Indivisible Upper Yellowstone – Weekly Journal
The Week of Saturday, October 2 through Friday, October 8, 2021 [Vol.3 No.12]
The Week’s Most Notable
This week in Congress another shoe dropped, a short drop; for two others, let’s just say they’re trying to get the knots out of the laces. As in last week, four shoes altogether: Government shutdown, debt ceiling, $1.1 trillion bipartisan infrastructure bill, and $3.5 trillion reconciliation infrastructure bill. Last week McConnell struck a deal with Schumer and government shutdown was avoided, at least until December 3. Now it’s the same for the debt ceiling, McConnell squinted, and the issue is moved to December 3. Crisis averted? Hardly. The week after Thanksgiving promises to be ugly. On the two infrastructure bills, Pelosi has reset the Democrats’ deadline to October 31. By then most of the details of the bills will have been worked out. The $1.1 trillion bipartisan bill will remain largely untouched. In all likelihood the $3.5 trillion budget reconciliation infrastructure bill will be emaciated, probably in the range of $2 trillion give or take. The wildcard remains Kyrsten Sinema, who could quite possibly choose to emulate John McCain – to the vast detriment of the Democrats. If that happens, it won’t be a final shoe dropping; to stretch the metaphor, it might be a jack-boot.
Republicans are building a network of lies. It does sound like hyperbole; unfortunately, it’s not. Start with the Big Lie that Trump didn’t lose the election and its corollary, that the election was stolen. Those comprise the grandfather lie that has spawned numerous related lies. More tragically, Trump began lying about COVID-19, which has morphed into denial of vaccines, masks, and other mitigation – at the cost of at least thousands of lives. Then there’s January 6, which has become a tissue of lies fed by the idea that it was a patriotic movement and not at all an insurrection. A more recent lie is that Democrats want to expand the debt ceiling so they can spend more money on socialist programs. The socialist canard aside, the debt ceiling concerns paying for already incurred debts, in this case mostly Trump’s, and has nothing to do with future spending. There is an emerging pattern to Republican lies: they are used systematically to manipulate the base. The object is to have all the lies feed into a self-reinforcing narrative – anti-Democrat, anti-science, and authoritarian Republican identity. It doesn’t matter what the non-right-wing media thinks (making liberals whine is a bonus); the key point is that Republicans can use bald-faced lies because the right-wing media, especially Fox News, happily expounds it and never reveals it as a lie. How many times have Democrats asked, “How is it possible for Republicans to believe this garbage”? without ever considering that the garbage is all they ever hear. The network of lies is becoming more pronounced, and more people are exposed to it. It’s historically unprecedented in the United States. But the problem remains: Propaganda works until it is forced not to work. Just how to do that – without creating an equally big problem – is the question.
Saturday, October 2
[Coronavirus] U.S. Coronavirus Totals: Cases: 44,558,794; Deaths: 722,882
[infrastructure Bills] Pelosi Resets Target Date for Infrastructure Bills to October 31 – Legislation as big and complex as the two infrastructure bills is always difficult to finalize. This time, the Democrats face a tricky combination of a big majority favoring expansive legislation for the $3.5 trillion budget reconciliation bill and a go-small group featuring Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema. In a 50-50 Senate, these two hold the ultimate power of being able to deny the decisive vote. Consequently, they are likely to get the $3.5 trillion bill sliced down to around $2 trillion, or even less. There are two big questions: What do the Democrats need to cut? At some point, it’s likely Joe Manchin will agree. Then, what will Sinema do? At the moment, the indicators are that she may go rogue.
[Abortion] “Rallies for Abortion Justice” Bring out Protests in More Than 100 Cities – In response to the obviously confrontational Texas antiabortion law – and the disgustingly camouflaged Supreme Court memo that allowed it to stand – women’s groups and supporters of the pro-choice movement staged rallies throughout the country. It was lightly covered by the media, and did not match the fervor of the two million Women’s March in January of 2017. Attitudes haven’t changed much, but the situation legally, legislatively, and politically has become more complicated.
