Indivisible Upper Yellowstone – Weekly Journal
The Week of Saturday, November 6 through Friday, November 12, 2021 [Vol.3 No.17]
The Week’s Most Notable
Infrastructure week was replaced by inflation week. The numbers don’t lie, although they may exaggerate. Officially, the inflation rate grew by 6.2% last month, the biggest rise in decades. Unofficially, literally everybody can see with their own eyes that food prices are going up, as is gasoline. These are the big ones for the consumers, highly visible, unavoidable, often painful. Inflation like this is political dynamite, and don’t the Republicans know it, with their proclivity for weaponizing everything. Right-wing media got into its inflation attack mode early and hard, enough so that the spin almost universally runs in the direction of blaming Biden and the Democrats.
With or without the prodding by right-wing propaganda, the economy has become the primary issue for Americans and the principal source of disapproval for Biden. For Republicans, besides hitting Biden and “rampant socialism,” the target has now become the second infrastructure bill, which they claim is going to add to the permanent debt and raise inflation. Unfortunately for the Democrats, Sen. Manchin has latched onto the same themes. Even more unfortunately for the Democrats, the charges about debt and inflation are much easier to claim than they are to refute. The majority of economists, including the Fed, are saying that prices – gas prices in particular – will go down, probably by spring. Other elements of inflation include consumer purchasing unleashed by the relaxation of COVID restrictions and supply chain–distribution difficulties. These causes of inflation may be temporary; however, some prices – notably food – are considered “sticky”; once they go up, they don’t tend to come down. As ever with the economy, the tenuous political balance between the rise in prices, increased wages, and public perception will very much be in play for the 2022 midterms.
Saturday, November 6
[Coronavirus] U.S. Coronavirus Totals: Cases: 47,377,486; Deaths: 776,618
[COP26] More Than 100,000 Protesters in Glasgow Demand Concrete Climate Action – Mostly empty words proliferate in conferences and summits like COP26. Behind that is the age-old political two-step: Say you are going to do something and make a lot of noise, then not do it. That’s what this protest was about; led by young people who know that the lack of action may doom their future.
[Coronavirus] Conservative Appeals Court Grants Stay of Biden Mandatory Vaccination Program – The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit, the most conservative court in the country, proclaimed that the administration’s mandatory vaccines for businesses with over 100 employees raises “grave statutory and constitutional issues” and therefore should be delayed while the court deliberated. [Update: The appeals court followed up with an opinion halting the program and ruling that the Labor Department “grossly exceed[ed] OSHA’s statutory authority.” The issue will now go to the Supreme Court.]
Sunday, November 7
[Infrastructure] Trump Attacks Republicans Who Voted for Infrastructure Bill – Saying, “How about all those Republican senators that voted thinking that helping the Democrats is such a wonderful thing to do, so politically correct. They just don’t get it!” Party (i.e., him) above country. (Those Senate Republicans voted for a bill that helps everybody.)
Monday, November 8
[Coronavirus] LA Mandates COVID-19 Vaccine Disclosure – Showing proof of vaccination before entering a store, eating at a restaurant, or attending an event is still not common in the U.S. Los Angeles joins San Francisco and New York as another major city to invoke this kind of passport record of COVID-19 mitigation. Compare this to say, Florida, where they are trying to make all COVID mandates illegal.
[International Travel] Travel Ban Lifted, First Vaccinated Foreign Tourists Arrive in U.S. – Sold-out flights and occasional chaos at airports accompanied the first visitors to the U.S. under the new rules: proof of vaccination and a negative COVID-19 test within 72 hours. It’s the first time that nonessential travel has been permitted since April 2020.
Tuesday, November 9
[Government] Rep. Gosar and the Violent Anime – It might be called the sign of the times, or just the expression of a more than slightly demented middle-aged man out of control, but the altered cartoon depicting him killing Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and threatening Biden was a step too far for most House Democrats. They are calling for his censure; that’s as far as it will go.
[Jan.6 Insurrection] U.S. District Judge Rules Trump Jan. 6 Records Should Go to House – Presiding judge Tanya S. Chutkan commented “Presidents are not kings, and plaintiff is not president.” She cleared the way for the National Archives to release all requested documents to the House Select Committee. This ruling was immediately appealed and is likely to spend several months working its way through the appeals process, probably all the way to the Supreme Court. [Update: Appeals Court delays access to Trump documents until at least November 30.]
[Jan.6 Insurrection] House Select Committee Subpoenas Miller, Conway, and McEnany – Three of the most prominent names from Trump’s administration have been added to the list of those subpoenaed for testimony and documentation relevant to the January 6 insurrection. Whether they will comply or not depends on what happens with other prominent recipients of the subpoena, especially Steve Bannon.
[Oklahoma Supreme Court] Oklahoma High Court Quashes $465 Million J&J Opioid Ruling – Following what is likely to be a common precedent, the court overturned the initial ruling, based on its finding that current laws do not provide for punishment of companies participating in a major public crisis. In short, the 5-1 ruling highlighted those existing laws are often written to protect corporations.
