Indivisible Upper Yellowstone – Weekly Journal
The Week of Saturday, September 11 through Friday, September 17, 2021 [Vol.3 No.9]
The Week’s Most Notable
it was a signal week in the U.S. history of the COVID-19 pandemic. After more than a year of warning that if sufficient mitigation efforts weren’t in place, hospitals would be overwhelmed and forced to use triage. Now it’s happened officially, as Idaho has placed its health system under an optional healthcare treatment rationing protocol. Triage is usually associated with war and extreme circumstances. For this to happen in peacetime to civilians – where people seeking lifesaving treatment must be turned away because the hospitals have no more resources – seems extraordinarily wrong; but it’s happened. The flood of people infected by the Delta variant in Idaho filled the ICU beds and pushed hospitals beyond their capacity. Patients with other serious problems – accident, stroke, illness, and so forth – had to be transported to hospitals in Washington and Oregon. Hospitals in other parts of the country are near or at the same condition, caused almost entirely by unvaccinated people requiring treatment for serious COVID-19 infection. Idaho has one of the worst vaccination records in the country: under 40%. For the past month, the U.S. has had the worst coronavirus statistics in the world; this despite a relatively high number of vaccinated people (around 60% fully vaccinated). Defiance of vaccines and other mitigation still leaves more than one third of the American public vulnerable.
Factoids: U.S. ranks seventh in vaccination among seven leading democracies. One in 500 Americans have died from COVID.
Saturday, September 11
[Coronavirus] U.S. Coronavirus Totals: Cases: 41,922,487; Deaths: 680,497
[9/11] 20 Year Anniversary of the 9/11 Attack – Ceremonies throughout the country and dense media coverage reminded Americans of the searing memories; it’s important to keep in mind that nearly 1/3 of the people alive today were born after 9/11/2001.
[North Korea] North Korea Renews Missile Testing – Resuming its tactics of periodic testing of missiles and other strategic weapons, North Korea seems to be signaling another round of aggravating its neighbors, and the U.S. and its allies with military threats.
Sunday, September 12
[Afghanistan] Taliban to Allow Women Students in Segregated Universities Classes – This move was widely taken as a sign of a general Taliban strategy – allow women access to some education and modern professions but within strict gender and custom protocols. Most analysts say that the superficially liberalized rules for women are likely to diminish or disappear altogether over time. [Update: Taliban abolish Afghanistan’s Ministry of Women’s Affairs.]
Monday, September 13
[Climate Change] World Bank Report: Climate Change May Send 200 Million People into Migration – Coming from the World Bank, an organization not normally associated with climate change issues, this particular report is very disturbing not only because of the large numbers of people involved (“climate migrants”), but the prediction that it might happen within 20 to 30 years. The big takeaway from the report is that climate change will force people to move, sometimes temporarily, sometimes permanently, and that movement of people will have a huge impact on the economics and politics of the areas affected.
[Infrastructure Reconciliation Bill] House Democrats Outline Tax Hikes for Reconciliation Bill – The goal is to pay for the proposed $3.5 trillion infrastructure plan through raising the corporate tax rate from 21% to 26.5%, adding three percentage points to the taxes of people earning more than $5 million, and increasing capital-gains taxes. Republicans remain opposed to any and all tax increases, so, as expected, Democrats will be voting alone on the infrastructure budget reconciliation bill. The main points of contention are the total bill and how to pay for it, which is where intense negotiations among Democrats will continue until the deadline of about September 27.
Tuesday, September 14
[California Recall Election] Newsom Recall Fails – Although it will be several days before the final results are known, California Gov. Newsom (D) will not be recalled and has won by 20 points or more, essentially a landslide. Although Democrats made much of scary polls from several weeks ago, which showed Newsom ahead by a tiny fraction of a point, apparently hauling out a major campaign and visits by almost all key Democrats, including Pres. Biden, motivated the Democrats to vote. Too much can be read into the victory, but it provides Democrats with good talking points. As a side note, leading Republican candidate Larry Elder had been fulminating pre vote about a stolen election (a la Trump); in the event he graciously conceded the election.
[Abortion] DOJ Files Suit with Federal Judge to Block Texas Abortion Law – Stating that “It is settled constitutional law that a state may not prohibit any woman from making the ultimate decision to terminate her pregnancy before viability,” the DOJ directly address the unconstitutionality of the Texas law limiting abortions to six weeks – effectively making them illegal within the state. However, since Roe v. Wade is still the law of the land, this cart before the horse law should never have been put into practice. The DOJ is seeking an immediate injunction, as are other lawsuits.
[Hurricane Nicholas] Nicholas Strengthens to Hurricane, Strikes Texas Coast – Although at the low end of hurricane force winds, Nicholas will roam along the Texas – Louisiana Coast with substantial amounts of rain. Eventually it will pass over already wet ground from hurricane Ida.
[Economy] Prices Rise but Less Than Expected – The consumer price index rose by a seasonally adjusted .3% in August, down from .5% in July. It’s becoming apparent to analysts that the COVID-19 resurgence under the Delta variant is having an impact on the economy. Although there are still areas of inflation, particularly with semiconductors, the pressure for inflation seems to be decreasing. Overall, fears of runaway inflation are disappearing with the threat of pandemic, while at a fundamental level the economy continues to strengthen.
[Gen. Milley] Woodward/Costa Book Claims Gen. Milley Called to Calm Chinese Military after 1/6 – GOP and right-wing media jumped all over this, but it appears to be more of a tempest in a Chinese teapot. Whether it happened as reported or not, Gen. Milley’s efforts to assure the Chinese that the U.S. government was not falling apart after the insurrection at the Capitol can be spun in a number of directions, becoming a neutral issue as far as a large portion of the public is concerned.
