Indivisible Upper Yellowstone: Weekly Journal, Vol.4 No.19, Week of November 19 – 25, 2022 (Thanksgiving 2022)

Indivisible Upper Yellowstone – Weekly Journal

The Week of Saturday, November 19 through Friday, November 25, 2022 [Vol.4 No.19]

Thanksgiving 2022

Abortion

Climate

Gun Control

Rule of Law

Pandemic

Inflation

Ukraine

Insurrection

 

The Week’s Most Notable

Whatever the reasons and expressions for giving thanks – here’s to a happy Thanksgiving.

Six days apart this month: November 13, University of Virginia, 3 dead; November 19, Club Q, Colorado Springs, 5 dead; November 25, Chesapeake Virginia Walmart, 6 dead. This is NOT going to stop. Why? Many reasons, given all the different events, but two reasons stand out: Anybody with homicidal intentions can get a gun. Americans have more guns per person than anywhere else – 400 million guns, 330 million people. Second, Americans are relentlessly propagandized into believing using a gun is a viable solution for many a problem. From home defense to political argument, we grow up in a culture that normalizes the use of guns, sometimes as a symbol, sometimes in action. Studies of all kinds, using different wording, come up with these two factors – guns and culture. The U.S., along with Mexico and Guatemala, are the only countries that start with the assumption that people have an inherent right to own guns. In terms of our political authority, Americans are not inclined to rein-in, much less give up, guns or gun culture. Apparently, we are willing to sacrifice our safety, peace of mind, and our children, to avoid compromises.

Saturday, November 19

[Mass Shooting] Colorado LGBTQ Nightclub: 5 Dead, 18 Injured – Club Q was supposed to be a safe haven for LGBTQ people. It was attacked just before midnight on Saturday by what appears to be the perpetration of a hate crime. It could have been worse, but the attacker was taken down by an army veteran and subdued (severely beaten) by others at the club. Most political response has been strongly sympathetic to the victims, although some Republicans, such as Lauren Boebert (R-CO), chose to blame the LGBTQ people.

[Twitter] Musk Reinstates Trump on Twitter – Trump may not use the account, committed as he is to his own service, Truth Social. Then again, he may use Twitter, if it suits him. In any case, this open invitation explains Musk’s political leaning and desire to make money.                               

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Indivisible Upper Yellowstone: Weekly Journal, Vol.4 No.18, Week of November 2 – 18, 2022 (Midterm Fallout)

Indivisible Upper Yellowstone – Weekly Journal

The Week of Saturday, November 12 through Friday, November 18, 2022 [Vol.4 No.18]

Midterm Fallout

Abortion

Climate

Gun Control

Rule of Law

Elections

Inflation

Ukraine

Insurrection

 

The Week’s Most Notable

The results of the U.S. midterm elections were unusual enough to create at least a week of bewildering reactions. Not to mention that control of the House wasn’t decided until mid-week and still doesn’t have final numbers. Republicans have majority control at 218 seats with 2-3 more possible but given GOP fractiousness this is absolutely minimal. Overall, Democrats did better than expected, from an historical perspective, but not well enough considering that the fate of democracy was at stake. Abortion, defense of democracy, and inflation poked through as the salient issues for Democrats and most Independents, while inflation, crime, and immigration stuck out from exit polls for Republicans – when “beating the libs” wasn’t the real motivator. MAGA and election denial candidates, the signposts for authoritarianism, didn’t do very well, but more than 170 card-carrying election-denialists won office, and Republican control of the House guarantees a roiling brouhaha of high-pitched antidemocracy whining from the “Freedom Caucus” for the next two years.

In fact, much of the week’s media time was consumed by Republican chaos and infighting, and not victory laps by Democrats or by Nancy Pelosi stepping down as House Democratic leader. Republicans seemed to take the midterm under-performance (debacle) seriously, when not simultaneously finger-pointing in multiple directions. The House will be the site of endless pitched battles, starting with who gets to be Speaker, and who gets to investigate Hunter Biden. Then there was Trump’s announcement of his presidential campaign, which was the centerpiece of pundit speculation, partly because the event had the shock excitement of a six-volt battery, and partly because it evoked the nascent conflict between Trump and DeSantis. The key point of interest seems to be how nasty the rivalry will become, not its relevance to national issues. For his part, Trump seems to be generating a 24-7-365 attack mode highlighted by as much name-calling and anti- everything word salad as possible. Not all that different from before, just more of it. It remains to be seen how much spew is tolerated, first by the media, and then by voters.

