Indivisible Upper Yellowstone – Weekly Journal
The Week of Saturday, April 3 through Friday, April 9, 2021 [Vol.2 No.38]
The Week’s Most Notable
You know it was a quiet week if the most memorable thing about it was that it contained Easter Sunday. The theme of the week, if it could be said there was one, might be “political posturing,” in that all kinds of people, both political parties, the Biden administration, and many organizations didn’t actually do anything except stake out their position, jockey for leverage, bluster, and react to various forms of outrageousness, such as the Matt Gaetz opera buffo, or Mitch McConnell shaking an accusatory “stay out of politics” finger at corporations (his patron base). We are at that stage, particularly with legislation, where politicians profess one position or another while everybody knows they are trying to leverage their vote against some kind of reward, and that their final position might be quite different. This is particularly true of Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV) whose policy waffles reflect the magnitude of his key vote in the Senate. In general, the media can’t or refuses to report the underlying dynamics, which are effectively only important in the Democratic caucus, preferring to stick with the GOP versus Dems faux drama. It’s like the eternal confusion over what legislation can and cannot be passed by budget reconciliation. Incidentally or not, the Senate parliamentarian just ruled that the Democrats are not limited to one budget reconciliation bill per year. Now the Democrats are faced with options: create new budget reconciliation bills and/or jigger the filibuster rules – either of which will require Manchin and his ilk to, eventually, acquiesce.
The COVID-19 race hits record pace, which is to say that U.S. vaccinations hit a record of more than 4 million in a single day, while the number of new cases increased in more than 12 states, with the U.S. total heading back up to 80,000 – 90,000 a day. While a “Fourth Wave” of the virus, fueled by more lethal COVID-19 variants, is easily identifiable in Europe, in the U.S. the achievement of vaccinating more than 60% of the most vulnerable age group, 60+ years old, just might prevent a new peak of hospitalizations and deaths. Hope for the best; get vaccinated; support mitigation.
Saturday, April 3
[Coronavirus] U.S. Coronavirus Totals: Cases: 31,394,651; Deaths: 570,249
[Coronavirus] U.S. Vaccinates s Record 4 Million in a Day – The average COVID-19 vaccinations for the week exceeded more than 3 million a day, from any perspective a remarkable achievement that puts the U.S. at the head of the worldwide vaccination efforts. Elsewhere, it could be said COVID-19 is winning the race; for example, India reported its first 100,000+ new cases day, despite having its own vaccine and widespread mitigation efforts. Case numbers are going up all over Europe, while at the same time it is suffering a persistent shortage of vaccines.
Sunday, April 4 – Easter Sunday
[Trump Scam] New York Times Headlines Trump Campaign’s Donations Scam – The Times article outlined a scam involving pre-checked donation boxes for recurring online payments that most people making a donation did not see or understand. Ultimately, it led to refunds for complaint claims of more than $64 million. In effect, the Trump campaign was able to use tens of millions at a critical moment, interest-free, and then refund it months later. Perhaps more noteworthy is how little interest both the article and the real scam invoked.
Monday, April 5
[Government] Senate Parliamentarian Rules on Use of Budget Reconciliation – Most people pay little or no attention to the arcane parliamentary rules of the Senate, which is also true of most Senate politicians. But once in a while, the situation is different. With a tied Senate and the impossibility of breaking a filibuster, the Democratic majority used budget reconciliation to pass the American Rescue Plan and now looks likely to use it for an infrastructure bill. According to previous practice, only one such bill was allowed per year. Now the parliamentarian says, not so. Although limited to issues that are budget relevant, this opens a potential Pandora’s box of multiple budget reconciliation bills to get legislation through with a 51-vote majority. This is very tempting to Democrats with the important caveat that these bills have to have unanimous support from the 50 Democratic senators, meaning that Sen. Manchin or Sinema and the like must agree to the bills. Thus, each bill will become a battleground within the Democratic Party, a messy and at times unpredictable business.
