Indivisible Upper Yellowstone – Weekly Journal
The Week of Saturday, October 23 through Friday, October 29, 2021 [Vol.3 No.15]
The Week’s Most Notable
Remember all the problems from last week: The economy, the pandemic, Congress (and the assault on democracy)? Well, one down probably – the economy is cooling, thanks to problem number two, the pandemic. Not that inflation, the faltering supply chain, and consumer confidence will all become marvelous overnight; but the drop in GDP during the third quarter indicates a slowing economy and far less pressure on some of the other problems. Meanwhile Americans are doing their level best to ignore the pandemic and sort of get on with a normal life. We preferred it if the only scary thing going was Halloween. Epidemiologists are saying, good luck. Actually, good luck, because we might get lucky and not have the fourth wave of the pandemic hit us as hard as it apparently will be hitting Europe during the winter. Then there is our politics. Even the political pessimists think our politics are crazy, deeply polarized with violence gathering at the margins. On the other hand, the Democrats might even pass some very helpful legislation, which the right-wing labels socialism and the worst possible thing that could happen. So, overall, this was a week when there were some pluses and some minuses. Nevertheless, the fourth great problem, climate change, found its way back into media coverage and even some public discussion. It Is about to become the center of attention next week during the UN Conference of the Parties – 26 (COP26) being held in Glasgow, Scotland. It’s perhaps the last best chance for the world to agree on effective measures against climate change. Biden will be there, fresh from his meeting with the Pope, who is also pushing for dramatic measures against climate change.
Question of the day (week? month? year?): Will the Democrats actually pass the infrastructure legislation? The media loves this question, even though they know that all but two Democrats have wanted to pass this since early summer. Nobody really wants to admit that just two people have the power to delay, strangle, and starve the legislative baby. Yet, as it has always been, it’s who’s got the power, baby. Manchin and Sinema are doing what they are doing because they can; their votes are the margin in the Senate. Right now, reading through the soggy tea leaves at the bottom of the cup, a deal will be struck with those two. Then comes the real battle, competing with right-wing propaganda to show that the programs in the bills are actually good and will help people. This is not a fight in which Democrats are particularly skilled. However, similar to what lawyers say, it helps to be on the right side of history.
Saturday, October 23
[Coronavirus] U.S. Coronavirus Totals: Cases: 45,345,781; Deaths: 758,167
[Virginia Election] Obama, Biden Campaign in Critical Virginia Governor’s Race – It’s a measure of how important the Terry McAuliffe run for the Virginia governorship is to the Democrats, but it can hardly be over emphasized how it will affect the Democratic 2022 campaign if he loses. The Republican candidate, Glenn Youngkin, is a Trumpist wolf in sheep’s clothing; and most voters will know what that means. This coming Tuesday’s election day.
[Climate Change] Saudi Arabia Promises Net Zero Carbon Emission by 2060 – This is probably not going to impress many at the up-coming COP26 climate change summit, but that the world’s biggest carbon fuel producer even put a foot on the climate change bandwagon could be seen as progress.
Sunday, October 24
[California Drought] “Bomb Cyclone” of Rain and Stormy Weather Hits Northern California – The deluge of rain will not end the drought in that part of California, but it will help. There will be a lot of runoff from the extremely heavy downpour, which will not help the soil much, but might benefit reservoirs.
Monday, October 25
[Racism Trial] Charlottesville Nazi Rally Trial Begins – The original events occurred in August 2017, which speaks for the slow grinding gears of justice. Nevertheless, the trial is forcing discussion of the arguments: free speech versus violence. Those who were injured claim the organizers deliberately organized for violence. But demonstrating right wing groups claim they were attacked. This will not be a quick, or likely definitive, trial.