8,000,000,000. It was declared this week that the population of planet Earth just exceeded eight billion. Don’t try counting it out loud, unless you’ve got about 280 days (nonstop). It’s a very large number. These are people all living at the same time: moving, eating, sleeping, breathing, defecating, and everything human beings do on the relatively small area of land that sustains human life. The number is, of course, getting bigger all the time. Roughly fifty years ago, we were panicking about that fact. Overpopulation was the theme – the Malthusian endgame for humanity. Today we are more likely to hear economists complain that we don’t have enough new population in some areas to sustain growth. What happened to the overpopulation catastrophe? Short answer, agricultural technology. We can feed, clothe, and house most people, climate change permitting. Fact: Although the incessantly shrinking amount of arable land means that even modern technology will not be able to keep pace, we keep shoving-off the idea of overpopulation. There’s a word for that – perilous.

Saturday, November 12

[Midterms] Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto Wins in Nevada, Democrats Retain Senate Control – It was a tight race (48.7% to 48.2%), but the incumbent prevailed over her MAGA opponent, Adam Laxalt. Her win means Democrats will control the Senate with or without Sen. Raphael Warnock winning in Georgia. If Warnock wins the Dec. 6 runoff against Herschel Walker, the Dems will have the Senate 51-49 and deeper control of Senate committees. The conventional political wisdom is that without control of the Senate at stake, Republicans will be less motivated to vote (and spend) for the spectacularly unfit-for-office Walker.

[Korea] N. Korea Test Lobs Missiles, S. Korea Seeks Allies – Nothing much new here except increased provocation, and risk.                  

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Indivisible Upper Yellowstone: Weekly Journal, Vol.4 No.17, Week of November 5 – 11, 2022 (Midterm Elections)

Indivisible Upper Yellowstone – Weekly Journal

The Week of Saturday, November 5 through Friday, November 11, 2022 [Vol.4 No.17]

Midterm Elections

Abortion

Climate

Gun Control

Rule of Law

Elections

Inflation

   Ukraine

Insurrection

 

The Week’s Most Notable

It was a remarkably positive week. Somehow emotionally it might have marked a sea-change. Historically momentous midterm elections came and went without violence or in fact any significant challenge. Economic reports indicate that we may be on the downhill side of inflation. Biden is going to the G20 conference carrying economic and political momentum. Ukraine retook Kherson, a major victory, without a major battle. We might even be seeing the backside of Donald Trump. Let us stop and smell the roses, while keeping in mind how rarely they bloom in November.

When the dust settles in about a month, after the Georgia runoffs, the remarkable midterm elections of ‘22 will still have positive impact and, at the same time, reveal that the results were a mixed bag. It’s been twenty years since the last time a first-term president didn’t lose a busload of congressional seats in midterm elections; but then that was 2002, post-9/11, and G.W. Bush had an approval rating in the 60s. This time, Democrats retained control of the Senate, (did/nearly did) retain control of the House, won a cluster of governorships and state legislatures, and went a long way to repudiating election deniers. The ballyhooed “red wave” turned into foam. Much of the media had accepted the pending red wave as fact and still made it sound like its extraordinary demise was somehow unmotivated, surprisingly non-historical. The polls, most of them, didn’t get it either. As Biden might say, here’s the deal.

By a solid majority, women are insistently angry about the loss of their reproductive rights. They organized quietly and voted consistently – adding a hefty margin for Democrats in many, many races. Young people, notorious for not voting in midterms, voted in unusual numbers in key states because – among other things – gun control, climate change, and student loans mean something to their lives. Independents said they were tired of the squabbling, chaos, and threats to democracy – and they voted accordingly, adding key points in many races. Overall, while inflation and the economy still sit at the top of voters’ worry list, other, more fundamental issues were kept in perspective by a majority of voters. In other words, these are extraordinary times and produced historically extraordinary results.

Still, nearly half the country remains unconvinced. A lot of people still think only Republicans can legitimately win elections. There are still many “angertainers” and “performative politicians” in office. In fact, 160+ election deniers were just elected. The union is not secure. As one headline put it, “Democrats didn’t win the midterms – they simply held the line.” The next two years need more energetic leadership, more intelligent focus by the Democratic party, and more participation by everybody else.