Sunday, October 3
[Environment] Massive Oil Spill off California Coast – The spill was first reported by the Coast Guard on Saturday but not picked up by the media until Sunday. The scale, cause, and damage are still indeterminate, but it appears that at least 126,000 gallons leaked from an oil production facility. [Update: The actual magnitude of the spill, which turns out to have been mainly a pipeline leak, make it the worst such event in California history. It has already killed large numbers of wildlife and fish, and has forced hundreds of ships waiting to dock at LA into holding, which will have a significant economic impact going into the Christmas season.]
[Facebook] Facebook Whistleblower Reveals Identity, Discloses Details – Appearing on CBS’s 60 Minutes, former Facebook product manager Francis Haugen said, among other things, “The thing I saw at Facebook over and over again was there were conflicts of interest between what was good for the public and what was good for Facebook, and Facebook over and over again chose to optimize for its own interests, like making money.” She puts a face to Facebook’s devious behavior. Her testimony before Congress, past and yet to come, has the potential of tipping the balance in favor of government regulation.
[Pandora Papers] Washington Post Bombshell: The Pandora Papers – Some people may remember the Panama Papers, which five years ago disclosed extensive money laundering, good old boy networks, and other corruption by Caribbean governments with multiple U.S. and other companies world-wide. It caused some shock. The Pandora Papers is much bigger, encompassing millions of documents that detail billions of dollars in corrupt money transfers, such as the King of Jordan spending more than $100 million of state money to buy homes in the U.S. There has been some real-world fallout, as the Prime Minister of the Czech Republic has apparently lost an election due to the revelations. Unfortunately, for the U.S. most of the Pandora Papers do not involve U.S. citizens, and consequently will get less coverage here.
[Coronavirus] Another Coronavirus Christmas? – The CDC issued some fairly obvious caveats for enjoying Christmas celebrations (avoid crowds, wear masks when appropriate, etc.), and Dr. Fauci says it’s too early to tell just how much COVID-19 will impact the holidays. Epidemiologists are watching a welcome but somewhat mysterious decline in the numbers of new cases, but are still worried about a winter bump. In any case, the pandemic isn’t over, and far too many people think it is.
Monday, October 4
[Facebook] Facebook Power Outage Drops Worldwide Sites for Hours – Power outages and Facebook are no strangers, but this one was the largest and most ill-timed. Facebook is currently undergoing congressional scrutiny and damaging testimony by a former employee. Events seem to be pushing toward government regulation.
[Supreme Court] Supreme Court Nixes Appeal for D.C. House Vote – In another “shadow docket” decision, the Supreme Court upheld a lower court ruling that citizens of D.C. didn’t have standing to attain voting status through the courts – in effect that it must come from legislation by elected representatives (for whom, of course, D.C. citizens can’t vote).
Tuesday, October 5
[Facebook] Facebook Whistleblower: Profits from Propaganda – Testifying before the Senate Commerce Committee on Consumer Protection, former Facebook product manager Francis Haugen warned that “Facebook’s products harm children, stoke division, and weaken democracy.” Her straightforward testimony clearly painted Facebook as a classic profit before people corporation, one begging for regulation, although she did not seem to be in favor of breaking it up.
[Nobel Prize – Physics] Nobel Physics Prize for Research on Climate Change – Three scientists – Syukoro Manabe (Princeton University), Klaus Hasselmann (Max Plank Institute for Meteorology, Hamburg), and Giorgio Parisi (Sapienza University, Rome) were noted for significant models and analysis of climate change phenomena such as drought, carbon dioxide influence, and ocean currents.
Wednesday, October 6
[Abortion] Texas Federal Judge Blocks Texas Abortion Ban – Writing in a 110 page carefully reasoned yet excoriating decision, the judge called the Texas bill clearly unconstitutional. [Update: Barely two days later the Texas Fifth Circuit Court overruled the judge’s opinion and reinstated the abortion ban. These two judicial rulings alone make a strong case for just how politicized parts of the judicial system have become.]
[Malaria] WHO Recommends Rollout of Malaria Vaccine – Finding a practical and effective vaccine for malaria has been extraordinarily difficult: scientists have been trying to find one for over 100 years. The new one, developed by GlaxoSmithKline and called RTS-S, is delivered in four shots and is planned for distribution in malaria plagued countries with limited healthcare resources. This vaccine is by most accounts an historic achievement.
[Nobel Prize – Chemistry] Creating Molecular Tools Garners Nobel Prize for Two Scientists – David W.C. MacMillan (Princeton University) and Benjamin List (Max Planck Institute, Cologne) developed precise tools for molecular construction (organocatalysis). Catalytic processes produce 35% of the world’s GDP.
