster rules are modified, most of the Biden agenda will not pass the Senate.
Quote of the Week
[T]he truth is that no country can survive when the leaders of its institutions actively work toward the destruction of those institutions. Mike Pompeo graduated first in his class from West Point and served as editor of the Harvard Law Review. When a man of those advantages oversees the hollowing out of the State Department, allows the president to fire inspectors general who displease him by their inspection, uses his position to cultivate donors for his party, and consistently bends the norms and destroys the traditions that have lifted him to power, what hope can there be for his country? If he cannot manage to keep faith with the system, who can?
Stephen Marche, The Atlantic, January 2022.
[The IUY Weekly Journal assumes readers are at least casually familiar with names and events. For more details, check with internet search.]