One favorite game of these fateful midterms is to spell out some takeaways. A fool’s challenge, no doubt, risking looking very foolish, but it could also be instructive, eighteen months from now.

Whatever the configuration of Congress, expect little or no significant legislation for the next two years. If the House is in Republican control, especially by a small margin, there’s likely to be a three-ring circus: leadership fights, crazed revenge-filled investigations, maybe even an impeachment or two. Hopefully Democrats will not only enjoy the show, but aggressively call out every significant (and senseless) thing Republicans say and occasionally do. The in-fighting will expose Republicans’ true positions – which should be implacably exploited.

Trump is at the beginning of a sunset (probably longish and slowish). Trump still controls the loyalty of his base – that’s tens of millions of Americans. He is not going away anytime soon. But the GOP dogs will be at his heels. DeSantis and others will be looking for opportunistic bites. The Murdoch media empire (Fox News, NY Post, Wall Street Journal) will not abandon Trump, but they will carefully meter any favors, and they too may bite occasionally. Also, Trump will potentially/probably be indicted next year, perhaps in multiple venues. He is aging, tiring, and demonstrably losing coherence. He will never again be at the top of his chaos and intimidation game. This will all make a difference over the next two years. For Democrats it creates a goal: the functional end of MAGA and especially the Big Lie. Remember the formula: Trump = Big Lie = MAGA = GOP, it’s a linked chain; break a link where one can. (Note: Sometimes the fall of a celebrity develops unexpectedly rapid momentum.)

Truth works at the margins over time. Prior to these midterms, it was rumored (gaslighted) that Americans didn’t really care about things like democracy, fair voting, honesty. That turned out not to be true for at least a ragged but decisive majority in most parts of the country. Take that to heart – yet even more, it shows the effectiveness of persistent but fair and non-accusatory telling of the truth. The mandate: Sunset the Big Lie. Show that Jan. 6 is history we can learn from. Show that Democrats, Liberals, Progressives are not demons – they are brothers, sisters, family. Americans.  

Lost in the Midterms: Ukraine Re-takes Kherson. Ukraine appears to be liberating Kherson, the largest city and key regional capitol formerly in Russian hands, the lynchpin of Russian positions along the Black Sea coast, and gateway to the Crimea. This has been a possibility for weeks; however, given the months of resolute expressions by Putin that Kherson would be held at all cost, a Russian evacuation seemed highly unlikely (and more than a bit suspect), at least not without an all-out fight in city streets. Now the Russians said they are leaving and it t looks like they are leaving. They really left without a fight. What happened? First: Kherson is on the west side of the wide and deep Dnipro River, separated from the rest of Donbas – it’s a location vulnerable to encirclement without an easy way to retreat. Second: Some of Russia’s most elite soldiers, and some their worst (the new draftees), roughly 20,000 in all, could be trapped in the city. Third: Ukraine captured Pavlivka last week, a transportation hub of the region and is in position to shut off major logistical supply to Kherson. Fourth: Winter is coming, not a good time to be cut off. Putin and his generals are (still) rational; their decision and cover-story is to withdraw and live to fight again in the spring. They will sit on the other side of the river, behind newly constructed fortifications and lob artillery shells into the city. For the Ukrainians this will be a major victory, both in terms of international PR and in military strategy. It will significantly help keep their allies in the fight. It is a big deal: much like defending Kyiv and retaking Kharkiv.

Saturday, November 5

[Midterms] Biden and Obama Roll Out for Midterms Finale – Biden hasn’t done much campaigning; Obama has done a ton of it in the last few weeks. Today in Philadelphia they worked together. It’s all orchestrated exposure, carefully preserving Biden’s presidential status and avoiding his relative unpopularity in certain locations. On the other hand, Obama has repeatedly demonstrated why he is a generational politician, drawing huge crowds and energizing Democrats wherever he goes. In some states, such as Pennsylvania and Georgia, it might make a difference of a few thousand votes – and this year that could be surprisingly important.

[World Series] Astros Do It in Six – Winning 4-1 over the Phillies to take game six and the World Championship, “America’s Most Hated Team” once again proved why they have been dominant for the past six years.