[Infrastructure Bill] Manchin Complains That Corporate Tax Hike for Infrastructure Bill Is Too High – His position, that the corporate tax rate should be raised to about 25% instead of the Biden proposed 28%, is the perfect representation of a kind of intra-Democratic party power-jockeying. He knows that raising the corporate tax rate is very popular, not only with Democrats but many pro-Trump voters. But his “compromise” position gets him at least temporary cred with corporate patrons.
[Russian Government] Putin Gets Life – In effect, a new law just signed by Putin lets him stay in power until 2036, basically the rest of his life, on the pretext that “reforms are needed so that aides can focus on running the country, rather than darting their eyes in search for possible successors.”
[Transgender Laws] Arkansas Governor Vetoes Bill Limiting Transgender Healthcare – The bill would have banned hormone therapy and other LGBTQ oriented treatments. The governor, Asa Hutchinson (R), said the legislation “would be and is a vast government overreach.” For taking a stand, Hutchinson now becomes the target of right-wing attacks. [Update: Arkansas legislature overrides governor’s veto. The law now goes to the courts.]
Tuesday, April 6
[Coronavirus] Biden Moves up Adult Vaccination Schedule – The previous deadline when all adults should be eligible for vaccination was May 1, which Biden now says should be April 19, He also announced that 150 million COVID-19 vaccine doses had been administered in the first 75 days of his administration. The success of the Biden vaccination program has made an impression, politically – left, right, and worldwide.
[Iran-U.S. Negotiations] U.S. and Iran Agree to Indirect Negotiations – The process of reviving the Iran nuclear treaty is tricky on many levels, which accounts for the indirect nature (using intermediaries) of the first talks. Nevertheless, Biden has made it clear that the U.S. no longer supports the Trumpian sanctions and, with its allies, is seeking to reinstate the nuclear arms treaty. It will be a long, slow process.
[Chauvin Trial] Police Chief and Instructor Testify That Chauvin Did Not Follow Policy – In an unusual show of official police officers testifying against one of their own, the Chauvin trial featured several expert testimonies all saying one way or another that Chauvin’s actions, knee on neck for nine minutes plus, were not part of police policy or practice.
Wednesday, April 7
[Brexit] Brexit Maybe Bringing the “Troubles” Back – Riots in Northern Ireland have returned for six straight nights, caused by rising tensions over Brexit fueled clashes between Unionists and Nationalists. Whether the Irish-UK border should be between the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland or out in the ocean between the UK and Northern Ireland, is an issue at the heart of the Brexit agreements and of Boris Johnson government’s subsequent waffling.
[U.S. Economy] U.S. Trade Deficit Hits Record High – The trade deficit jumped 4.8% to a record high of $71.1 billion in February. Buried in the statistics is the fact that as Americans come out of the COVID-19 restrictions, they are spending more and most of it is on products coming from, wait for it . . . China.
[Coronavirus] It’s Official: UK Coronavirus Variant Now Dominant in U.S. – The CDC announced that the B.1.1.7 COVID-19 variant, which originated in the UK, is now the most prevalent strain in the U.S. and the reason that infection rates are climbing, even in states where pandemic mitigation is still in force. The UK variant is both more infectious and more lethal than the original virus; fortunately, it appears that current vaccines are effective against it.
[Coronavirus] Blood Clots Are Associated with AstraZeneca Vaccine – Further company testing and, in many countries of the EU, distribution of the AstraZeneca vaccine has been halted. The clotting incidents are rare and the EU has determined that the vaccine benefits still outweigh the risks. Unfortunately, the negative publicity has i created doubts that are beginning to cripple production and use of the AstraZeneca vaccine.
Thursday, April 8
[Economy] New Unemployment Insurance Claims: 744,000 – The numbers nudged up over last week by 16,000, and also exceeded forecasts. Compared to pre-Covid, almost 9 million workers remain unemployed – too high to say that a robust economic recovery is anything more than just beginning. The effects of the new stimulus package are yet to be felt and it is possible that the rising number of COVID-19 infections may be dampening economic progress in some areas.
