Indivisible Upper Yellowstone – Weekly Journal
The Week of Saturday, July 24 through Friday, July 30, 2021 [Vol.3 No.2]
The Week’s Most Notable
The Delta variant of the COVID-19 virus showed up in India back in December 2020 and became prominent when literally more than a million died from it in cities like Mumbai. U.S. health officials knew about it almost from the beginning; its seriousness became known to politicians at least by April (Weekly Journal April 18, 2021); and yet last week U.S. media and in fact many government agencies treated the surge of the Delta variant like it was a revelation. Most Americans and of course almost all Republicans don’t understand the variant. It’s crazy infectious, according to the CDC in a leaked report, it’s about as infectious as chickenpox. That makes it several times more infectious than the original virus. Simply put, it will infect about 40% of those who are not vaccinated that come in contact with it. Those who are vaccinated stand a better chance of not contracting it and, if they do, it probably won’t send them to the hospital, much less the morgue. However, even for the vaccinated, the Delta variant can use them as a transport to infect other people. Then there’s Long Covid, which may turn out to be the greatest scourge of this plague, in which the virus becomes part of a trigger for other chronic and serious diseases that affect hearts, lungs, brains, and other organs. Long Covid can show up in people who had no symptoms and covers an age range from children to the elderly.
The Delta variant has screwed up the planning for ending the pandemic almost everywhere in the world. In much of Asia, which came to rely on track and trace to keep their infection rate low, they neglected vaccines – leaving a huge proportion of their populations vulnerable to the new variant. In parts of the world where vaccines were promoted, such as the U.S., in any region where the rate of vaccination was low, the Delta variant is thriving. In the U.S., the Delta variant has a particular political flavor as it finds more unvaccinated people among Trump supporters. Something similar is now happening all over the world, particularly in Europe.
Conflicting messages abound – about vaccines, mitigation efforts such as masks and the like – because most countries ramped up “freedom” and pretended the pandemic was over, and now have to tell everybody that not only is it not over, but potentially the worst is yet to come. This doesn’t play well politically, no matter what the scientific reality. The situation, mostly of our own making, has produced complicated verbal expressions not only from politicians but also from medical authorities, with the end result being mainly public confusion. After all, the majority of people still think we’re dealing with the original virus. What happens later in the year when people must be told they need a booster shot? So where does confusion, denialism, vaccine resistance, and the flood of disinformation get us? Rising infection rates, more hospitalizations, more deaths – and then lockdowns, political unrest, and potentially serious impacts not only on lifestyle but the economy. When it comes to managing pandemics, the human race is not good (yet), so we better be lucky.
Saturday, July 24
[Coronavirus] U.S. Coronavirus Totals: Cases: 35,220,124; Deaths: 627,069
[Wild Fires] California Dixie Fire Burns Homes – Currently the largest fire in the state, it destroyed a number of homes in the small community of Indian Falls. It’s about 20% contained, mostly burning in difficult to reach areas. Meanwhile the Bootleg Fire in Oregon and the Alder Creek Fire in Montana continue to expand and threaten homes. [Update: By Monday the Dixie Fire threatened more than 10,000 homes and had scorched more than 190,000 acres.]
[Coronavirus] French Protest New Coronavirus Restrictions – More than 160,000 people took to the streets in France to oppose re-imposed vaccine mandates and other coronavirus restrictions. Like most countries in Europe, France has seen a dramatic rise in the number of COVID-19 cases due to the Delta variant. Having recently been told the pandemic was under control, these new restrictions don’t sit well with many people. [Update: France now requires vaccine passes to enter restaurants or use public transportation.]
Sunday, July 25
[Climate Change] Typhoon In-Fa Adds to China’s Flood Problems – On top of the disastrous flooding, mostly in-land within Henan province, Typhoon In-Fa is coming ashore at Zhoushan, south of Shanghai, and is expected to pass over Henan province, where 58 people have already been reported dead from flooding.
[Infrastructure Bill] Timing of House Infrastructure Bills Contested – Speaker Pelosi advocated for passing both the bipartisan infrastructure bill and the all-Democrats’ budget reconciliation infrastructure bill at the same time. Republicans had already objected to that approach and reiterated that they don’t wish to be supporting the bipartisan bill and also appearing to, as Sen. Rob Portman (R-OH) put it, “supporting the reckless tax-and-spend extravaganza Pelosi is talking about.” This wasn’t new ground, just dodging and weaving, as the Democrats will, of course, pass the bipartisan bill first, while providing some strong indications that the second bill is just around the corner. The amazing thing here is that the Republicans – even in the Senate – appear to be ready to accept the bipartisan infrastructure bill.