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Indivisible Upper Yellowstone: Weekly Journal, Vol.4 No.16, Week of October 29 – November 4, 2022 (The Election is Coming)

Indivisible Upper Yellowstone – Weekly Journal

The Week of Saturday, October 29 through Friday, November 4, 2022 [Vol.4 No.16]

The Election is Coming

Abortion

Climate

Gun Control

Rule of Law

Pandemic

Inflation

Ukraine

Insurrection

 

The Week’s Most Notable

The week before a national election is usually a muddle. To invoke some metaphors: The media is flooded. The streams of information are polluted by lies and the political channels are more gaslit than 19th Century London. But is this year worse than usual? Tough question. Disinformation was very bad pre-civil war, and again in the Gilded Age 1880s. It seems that a plurality of Americans has looked at what’s going on, don’t like what’s happening, and with considerable framing and shaping by right-wing propaganda, come to the conclusion that the country feels like it’s going to hell with inflation and crime. However, another plurality (yes, there’s substantial overlap in pluralities) feels that while crime and inflation are serious, this is not a nation of famine and apocalypse quite yet, but if totalitarian sentiment (e.g., only Republicans can legitimately win elections) gets the upper hand, then fear and dissolution may face the nation. This is more than the usual muddle; it’s becoming existential – lives are at stake – and the solvable problems of crime and inflation recede into the waters of hatred and distrust (darker metaphor).

                                                                                                        VOTE

A Somber Note on Man-Made-Tragedy This October: 10/2/22: Malang, East Java, Indonesia; football (soccer) stadium panic at end of game caused by police teargas, [125 dead]:, 10/29/22: Seoul, South Korea; Halloween celebration street stampede with no crowd control;, [154 dead], 10/30/22: Gujarat India; suspension foot-bridge collapse, overloaded with 400 people, [134 dead]; total as of 10/31/22 Ukraine War [est. 6,400 civilian dead] – for perspective: October, U.S. COVID-19 [7,203 deaths]: 10/1/22: Florida, U.S.  Hurricane Ian over several days; [119 dead].

Saturday, October 29

[Ukraine] Russians Back Off U.N. Brokered Ukrainian Grain Shipping – Though roundly criticized by Biden and other EU leaders, manipulating the threat against safe passage of Ukrainian grain through the Black Sea allows Putin to remind the world of Russia’s importance – as he wills. As a show of force, expect this constriction to be temporary. [Update: by week’s end Russia agreed to allow shipping again.]

[Climate Change] Mississippi River Basin Drought – This drought of historic magnitude didn’t happen today; it literally took years of changing climate. The media is finally recognizing it – pictures of dry Mississippi riverbed and grounded river-boats are starting to appear. Much of the Mississippi has reached, or will soon reach, record lows. Rainfall across the plains and in much of the upper Mississippi Basin has been scarce, again near record lows. The short-term human impact will be hampered commercial transportation, especially of grains – which will affect the price of many food stocks. The widespread drought in much of the central U.S. hasn’t received nearly as much attention as the western, especially Californian drought – probably because it’s been slower coming and hasn’t been accompanied by dramatic wildfires. But the cost and impact will be at least as great, and the winter of 22-23 doesn’t look promising for relief.                                                                                                                                                                     

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Indivisible Upper Yellowstone: Weekly Journal, Vol.4 No.15, Week of October 22 – 28, 2022 (“Where is Nancy?)

Indivisible Upper Yellowstone – Weekly Journal

The Week of Saturday, October 22 through Friday, October 28, 2022 [Vol.4 No.15]

Where is Nancy?

Abortion

Climate

Gun Control

Rule of Law

Pandemic

Inflation

Ukraine

Insurrection

 

The Week’s Most Notable

Two weeks ago, during the session of the House Jan. 6 Committee, Americans saw the video of Nancy Pelosi, Speaker of the House, third in line to the presidency, working the phones seeking military or police help from a room near the Capitol, a Capitol which at that moment was swarming with insurrectionists, some of whom were looking to find, capture, and perhaps kill Nancy Pelosi. This week, on Friday, the animus that was set loose hunting Nancy Pelosi at the Capitol showed up at Pelosi’s home in San Francisco by a Pelosi-hating man bearing a hammer. He used the hammer to smash through a patio door and to crack the skull of Paul Pelosi, Nancy’s eighty-two-year-old husband. Nancy Pelosi was in Washington D.C. at the time. Paul Pelosi was gravely injured, but will survive.

This was a powerfully evocative moment because it actualized the surfacing violence and vitriol of the Trump-Republican party, the predictable end-result of right-wing demonizing of people like Pelosi. The power of the incident to remind people (potential voters) of what lies behind Republican rhetoric was so obvious that within the day, the right-wing propaganda machine churned out deflections such as words of consolation that morphed into the GOP campaign rant on crime.