[Economy] Chip Shortages Plague U.S. Auto Manufacturing – General Motors and Ford announced they are cutting back or halting production in the U.S. because of an ongoing shortage in vehicle-oriented semiconductors. The lack of chips is Covid related; during the pandemic Taiwan – the primary producer of microchips for vehicles – chose to reallocate its production to small consumer items such as appliances. Now that cars are selling again, chipmakers are returning to vehicle semiconductors but the shortage currently persists.
[Gun Control] Biden Announces Executive Orders to Address Gun Violence – With legislative action not on the near horizon for Congress, Biden has chosen to address what he calls the “epidemic” of gun violence with a series of executive orders that he claims are neither threatening to the Second Amendment nor in lieu of congressional legislation. Of course, in addition to general opposition to any kind of gun control, Republicans immediately jumped on the lack of specifics in Biden’s announcement.
[Immigration] Record Wave of Teens and Children Reach Southern Border – Officially, a record 18,890 teens and children without parents arrived at the U.S.-Mexican border in March. There is little contrary evidence that this wave is as big as it is because of the change in U.S. government, something that should have been factored into Biden’s transition planning, but apparently wasn’t. It’s continuing to be a logistical and human rights crisis, while accelerating the political fallout from the GOP and right-wing media.
Friday, April 9
[Government] Biden Creates Commission to Study Supreme Court Changes – The 36-member bipartisan commission is charged to study over a six month period the various options for changing the Supreme Court, such as term limits and adding seats. The commission will make no recommendations but is to provide background information on the issues, pro and con. Pushback from Republicans was minimal, since this will not become an active issue – if at all – until sometime in 2022.
[Unions] Amazon Defeats Union Drive at Alabama Warehouse – It was a crushing defeat for unions: 1,798 no versus 738 yes. The vote is heading toward court, as many of the votes are contested – nevertheless, labor and Democratic leaders expended a great deal of political capital in promoting this unionization, and the failure will prompt an in-depth analysis of the voting conditions, the arguments for unions, and the position of large tech employers.
[Coronavirus] U.S. Coronavirus Totals: Cases: 31,803,216; Deaths: 574,843
It’s become axiomatic that COVID-19 won’t be tamed until the whole world has been vaccinated. Fundamentally this is true, but unfortunately time and distance will tend to deceive people. The problem isn’t that countries elsewhere in the world with very high COVID-19 infection rates will directly re-infect countries that have achieved herd immunity; rather it’s that large numbers of people infected by COVID-19 are more likely to produce a mutant variation that is more infectious, lethal, and vaccine resistant than current variations. That is what can spread around the world, overcoming current vaccination formulations, and in effect restoring the pandemic. This process can occur almost by stealth and require months, if not more, to become recognized. When it comes to pandemics, we are our neighbors’ keeper.
Constitutional, Political, Election Notes
Filibuster update: Manchin swivels, sort of. The media is prominently featuring Sen. Manchin’s statement that he will in no way support “ending the filibuster,” which of course he’s been saying for quite a while. He’s also said that he is in favor of altering the conditions for a filibuster. That is still on the table, a partial change in the filibuster, but for some reason much of the mainstream media continues to treat it as if it is an all or nothing issue. Apparently, that sounds more dramatic.
Hail the 55%. That’s the percentage of Republicans in a recent survey who said they believe left-wing agitators (e.g., antifa) were responsible for the riot at the Capitol. This is probably the most sobering information of the week, because it means somewhere north of 40 million people have accepted propaganda instead of their own eyes. It’s a testimony to the power of the right-wing information bubble, and should be a constant reminder to Democrats and progressives that “Trump people don’t see things like we do.”
Quotes of the Week
[Trump] incited that bloody insurrection for nothing more than selfish reasons, perpetuated by the bullshit he’d been shoveling since he lost a fair election the previous November. . .. He claimed voter fraud without any evidence, and repeated those claims, taking advantage of the trust placed in him by his supporters and ultimately betraying that trust.
John Boehner, Former House Speaker, On the House, A Washington Memoir, 04/07/21.
Mr. Boehner is a ‘Swamp Creature’ who favor[s] ‘Communist China’.
Jason Miller, current Trump spokesman, in Tweet, 04/07/2021.
[The IUY Weekly Journal assumes readers are at least casually familiar with names and events. For more details, check with internet search.]