November 2021 – that was the month that was

By Morf Morford

By Morf Morford

Tacoma Daily Index

November began with 25,000 delegates meeting in Glasgow, Scotland to discuss climate change.

This meeting of global leaders, established by the UN, has been happening since 1995.

As expected, dramatic pledges were made.

China and Russia were notably absent.

Infrastructure

President Biden’s long-stalled infrastructure bill finally passed with bipartisan support. The package includes $550 billion in new spending on broadband, roads and rail.

Senator Ted Cruz confronts Big Bird

Big Bird, the over-sized feathered Sesame Street character that helps teach children about kindness, sharing and how to cross the street, was publicly reprimanded by Texas Senator Ted (Rafael) Cruz for the “government propaganda” of encouraging children to get the COVID vaccine.

For the record, Big Bird has been promoting vaccines on PBS since 1972 – long before vaccines were just another political football for politicians trying their best to keep in the headlines.

If The Onion ever does a 2020-21 update on Profiles In Courage, this episode of Ted Cruz standing up against the tyranny of an entirely fictional Sesame Street character should be a central story. It is, after all, what courage seems to look like in 2021.

And, FYI, R2-D2 and C-3PO were also advocates (or tools) of the vaccination movement back in the 1970s. Details here: kottke.org/21/03/r2-d2-and-c-3po-say-get-vaccinated

Oscar the Grouch had no comment.

Legal cases dominate the headlines

Two legal cases dominated almost the entire month of November; the trials of Kyle Rittenhouse (Kenosha, Wisconsin) and of the three men charged with the murder of Ahmaud Arbery in Glynn County, Georgia.

Both cases pivoted on the “right” to bear arms in public, and, in the case of Ahmaud Arbery, the then-legal citizens arrest laws, which have since been revised.

In both cases, the shooters went free immediately after the incidents.

The convicted murderers of Ahmaud Arbery went free for months until the video – that they took – went public.

Kyle Rittenhouse became a celebrity in some circles and was offered jobs and scholarships by many political officials and universities.

Both cases will also serve as precedents in future armed vigilante rulings.

Right to repair

In an abrupt reversal of policy, score one for the tinkerers and hackers among us.

After years of pressure from consumer groups, lawmakers, and users, Apple Inc. will offer some tools and parts so owners can repair their own phones.

The self-repair tools and parts will first be available for iPhone 12 and iPhone 13, with availability for Mac computers to come early next year.

This is, of course, only the beginning.

Legislation in most states would include not only phones but also farm equipment, medical devices and, in many cases, a broad range of tech devices.

From Ben Franklin to the Wright Brothers to Steve Jobs, what, after all, is more American than the right to tinker with, and repair something you own?

An internet site that shows consumers how to fix their own phones, iFixit, reports their online videos and instructions have been viewed hundreds of thousands of times.

Crime 2021 style

Black Friday will forever be remembered as the day of a shooting at the Tacoma Mall.

Flash mob/smash and grab

Whole new definitions of crime emerged in the fall of 2021, from Tik-Tok travel murders to flash mob assaults on upscale stores, even jewelry stores. The previous simple, if not naive, individual or small group robbery or theft seems simplistic if not archaic.

Why risk arrest when you can have something like a theft party and steal anything and, thanks to masks and the inherent anonymity of a crowd, almost certainly get away with it?

This approach to crime has yet another added benefit for the perpetrators; there is essentially no prevention for it; security cameras and locked cases are no match for crowds with tools and face coverings.

Most of the victims of these flash mob/smash and grab attacks have been high-end jewelry or accessory speciality shops, but toward the end of November, a new trend emerged – masked groups would run into (and out of) hardware stores with implements and tools (like sledge hammers and crowbars) for the next round of assaults.

Thanks to cars, weapons and a smash and grab philosophy, none of us is safe.

Waukesha, Wisconsin showed us a variation on the theme – a truck raced through a holiday parade, killing six and injuring dozens more.

In both categories, we know this is only the beginning.

Meanwhile, in Canada

President Biden released 50 million barrels of oil from the U.S. strategic petroleum reserve to lower the price of domestic fuel.

Not to be outdone, the Canadians released from their reserves something even more important – maple syrup.

Quebec Maple Syrup Producers — an association described by Bloomberg as “the OPEC of maple syrup” since they control over 70 percent of the world’s maple syrup production — are releasing about 50 million pounds of the best of Canadian syrup from their stockpile.

And, just in case you are worried abut running out of any more, ahem, essentials, stockpiles are common for all sorts of items:

In 2018, America had record-breaking cheese reserves; in 2019, our bacon stockpiles hit a near 50-year high; and despite a terrible 2021 harvest, Champagne’s perennial reserve stock system ensures that the globe won’t run out of bubbly.

We do, after all, have a new year to celebrate in just a few weeks.

And after our experience in 2020, we can only hope that somewhere, in some closely guarded vault lies yet another item in our strategic reserves; toilet paper.

The last Sears store in Illinois closed

Sears, which was founded in Chicago in the 1890s, closed its last Illinois store.

Once the Amazon of American retail, as of November 2021, 34 Sears stores remain of an empire that once delivered tools, toys and entire kit homes to American addresses for over a century.

Omicron

And yes, just as we were getting thoroughly sick of it, a new COVID strain emerged.

This one, originally discovered by scientists in South Africa, had cases, by the end of November, in at least 14 countries.

COVID cases, and new strains from Africa were inevitable. With vaccinations (and boosters) available in Europe and most of Asia, Africa had a vaccination rate of about 2%.

The much heralded “herd immunity” (have not heard that term much lately) basically means that the disease runs rampant and the survivors have better resistance.

There are only a few problems with this approach; thousands die, multiple strains have the opportunity to adapt and develop even more strains and the rest of us, especially children and the immuno-compromised, are even more vulnerable.

Talking about the weather

In November, in the greater Puget Sound area, the rains came. As did flooding, landslides, damage and deaths.

Lower British Columbia, including Vancouver, suffered from washed out highways and rail lines and were cut off from the rest of Canada.

Three atmospheric rivers, combined with unseasonably warm weather, overwhelmed almost every river and lowland area in Western Washington.

It also broke records for rainfall in November.

Deaths and resignations

We lost songwriter Stephen Sondheim (at age 91). We also saw the resignation of co-founder/CEO Jack Dorsey, of Twitter.

What’s in a name?

Bethel High School and Clover Park High School changed the names of their mascots due to a recent state law.

The Bethel Braves are now the Bethel Bison. Clover Park Warriors are still in the process of finding an appropriate name.

House Bill 1356 was passed by the Legislature earlier this year and took effect July 25, 2021. The bill states that beginning Jan. 1, 2022, “Public schools may not use Native American names, symbols, or images as school mascots, logos, or team names.”

New nation

Barbados became the world’s newest republic on the last day of November, swearing in its first president and dropping its formal allegiance to Queen Elizabeth II. Barbados became a republic on the 55th anniversary of its independence from Britain. It will remain part of the Commonwealth, but its head of state is now Sandra Mason, governor general since 2018.

France honors Josephine Baker

France will induct American cabaret dancer, singer, civil rights activist, and World War II spy Josephine Baker into its Pantheon. Baker is the first Black woman to receive the honor of a place where France’s heroes are buried.

In short, November was another one of those months when we wondered what kind of crazy thing was coming next. Now we know; December and a new year.

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