In an election where control of the House and Senate depends on a handful of knife-edged races, will this incident be enough to move the relatively small number of voters toward Democrats needed to affect the outcome? It’s possible, but not likely. Many have already voted. Many will never hear of this incident. Many will see it covered by Fox News and its ilk as unfortunate but not significant. Some will say, “They had it coming.” As the writer David Frum put it, “Only the GOP celebrates political violence.”

Not many weeks have seen the news highlighted by a debate, especially a non-presidential debate; but this one was different. When John Fetterman and Mehmet Oz met to debate who should be the next senator from Pennsylvania, it was already one of the highest profile contests in the country – a swing state, a Trump installed celebrity candidate (Oz), a somewhat iconoclastic Lieutenant Governor (Fetterman), and all the key issues plus one. Fetterman suffered a serious stroke five months before, and though much improved, remains on the recovery path (doctor certified). That meant while his cognitive ability is unimpaired, he still struggles verbally from time to time. It’s a temporary disability that millions go through. Of course, for Republicans, where cruelty is the point, it’s routine to highlight disabilities as politically toxic. At the same time as this debate, the head of the Republican National Committee ridiculed both Biden’s and Fetterman’s speech difficulties. From such people, a classy approach is expected. Less expected and more damaging was the media pile-on to continually highlight Fetterman’s verbal struggles, while mostly ignoring the political issues. The media in general quickly became part of the right-wing “reverb-box” (a different concept from the right-wing echo chamber), where negative coverage is repeated in many variations as long it still gets attention. It’s a media effect exploited by the likes of GOP shock-troopers (Greene, Gates, etc.). Will it be effective in this case?

Saturday, October 22

[Ukraine] Russian Military HQ Removed from Kherson – It  probably was a sign that either the Russian army is going to put up a terrific fight, probably leaving the city in ruins, or that a pullout was near. Given Putin’s apocalyptic recent statements, do-or-die in Kherson seems on the agenda, but the military situation in Ukraine is not always what it seems. It’s been reported Russia has been moving many “new recruits” (draftees) to the Kherson front; such troops are highly unreliable. They can become cannon-fodder in either a desperate defense or the expendable cover for a withdrawal. Winter is coming; this will unfold relatively quickly.

[Iran] Demonstrations Against the Iranian Regime Occur in Europe, U.S. – The resistance to the Iranian government suppression of rights is nothing if not persistent. It seems like a stubborn pilot light the regime cannot snuff out, but which so far has not ignited the fire of a much larger movement. [Update: Police clashed with thousands of mourners at the Mahsa Amini funeral.]             

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Indivisible Upper Yellowstone: Weekly Journal, Vol.4 No.14, Week of October 15 – 21, 2022 (Liz Truss Resigns)

Indivisible Upper Yellowstone – Weekly Journal

The Week of Saturday, October 15 through Friday, October 21, 2022 [Vol.4 No.14]

Liz Truss Resigns

Abortion

Climate

Gun Control

Rule of Law

Pandemic

Inflation

Ukraine

Insurrection

 

The Week’s Most Notable

It was the kind of week that shares headlines with a head of lettuce. The Brits are nothing if not satirical and cheeky, so not too unexpectedly when Prime Minister Liz Truss began to seriously wilt in the polls, a media rag featured on its front page a head shot of Truss and a shot of a head of lettuce with the caption, “Will Liz Truss outlast this lettuce?” The lettuce won. Truss resigned this week, the shortest tenure as PM in history.

Other than a probably indelible and historic lettuce-meme, Truss’s passing of the guttering torch has another feature worth noting – she was undone (as much as anything) by her economic philosophy. Truss is a supply-sider; so much so that she co-authored a book about it. She believed, and presumably still does, that tax-cuts for the rich have a “trickle-down effect” (heard that phrase before?) because they will spend the additional cash on good-for-society things like hiring more workers, paying better wages, or investing in the future. She couldn’t wait as a newly installed Prime Minister to put her theories into practice. In reality, she had only one thing to do – save the British people from sky-high energy costs and an economy-threatening cost-of-living rise. She did address this, sort of, but the showpiece was a huge tax-cut for the wealthy and a spanking new supply-side “mini budget.” She seemed unaware of the army of supply-side haters, even in her own party.