[Jan. 6 Insurrection] Insurrection Organizers Finger GOP Lawmakers – Two of the people who helped plan the January 6 rally testified before the House Select Committee and named members of the congressional GOP as participants in the planning: Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA), Paul Gosar (R-AZ), Lauren Boebert (R-CO), Mo Brooks (R-AL), Madison Cawthorn (R-NC), Andy Biggs (R-AZ), and Louis Gohmert (R-TX). This is not only like opening Pandora’s box, but unloading the trailer full of lawyers parked beside it.
[Coronavirus] NYC Police Union Files Suit against City Vaccine Mandate – Is it bizarre, ironic, or tragic that the very people charged with protecting the health and safety of New Yorkers are themselves unwilling to take one of the most basic steps in the public health playbook – get a vaccine for COVID-19? Not only do they perceive the mandate is targeted at them specifically, but many don’t believe the vaccines are safe or effective. Either way, there is a massive failure of communication and trust, and it’s not confined to New York.
[Climate Change] Tesla to Sell 100,000 Electric Cars to Hertz – The magnitude of this commitment will widely impact not only the car industry but the ecological movement itself. Among other things, it vaults Tesla into a valuation of more than $1 trillion, making it the world’s largest vehicle manufacturer. It also sets up, for example, a potentially very influential dynamic where employees will be encouraged to buy electric cars, but if they can’t afford one their employer can help them rent one from Hertz. The key here is development of a physical, cultural, and financial network that supports electric vehicles.
Tuesday, October 26
[Infrastructure Legislation] Senate Democrats’ “Billionaires Tax” Idea Survives for 24 Hours – The idea was to target a tax at the 700 or so billionaires in the U.S. in order to pay for a fair chunk of the Build Back Better bill. Then Sen. Manchin stepped in and put the kibosh on the idea, because he can. Otherwise, the idea has been shown in numerous surveys and polls to be extremely popular, even with Republican voters.
[Coronavirus] Deborah Birx, Trump Covid Expert, Says Campaign Issues Cost Lives – Not that this was unknown, but she put an official face on it and said “we probably could have decreased fatalities into the 30% less to 40% less range.” In short, Trump’s attitude toward COVID-19 and the primacy of his reelection, combined to produce a less than effective COVID-19 policy.
Wednesday, October 27
[China Military] China Test Reveals Hypersonic Missile – A missile traveling faster than sound would be difficult to stop. Hence if it is real, and it might be, then as Gen. Milley put it, “I don’t know if it’s quite a Sputnik moment, but I think it’s very close to that.” Of course, Sputnik didn’t carry nuclear weapons. Did the U.S. intelligence agencies know about this? The event, a test, and the issue, hypersonic missile, are shrouded in predictable FUD. It sounds very significant, but it doesn’t seem like anybody in government, or even the media, are playing it that way. Expect to hear more about this.
[Iran Nukes] Iran Set to Resume Nuclear Talks – Iranian officials are discussing a schedule for talks to begin in November. This marks the first time since 2017 and Trump’s abrupt cancellation of the treaty, that the U.S., its allies, and the government of Iran have agreed to sit down for discussion of a new/refurbished treaty.
Thursday, October 28
[Economy] Economic Growth Slowed in Third Quarter – From overheating at 5% growth to undeniably cooling at 2%, the economy during the third quarter took a hit from the prevalence of the Delta variant, consumer angst, and business hesitancy. This also means or will mean that inflation will not get out of check, or as Treasury Secretary Yellen put it, “We’ll have pockets of inflation that will stick around until mid-2022, but in general inflation will recede as a perceived problem.”
[Infrastructure Bills] Biden Announces $1.75 Trillion Spending Plan – It doesn’t look like the original Democrats’ $3.5 trillion legislation, but Biden claims it can pass the Senate, meaning it has the approval of Senators Manchin and Sinema (sort of). The thing is, the actual language of the legislation just arrived in Congress and some members would like to actually read it, and there are issues of programs and timing that are yet outside agreement. So no, the bill was not ready on Thursday and Pelosi canceled the speculative vote. That vote has now been moved to Tuesday of next week – maybe.