Wednesday, November 10
[U.S. Economy] Inflation Hits Highest Pace in 31 Years – The Labor Department announced the annual inflation rate in October jumped to 6.2%, the highest since 1990. The gains were across most of the economy, but concentrated in food and energy costs. It was the fifth straight month that the inflation rate exceeded 5%.
[Coronavirus] One Million Children Vaccinated in a Week – This is considered a very good start on the 28 million children eligible in the U.S. On the other hand, while the numbers are likely to be very good in the beginning, resistance to children’s vaccination might turn out to be as high or higher than it is for adults. Children require a special dosage and may pose a more difficult logistical problem. The CDC hopes that upwards of 20 million children will be vaccinated within the next six months.
[Coronavirus] Texas Judge Overrules Governor’s Ban on School Mask Mandates – The case specifically cited the potential for harm to disabled students who would be forced to avoid school because of their greater vulnerability to COVID-19. The state of Texas has already appealed the ruling, though while the case is under appeal, schools may be allowed to mandate masks. (Of course, there is always a possibility for a temporary injunction. . ..)
Thursday, November 11
[China] Xi Consolidates Power in China – Promoting an “historic resolution,” the Chinese Communist Party elevated the president’s status to the same level as that of his predecessors Mao Zedong and Deng Xiaoping, along with a third term and potential rule for life.
[Eastern Europe] Belarus Ukraine, and Russia Stirring Unrest in EU – With Belarus shoving thousands of immigrants to the EU borders and threatening to shut off energy supplies, and Russia openly beefing up troop levels in eastern Ukraine, it seems the regimes are determined to make trouble in the region. The probable cause seems to be a desire for distraction from internal difficulties.
Friday, November 12
[Jan. 6 Investigation] Bannon Indicted for Contempt of Congress –– The indictment settles the question of whether the DOJ is willing to enforce congressional subpoenas. AG Garland provided a rather standard rationale based on support for the rule of law. The case now goes to court, followed by the appeals process, followed by a probable case before the Supreme Court. This is, after all, somewhat precedent-setting. Unfortunately, given the Bannon track record, it also provides him with a platform for provocation and grandstanding.
[U.S. Economy] Another Record Number of Americans Quit Jobs in September – Officially, 4.1 million people quit their jobs in August and 4.4 million quit in September; altogether more than 10 million have voluntarily quit. This is so sudden and unprecedented that labor economists are hard-pressed to provide explanations. The numbers are so large that this is definitely a very significant component of the ongoing labor shortage. It does seem to indicate that workers feel now is the time to improve their earnings and/or job status.
[Coronavirus] U.S. Coronavirus Totals: Cases: 47,850,890; Deaths: 782,933
The news from Europe is not good. Every country is either seeing increased new cases and deaths, or is plateaued at a high level. This, in spite of relatively high rates of vaccination (70% of adults or better). There are various levels of mitigation, running from complete lockdown (Latvia) to doing almost nothing (Great Britain). As in the U.S., European governments proclaimed in the summer that thanks to vaccination, COVID-19 was under control and people could resume “normal life.” Then along came the Delta variant, and now Delta Plus. These variants are so infectious that exposure of anyone vulnerable is more than likely to lead to illness. This includes millions who received their vaccinations more than six months ago, and now face declining immunization. Suddenly European politicians are confronted with rates that are already approaching previous records – and winter is coming. (European health specialists have been warning about this for months.) Politically, reversal of “opening up” policies is going to be toxic. In Europe, it’s widely recognized as the “fourth wave” of the pandemic. Most epidemiologists say that it is inevitably coming to America after about a 3-to-5-week lag. Check the New York Times map of COVID infections in the U.S.: A few weeks ago, the worst areas were all in the North (Montana, North Dakota, Minnesota, Maine). This week added Colorado, New Mexico, Nebraska, Kansas, West Virginia and the U.S. numbers started increasing again. See a pattern? Almost everyone in the U.S., including Biden’s government, has become invested in a return to normalcy; betting on the safety of widespread vaccination, new treatments, and selective mitigation. Yet surveys of the public show that people are very nervous about the pandemic, right up there with the inflation. They should be nervous.
Politics, Legislation, Election Notes
Will the Democrats pass the second infrastructure bill, Build Back Better (the “whatever money is left version” after Manchin and Sinema are done)? Scuttlebutt has it that Sinema has struck some kind of deal guaranteeing that she will vote for the bill. Democratic leaders continue to say that Manchin will not scuttle Biden’s agenda, but he’s not done making headlines whittling-away at it. The unspoken likelihood is that the bill will pass both chambers by the time of the holiday recess, roughly mid-December. A major caveat: If the inflation issue gets worse, all bets are off.
Pinned Point: Until the filibuster rules are modified, most of the Biden agenda will not pass the Senate.
Quotes of the Week
Vote for this infrastructure bill and I will primary the hell out of you.
Rep. Madison Cawthorn (R-NC).
[A] traitor to their voters and a traitor to our donors [by voting] to pass Joe Biden’s Communist takeover of America,
Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA).
Headline: The National Review.
[The IUY Weekly Journal assumes readers are at least casually familiar with names and events. For more details, check with internet search.]