Unfortunately for her, enriching bank accounts in the Caribbean was not evaluated in her piddle-for-the-masses economic philosophy and is not popular. Supply-side economic theory has such a bad track record – many decades of attempts to make it work – that only the most cretinous or fuddy-duddy politicians on either side of the Atlantic even mention it. It scares contemporary financiers. Within 24hours of her policy announcements, especially the unfunded tax cuts, the British pound fell almost 5%, causing an economic chain reaction that can easily be traced to Truss’s resignation.

There was more: unlike Boris Johnson or Donald Trump, who are congenital BS artists, Truss has no skill at lying or laying down a barrage of BS to cover awkward questions. Add this to an asynchronous sense of politics, and it took only six weeks for Truss to prove herself terminally incompetent at her exceedingly difficult job. So, she is going, and the British economy, not to mention the Conservative Party and its government, are in shambles.

How did the majority of her party not see this coming? Truss has been in Tory politics, as a high as cabinet minister no less, for many years. Maybe it’s like that college heart-throb, who you finally get to date, and then three-dates later you discover has a herpetology (reptile) fetish. It happens. In the U.S., Republicans knew what Trump was like (although he turned out to be even worse), but what does anybody really know Kari Lake or Ron DeSantis???

Saturday, October 15

[Ukraine] Russia Attacks Key Ukrainian Infrastructure – Send in the drones, Iranian drones at that. Kamikaze drones, essentially guided missiles, hit a slew of Ukrainian cities, power plants, and other locations likely to cause the most damage to essential civilian services (energy, food, water) just in time for winter. Ukrainian officials called it terrorism, and the U.N. agreed, but with no expected effect on Russian strategy, which routinely includes war crimes. The use of Iranian drones and military support people has kicked-off a new line of international complaint, the U.S. and EU leading the charge, which is likely to become an important (side) issue. The EU has already levied new sanctions against Iran, and Israel finds itself caught between Netanyahu’s coddling of Putin and his desire to have excuses for striking at arch-enemy Iran. Iran’s direct (boots-on-the-ground) involvement ups the complexity of the war.

[Ukraine War] Russia’s Military Shooting Range Attacked; 11 Killed, 15 Injured – The significance of the attack was that it was not perpetrated by Ukrainians, but by two men from Russian provinces. The newly drafted victims were on training exercises near Belgorod on the Ukrainian border. Putin’s mobilization program is not popular; this may be an expression of that.

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Indivisible Upper Yellowstone: Weekly Journal, Vol.4 No.12, Week of October 1 – 7, 2022 (Herschel Walker)

Indivisible Upper Yellowstone – Weekly Journal

The Week of Saturday, October 1 through Friday, October 7, 2022 [Vol.4 No.12]

Herschel Walker

Abortion

Climate

Gun Control

Rule of Law

Pandemic

Inflation

Ukraine

Insurrection

 

The Week’s Most Notable

It is some kind of sign that the media-prominent story of the week is about the scandal of a senatorial candidate in Georgia. Just this week: paying for abortion, lying about his kids (and being denounced by a son). It may be some kind of cosmic witticism, but to make Herschel Walker into a week’s worth of near-constant media coverage – well – he does bring so many media-rich threads together: abortion, religion, lying, politics, family values, forgiveness, fate of the nation, racism, mental health, celebrity, gun control, tribalism, unintelligibility, repetitive scandals, political puppetry, moral turpitude . . .there’s more. [Note: See a conservative’s view of Walker in the Quotes section.] All of this goes to highlight his opponent, Senator and Rev. Raphael Warnock, one of the most eloquent and promising moderate Democrats, who at least so far hasn’t got a scandal to his name.

The contrast between the men comes off like bad parody. In fact, it is unbridled arrogance on the part of Trump and the GOP – it seems Walker’s Republican handlers really believe they can pick a suitable celebrity (no need to spend ad dollars on name recognition), put an (R) behind the name, have Trump give his in nomine patris et filii, back the campaign with multiple millions in propaganda and PRESTO, a newly minted senator, one of the 100 most powerful legislators in the country. Does Walker know he’s a pawn in all this? Maybe, but he gets paid to keep on truckin’ no matter what baggage he’s hauling. That’s where the lying comes in. He’s not good at it; he doesn’t have the wit or experience (unlike Trump) to make the lies either believable or entertaining. But he gives it the old college try in one excruciating interview or press conference after another. Somebody must be whispering in his ear, “Don’t worry. it doesn’t matter; we got this.”