Wednesday, September 15
[Foreign Relations] U.S. Announces Military Pact with U.K. and Australia – The first of probably several moves aimed at countering Chinese ambitions in Southeast Asia, the new agreement covers sharing of technologies in the areas of artificial intelligence, cyber operations, submarine systems, and long-range missile capabilities. Apparently, the U.S. negotiated this pact without the full knowledge of the rest of the NATO allies, especially the French, who within 24 hours were protesting vehemently, especially about the submarine agreements.
[Space Tourism] Space X Launches All-Tourist Crew into Orbit – Perhaps more than the billionaire joyrides, the three-day orbit of four super-wealthy tourists might signify the true beginning of space tourism. Skepticism is still in order as extreme cost and the obviously non-routine nature of the flights is a long way from launching a viable industry.
[Gymnastics] In Senate Testimony Women’s Gymnastics Stars Blast FBI – The sexual abuse scandal of the women’s Olympic gymnastics team, while focusing on the perpetrator Larry Nasser, was made worse by the blasé inattention of the FBI investigators. Simone Biles put it this way, “I blame Larry Nasser but I also blame an entire system that enabled his abuse.” It was a bad week for the FBI as complaints about its investigation in matters of sexual abuse during the Kavanaugh hearings also came under renewed criticism.
Thursday, September 16
[Coronavirus] Idaho Expands Optional Triage Protocol to Entire State – As hospitals throughout the state become overwhelmed with COVID-19 patients, running out of resources – especially ICU beds and equipment – they have been forced to adopt a healthcare rationing protocol that specifies patients with the most likely good outcome are treated first. In practice, this means that patients with poor prospects are put on hold or sent to other hospitals out of the region. It is a measure of the dire conditions in Idaho that such an approach has become necessary.
[Coronavirus] Federal Judge Orders a Stop to Using Health Law to Expel Migrants – The Trump administration started the policy of returning migrants at the border because of restrictions caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. Judge Emmet Sullivan of the DC District Court ruled that the possibility of treating and mitigating COVID-19 cases at the border invalidated the reasoning behind rejecting the migrants. [Update: The administration will use the health Law, Title 42, to return thousands of Haitian migrants currently being held in Texas, most of them under a bridge. It does not take much imagination to see this as an active can of worms for the Biden administration.]
[Durham Investigation] Two Years on, Durham investigation Indicts Another – Aficionados of the Mueller era might recall that in 2018 then AG Barr and Trump set forth a Special Counsel, John Durham, to unearth all of the illegalities surrounding the initial phases of the Mueller investigation. Until yesterday Durham had only pounced on a DOJ employee for lying to the FBI; today they added another scalp, Washington attorney Michael Sussman, also for lying to the FBI. The Biden administration is apparently content to let this investigation finish like a deflating tire.
[Election 2022] Representative Anthony Gonzalez (R-Ohio) Will Not Run Again in 2022 – He was one of the 10 Republicans to vote in favor of Trump’s impeachment. Gonzalez cited as reasons the toxic environment, calling Trump “a cancer for the country,” and the numerous threats against him and his family.
Friday, September 17
[BLM] Bureau of Land Management Comes Back to D.C. – Trump moved the agency out to Grand Junction, CO, resulting in 90% of the employees quitting – exactly what Trump wanted. Out-of-town, out-of-mind, seems to have been the operative political motive, which the Biden administration is now reversing.
[Coronavirus] FDA Panel Recommends Pfizer Booster for People over 65 – It did not recommend booster shots for everyone, which is what the Biden administration had promised for September 21. Again, mixed messaging clouds an already murky pandemic issue.
[Coronavirus] U.S. Coronavirus Totals: Cases: 42,802,246; Deaths: 690,713
Mixed feelings about boosterism: The FDA ruled this week that it did recommend booster vaccine for people over 65, but not everybody else. This follows a pattern that is developing worldwide. Many experts feel that the data so far is inconclusive about when and if the existing vaccines should be given a boost. There are plenty of significant questions: When do the various vaccines lose their efficacy – six months, eight months, a year? We have three vaccines in the U.S.; there are nearly a dozen worldwide, what is the status of boosters for each of them? Are boosters just another shot of the original, or are they reworked to deal with the current COVID-19 variants? How will the boosters be administered? Who will pay for them? Should the world forgo boosters, except for the highly immune compromised, in order to produce more vaccine for the rest of the world?
Politics, Legislation, Election Notes
Democrats are down to brass tacks on infrastructure bills. The haggling, posturing, and positioning over the details of the proposed infrastructure budget reconciliation bill, a.k.a. the $3.5 trillion bill, are reaching a crescendo as putatively the House must present a mostly completed piece of legislation by September 27. The object is to have more or less simultaneous votes on the $1.1 trillion bipartisan infrastructure bill and the budget reconciliation bill. Both bills, once they clear approval by House and Senate Democrats, should pass. Democratic voters should place their bets on whether the progressives win the most important battles over programs and price, leaving the final reconciliation bill somewhere north of $3 trillion, or if the corporate Democrats led by Manchin and Sinema will force it down into the area of $2.3 trillion. The real bone of contention is taxing the rich and corporations to pay for the bill.
Pinned Trend: There was very little coverage of other COVID-19 variants this week.
Pinned Point: Until the filibuster rules are modified, most of the Biden agenda will not pass the Senate.
Quote of the Week
Call it a reverse confidence game. In it, the swindler convinces his marks that they must not have confidence in the matter at issue (the federal vaccine program, electoral outcomes). He simultaneously treats that lack of confidence as an inevitable fact of life and as justification for the political project that follows (opposing vaccine mandates, unleashing voter suppression).
Greg Sargent, “Chris Wallace’s Grilling of a GOP Governor Exposes a Much Bigger Scam,” The Washington Post, 09/13/2021.
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