[Facebook] Facebook Delays Rollout of Instagram Kids – With so many investigations and reportorial accusations, Facebook has decided to play it safe and hold back on new product deliveries. Instagram for Kids was particularly sensitive because of charges that Facebook misled children and young adults.
[Presidential Polls] Quinnipiac Poll: Biden Drops to 38% Approval – For those who don’t believe that propaganda and negative news reporting doesn’t have an effect. . . . And if the Biden legislation fails. . . .
Thursday, October 7
[Debt Ceiling] Senate Passes Debt Ceiling Extension until December 3 – A highly brokered deal saw 11 Republicans join all Democrats to defeat a GOP filibuster. The House is expected to pass the bill next week. McConnell relieved some tension, while leaving his attack available for December 3 when the funding runs out again. He reiterated that no Republican would help the Democrats with the debt ceiling.
[National Monuments] Biden Restores Protection to Three National Monuments – Reversing Trump executive orders that opened the national monuments to commercial exploitation, Biden restored protections for Bears Ears, Grand Staircase-Escalante, and Northeast Canyons and Seamounts national monuments.
[Nobel Prize – Literature] Novelist Abdulrazak Gurnah Wins Nobel Literature Prize – Author of 10 novels, including the 1994 book Paradise, the Nobel committee cited him “for his uncompromising and compassionate penetration of the effects of colonialism and the fate of the refugee in the gulf between cultures and continents.”
Friday, October 8
[Government] Biden Rejects Trump’s Call for Executive Privilege on Documents – The White House rejected Trump’s claim on the grounds that documents generated on or around the event of January 6, 2021 are of public interest and benefit. Of course, Trump would have done otherwise; but Trump is no longer in charge of White House documents. He will, however, challenge the Biden decision in court. The Republicans and Trump will make the process of gaining information about January 6 as lengthy and difficult as possible. From the Democrats’ point of view – good – it just means that the issue will continue to be in the public face for many months to come, right up to the elections in 2022.
[Nobel Peace Prize] Two Journalists Receive Nobel Peace Prize – Maria Ressa (Philippines) and Dmitry Muratov (Russia) won for their defense of the freedom of expression.
[Economy] September Jobs Report of 194,000 Disappoints – Many economists had expected around 500,000, and the new lower number seems to reinforce the notion that the Delta variant has taken its toll on the economy. Instead of talking about hyperinflation and out-of-control economy, the right wing has had to shift to a once again distressed and underperforming economy. [Coronavirus] U.S. Coronavirus Totals: Cases: 45,136,852; Deaths: 732,477
Vaccines for children: Pfizer has already submitted an application to the FDA for emergency approval to provide 5- to 11-year-old children with an age-gauged vaccine. Most vaccine companies are following similar research, and some are pursuing vaccines for 1- to 5-year-olds. The issue is if and how to vaccinate children, which continues to be a worldwide problem, with most countries struggling just to get vaccines to young people 12 and up. There is some debate in the epidemiology community about whether vaccinating children has substantial benefit. On the other hand, eventual development of a coronavirus-related vaccine designed join the suite of roughly 15 vaccines already given routinely to children seems to be in the offing. In this broader context, the right-wing denial of COVID-19 vaccine seems particularly devoid of reason and, well, childish.
Politics, Legislation, Election Notes
Democrats promote their legislation. Whoop de dam do, as Biden hits the promotional trail to Michigan touting the potential benefits of the infrastructure bills now currently in a Manchin and Sinema logjam. Gotta realize, it’s hard to promote something when you don’t know what that something is, exactly. Can’t help most Americans from thinking “let’s wait and see” with just about everything that has to do with politics. Worst outcome politically: The Democrats pass infrastructure bills that help people that are essentially invisible. Democrats remain terrible at systematically dramatizing their accomplishments.
Pinned Point: Until the filibuster rules are modified, most of the Biden agenda will not pass the Senate.
Quote of the Week
America’s 50,000 Monuments: More Mermaids than Congresswomen, More Confederates than Abolitionists
Headline, The Washington Post, 10/06/2021.
[The IUY Weekly Journal assumes readers are at least casually familiar with names and events. For more details, check with internet search.]