They may be right, and THEY are the real story here. THEY are Walker’s handlers, the GOP planners, the big donors, the propagandists, the Fox News and other right-wing media. They know how to create politicians and issues out of next to nothing. It doesn’t always work, but they are confident that the percentages are on their side. Why wouldn’t they think that? Their advantage is asymmetric; the Democrats have nothing like it. The political colonization of agricultural states assures them of a near-majority platform for the U.S. Senate and state-wide control. Only the right-wing commands a true and effective national network of propaganda media (e.g., Fox News, OANN, Newsmax, talk-radio, etc.). Over the years, culminating with Trump, they have built a closed-circuit partisanship, a self-reinforcing quasi-politico-religious cult, that can use rhetoric that mirrors the Democrats (such as support for the U.S. workers), while enabling actions completely at odds with the rhetoric (such as tax breaks for corporations and the rich). They have inoculated their followers with fear and loathing of the Democrats and the ability to repel any argument they can’t avoid (fake news! deep state! Socialist!). When a true MAGA believer steps into a voting booth, every choice (such as any that may exist) comes down to a visceral avoidance – “I CAN’T vote for a Democrat.” In short, propaganda works, until, somehow, it’s made not to work. Making propaganda not work, that’s another big, unfinished story.

Saturday, October 1

[DOJ Documents] The National Archives Reported Presidential Records Still Missing– A letter this week to Congress from the National Archives and Records Administration signaled an upcoming week of accusations about Trump still withholding general government material and classified documents from the DOJ. The big question: Why did Trump amass so many classified documents – 323 at last count? What did he want with them? [Sneak Preview: One plausible explanation appeared late Friday.]                                   

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Indivisible Upper Yellowstone: Weekly Journal, Vol.4 No.11, Week of September 24 – 30, 2022 (Hurricane Ian)

Indivisible Upper Yellowstone – Weekly Journal

The Week of Saturday, September 24 through Friday, September 30, 2022 [Vol.4 No.11]

Hurricane Ian

Abortion

Climate

Gun Control

Rule of Law

Pandemic

Inflation

Ukraine

Insurrection

 

The Week’s Most Notable

In the U.S. it was a week where events were dominated by one storm, Hurricane Ian. That doesn’t happen all that often, but Ian was no ordinary storm. Although it hit Cuba early in the week, Florida by midweek, and South Carolina by the end of the week; days later authorities are still trying to get an estimate of the number of people it killed and the damage it did: perhaps more than $100 billion in damage, and 100 or more dead. It may take longer than a week to get just approximate data. Ian was that bad; one of the worst ever, almost Katrina level.

Hurricanes each have their own story, sometimes even a unique “personality.” Ian wasn’t the windiest, or had the highest storm surge, or the most rain; but it was in the top five of all those things and it was huge – as much as 500 miles across – and it spent the entire week ravaging densely populated areas, destroying retirement dreams, and upending the lives of millions.

It has become almost standard to blame big storms on climate change, which might serve as a second order approximation of the truth, but not in this case. Ian was the spawn of climate change in the form of exceptionally high surface water temperatures. Warmer sea-water provides energy and moisture, like steam out of a tea pot. While 79⁰F is generally considered warm enough to sustain a hurricane, the eastern Gulf of Mexico waters are currently above 84⁰F. In the critical region just before it made landfall between the Florida Keyes and Fort Myers, the water was just a shade under 90⁰F. Warm water fuels hurricanes, 90⁰F is rocket-fuel. It’s what kicked a bad Category 3 storm into a stupendous, almost Category 5 storm in under 24 hours. The result wasn’t just damage but near obliteration for parts of the Sanibel Islands and Lee County (Fort Myers).

The response to Ian is going to be long, expensive, painful, and yes, controversial. More than two million people need to return from evacuation; many will find no home to return to. Power needs to be restored to millions. Full rebuilding, especially big infrastructure like bridges, will literally take years. There are still climate change deniers even in Florida who will fight climate change-oriented legislation, although none of them stood at the edge of Fort Myers Beach watching a 16-foot storm surge arrive. While billions will be spent, assuming the looming mess over flood insurance is settled (Florida lost eight flood insurers just this year), how many billions will be spent on adequately preparing for the next storm, or developing the environmental policies that will actually save lives? Unfortunately, we’re forcing nature to throw us crises, but we just don’t learn how to play catch.