[Coronavirus] Fauci: U.S. Is Headed in the Wrong Direction – Fauci called denying the need to vaccinate against the rising tide of the Delta variant “an unnecessary predicament,” adding “This is an issue predominantly among the unvaccinated, which is the reason why we are out there, practically pleading with the unvaccinated people to go out and get vaccinated.” Here is where the right-wing demonizing of Fauci pays off, because the people who should heed his message are the least likely to accept it.
Monday, July 26
[Coronavirus] Biden Administration Recognizes Long Covid as a Disability – Even though Long Covid has not achieved much official recognition, especially with the public and media, Biden’s move has the government officially acknowledge Long Covid and opens provisions for it in Medicaid, Medicare, and disability rights.
[Coronavirus] California, NYC Mandate Vaccines, Open Anti-VAX Debate – Joining Los Angeles County and St. Louis, the pressure is on for other communities and businesses to institute their own mandated vaccine programs. So far, the federal government is content to stay out of the argument, although there is discussion about federal employees requiring vaccines. In any case, the moves are accompanied by loud condemnation from Republicans and right-wing media. It’s the old story: seatbelt mandates are okay to save lives, but vaccines to save lives are not – even though mandatory vaccines have been used in the U.S. for many decades. [Update: Sixty major medical groups call for mandating vaccinations for all health workers, given concerns over the spread of the Delta variant.]
[Iraq] Biden Calls for End of U.S. Mission to Iraq by Year’s End – In full agreement with the Iraqi government, Biden plans to phase out the remaining 2,500 U.S. troops still in Iraq.
Tuesday, July 27
[Coronavirus] CDC Changes Advice: Wear Masks Indoors Even If Vaccinated – Despite the threat from the Delta variant, which among other things can transmit even when people have been vaccinated, this move by the CDC has created a great deal of confusion, attacks by the usual suspects, and even criticism from healthcare professionals. The main beef seems to be the timing and presentation of the recommendation.
[Jan. 6 Investigation] House Opens Investigation into Capitol Insurrection – The ongoing efforts of the House Select Committee will be a test of whether the Democrats can sustain the PR value and public interest in the investigation for many months. It will also, with some effort, provide an adequate documentation of what happened prior, during, and after the attack on the Capitol building. Republicans and the right-wing media will stage as much opposition and disinformation as possible. The opening day featured genuinely powerful and moving statements by four Capitol police officers who defended the Capitol on that day, January 6, 2020.
[Olympics] Simone Biles Withdraws from Gymnastics Team Final – The withdrawal of the universally recognized greatest female gymnast of all time, based upon her difficulty in dealing with the pressures of competition and potential for physical injury, has opened a virtual Pandora’s box about the nature of modern sports competition, mental health, women’s rights, and the peculiar nature of Olympic competition. This “sports event” will have a very wide ripple effect. [Update: Biles has apparently withdrawn from all gymnastic events, although she has stayed on to support her fellow gymnasts. In remarkable testimony to the quality of American female gymnasts, despite the furor, the team continued on to take the silver medal, and Sunisa Lee, daughter of Hmong refugees, went on to win the gold medal as the Women’s Olympic Gymnastics Champion.]
Wednesday, July 28 death. It
[Infrastructure] Senate Advances Bipartisan Infrastructure Bill – The vote to move the bill to the Senate floor for debate and discussion might seem like a procedural detail, but in the arcana of the Senate, this move is usually the point at which most bills meet their coup de grace. The fact that the Senate Republicans, including Mitch McConnell, coughed up 17 votes almost certainly means this bill will ultimately pass the Senate. The roughly $1 trillion legislation covers a wide variety of infrastructure, mainly of the physical sort, such as roads, airports, bridges etc. This kind of infrastructure is popular with both Democratic and Republican constituents, which seems to be the main reason this huge victory for Biden and his outreach for bipartisanship can be passed without filibuster or budget reconciliation.