[Facebook – Meta] Facebook Rebranded as Meta – Zuckerberg loves him some metaverse, the all-encompassing world of virtual reality, hence the name Meta. Skeptics lean toward the satiric, as in metastasize.
Friday, October 29
[Coronavirus] FDA Approves Pfizer Vaccine for Kids 5 to 11 – Moving ahead in the FDA process along with Moderna’s vaccine for children, it looks like there will be child-specific vaccines available before the end of the year. Of course, this being the U.S., where vaccines have been politically weaponized, the involvement of children in vaccinations will be a highly contested issue in many parts of the country.
[G20 Summit] G20 Agrees to 15% Minimum Corporate Tax – As reported during the summer, under pressure from Sec. of Treasury Yellen, most of the world’s countries agreed to establish a permanent floor for corporate taxes with no country at a rate of less than 15%. The idea is to avoid a race to the bottom, particularly among impoverished developing countries that often wind up receiving little or no tax income from attracting corporations. Not coincidentally, Democrats in the U.S. Congress are also floating a minimum tax for corporations in the U.S. at 15%.
[Coronavirus] U.S. Coronavirus Totals: Cases: 46,772,377; Deaths: 765,757
Americans are largely unaware that Europeans are beginning to talk about the “fourth wave” of the pandemic. The culprit, Delta Plus, is barely mentioned in the U.S. but has become an object of study and concern in some European countries, namely Great Britain. The Delta Plus variant, which seems to have most of the infectious capability of the original Delta variant, plus being slightly more fatal and evasive to existing vaccines. The wave is strongest in Eastern Europe, led by Russia which officially reports more than a thousand deaths per day, but the unofficial count is probably two or three times that. Numbers of the newly infected are spiking in places such as Denmark, Netherlands, Belgium, and Great Britain. Although governments in Europe have uniformly taken the happy-days tone, there is now also – sotto voce – talk about if, when, and how to resurrect unpopular mitigation such as masks and lockdowns. Although many European countries are now above 70% fully vaccinated, they are also plagued with other common problems such as the 30% who are not vaccinated and the number of people who are beyond the point where their initial vaccines might be losing effectiveness. Although the Biden administration has not officially addressed the U.S. prevalence of the Delta Plus variant, it’s here, in fact has been here since April, and our numbers may be similar to what much of the world is experiencing. Due to lack of DNA testing, we don’t know exactly what strains of the virus are doing most of the damage. The tendency has been to lump all active virus outbreaks as due to the Delta variant, which might actually be a family of variants. In any case, it seems like the U.S. is unofficially keeping its fingers crossed that our slightly improving vaccination rates and the newly arriving vaccinations for children will keep us out of whatever’s happening in Europe.
Politics, Legislation, Election Notes
Democrats are asking themselves; how much damage has been done by the seemingly endless delay in passing the infrastructure legislation? Some Democratic voters care; most others, not so much. A year from now, just before the midterm elections, the interminable “negotiations” will be largely forgotten. What will be remembered is whether something was passed, or not, and whether in the days before the election the Democrats can actually win percentage points by promoting what they have done. Right now, even if the legislation passes, it’s a glass half-full, half-empty proposition. Or as one commentator put it, maybe it’s time to talk about what good things are still in the legislation, not what was subtracted from it. Also, and this gets mentioned with some trepidation, technically the Democrats can offer another budget reconciliation bill in 2022 – before the midterm election. This might be a useful possibility, but it would depend on what happened with the original legislation of 2021, and the mood of the country about it.
Pinned Point: Until the filibuster rules are modified, most of the Biden agenda will not pass the Senate.
Quote of the Week
The surgeon general said tech platforms had allowed misinformation about vaccines and the virus to ‘poison our information environment,’ a callback to the days of Big Tobacco. A day later, President Biden told reporters that Facebook was ‘killing people.’ (He later backed off the comment.)
Gerrit De Vynck et al., “Facebook Told the White House to Focus on Vaccine Information. Internal Documents Show it Wasn’t Sharing Key Information,” The Washington Post, 10/28/2021.
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