[Election 2020] Trump Pestered Acting AG Almost Daily about Election Fraud – Trump’s mostly extra-legal obsession with the “stolen election” spilled over into the affairs of the DOJ as he called acting AG Jeffrey Rosen almost every day following the 2020 election to relate claims of voter fraud. Rosen always said they’ll look into it; Rosen also found that none of the claims could be substantiated, and yet Trump persisted, and continues doing so to this day.
[Asian Spa Killer] Atlanta Asian Spa Killer Sentenced to Life – After pleading guilty to four of the eight killings, Robert Aaron Long, 22 – in a plea deal – was given a life sentence instead of the death penalty.
[Texas By-election] Texas State Lawmaker Defeats Trump Candidate – In a runoff for the Texas sixth congressional district, Jake Ellzey (R) won against Trump-endorsed Susan Wright, wife of the previous office-holder who died after contracting COVID-19. It might look like the tea leaves don’t read well for Trump, but this is Texas and local issues can trump Trump.
[Apple Computer] Apple Reports Record Spring Quarter Profits – The pandemic continues to help electronic firms, as Apple earned $21.7 billion on a better-than-expected revenue of $81.4 billion – a 38% gain over the year earlier.
Thursday, July 29
[Economy] GDP Grows at 6.5% But Below Economists’ Expectations – Continuing problems with the supply chain in the U.S. acted like a brake on the economy despite a robust growth in consumer demand. In short, the economy is doing well but is a long way from overheating. There will be some pockets of inflation, and regional reaction to bad COVID-19 numbers, but on balance the economy continues to be healthy.
[Coronavirus] Biden Announces Vaccine Program for Federal Workers – The program has some options: get vaccinated or face regular testing, mask mandates, and travel restrictions. Biden’s byword – “With freedom comes responsibility. So please exercise responsible judgment. Get vaccinated for yourself, the people you love, for your country.” Biden also announced a program to encourage governmental entities to offer $100 to anyone who would get vaccinated.
[Capitol Security] Congress Passes $2 Billion Bill for Capitol Security – Even though many Republicans refused to honor the Capitol Police, the bill for security upgrades, extended coronavirus response, and insurrection expenses passed unanimously in the Senate and by 416-to-11 in the House. Go figure.
Friday, July 30
[Government] DOJ Says Trump Tax Returns Must Go to Congress – In the multiyear saga of Trump’s tax returns, this new chapter begins with a non-sympathetic DOJ, where the Office of Legal Counsel reversed itself and decided that Trump’s tax returns had legitimate legislative purpose and therefore the IRS should turn them over to relevant congressional committees. But don’t get too excited. Trump will contest this in the courts, probably all the way up to SCOTUS. There are plenty of other legal dodges, so expectations are that the process will take many more months, if not a year.
[Coronavirus] U.S. Coronavirus Totals: Cases: 35,693,126; Deaths: 629,074
Politics, Legislation, Election Notes
Infrastructure is a grind. Any infrastructure bill is composed of literally thousands of details, and the bills that are up this time – the bipartisan infrastructure bill for about $1 trillion, and the budget reconciliation infrastructure bill for something in the neighborhood of $3 trillion – are the biggest ever. Since some of the details are also controversial and need to be negotiated, the process of assembling these bills and assuring they will pass can be very time-consuming. Nevertheless, it’s looking like the chances of both bills passing are now well above 50%. Yes, they could both be killed by one or two negative votes, but at the moment such impediments seem to be more negotiating positions than a real threat – with the exception of a McCain-like last-second bomb. If these bills pass, whether in August or September, they will mark an almost unprecedented investment in the future of the U.S. – physical infrastructure, childcare, green economy, education, and a lot more interesting programs that will finally be backed by sufficient amounts of money.
Pinned Trend: No further news on the Delta plus, Lambda, or Vietnam variants.
Pinned Point: Until the filibuster rules are modified, most of the Biden agenda will not pass the Senate.
Quote of the Week
“They have been telling us for six months that this vaccine is perfect, but clearly, in some cases, it doesn’t always work. And that’s not our theory, by the way. Take it from the guy [Fauci]who created covid.”
Timothy Bella, quoting Tucker Carlson in “Tucker Carlson Falsely Claims that Anthony S. Fauci ‘Created’ COVID,” The Washington Post, 07/28/2021.
[The IUY Weekly Journal assumes readers are at least casually familiar with names and events. For more details, check with internet search.]