The sight of pomp and circumstance in the Kremlin as Putin and his cronies celebrated the international illegality of annexing a chunk of Ukraine into Russia was sickening. In this case, it dovetailed with the almost perfect irony of losing an important chunk of the newly annexed Donetsk province around Lyman to Ukrainian forces. This wasn’t the only example of significant incongruities in Russian actions. For example, the new draft. Putin came back from a meeting in Uzbekistan of “friends,” including China, where he was made to wait before entering the meeting and then informed that none of the countries present supported his Ukrainian campaign. When he returned to Moscow, vowing as he had at the meeting, to “set everything straight,” he immediately instituted his “partial draft;” his second big mistake of the war. It was, and is, a disaster – setting the Russian population off balance with anger and distrust, driving an entire cohort of the most able young men out of the country, and forcing the military to deal with a horde of untrained, unwilling, and bad tempered “soldiers” for whom they have few munitions, no leadership, and no plan of attack (or point at all). As is said, this cannot end well.

At the moment, the Russian elite and the ruling cadre of the intelligence services are not only flummoxed but enfeebled by Putin’s leadership. Yet they seem a long way from a coup. However, IF Russian forces suffer more decisive defeats, such as at Kherson and/or Lyman, the situation could take on a coup-like volatility. IF the Russians come out of winter as an even more dysfunctional military, society, and economy; THEN Putin may opt to try tactical nuclear weapons.   Such an action would be unpredictable both in use and outcome. In particular, the U.S. and NATO would be forced to test the bounds of a restrained response. What more can be said?

Saturday, September 24

[Hurricane Fiona] Fiona: Exit Stage North – All but forgotten in the U.S., Hurricane Fiona is leaving Canada as its worst storm in decades, with heavily damaged communities and nearly half-a million people without power. Meanwhile Puerto Rico, visited earlier by Fiona, is just beginning to pick up the pieces with 16 dead and billions in damage. 

[Abortion] Arizona 1864 Abortion Ban Goes into Effect – Following the Friday ruling by a local Pima County judge, a fifteen-week limit for legal abortion has immediately gone into effect statewide. The long-standing conflict about this law has now resolved into more confusion and lawsuits; the judge’s decision will be appealed.

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Indivisible Upper Yellowstone: Weekly Journal, Vol.4 No.10, Week of September 17 – 23, 2022 (Trump Sued by State of New York)

Indivisible Upper Yellowstone – Weekly Journal

The Week of Saturday, September 17 through Friday, September 23, 2022 [Vol.4 No.10]

Trump Sued by State of New York

Abortion

Climate

Gun Control

Rule of Law

Pandemic

Inflation

Ukraine

Insurrection

 

The Week’s Most Notable

A Week with a “Red-Letter Day” Doesn’t Come Along Very Often. This past Wednesday was jammed with significant events, none actual or final outcomes, but signaling major changes.

The legal cases against Trump clarified and amplified. The big event was the civil suit filed by Letitia James, AG of New York State, on a variety of business fraud-related charges. There are more than 200 individual instances of evidence that the Trump family, corporation, and employees fraudulently used various forms of financial evaluation to gain tax and property advantages. This behavior actually goes back decades, but this case covers mainly the last 10 years.

Then there is the Mar-a-Lago documents case. Trump lawyers sought out and found a sympathetic Trump-appointed judge, Eileen Cannon, who granted them a diversionary tactic called a special master, assigned to sort through all documentation seized at Mar-a-Lago which halted investigation in the case, which unfortunately also included the national risk assessment. The DOJ immediately appealed to the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals for a stay of Judge Cannon’s order. The Court of Appeals replied immediately, rebuked Judge Cannon, and reinstated the DOJ investigation.

Both cases are in relatively early stages. The New York civil case is very strong but ultimately will be played out not in a criminal conviction but a potentially severe financial penalty. Trump personally will still be standing, but his corporation may not be. The Mar-a-Lago case doesn’t have the heft of the January 6 (pending) case – unless FBI investigators can find incontestable proof of what Trump was doing with 323 classified documents, such as selling them, using them for personal advantage, etc.

Russia and the Ukraine war have a new look and feel. One defeat is an unfortunate loss, two defeats are a trend. The Ukrainian breakthrough of the counteroffensive, reclaiming more than 3,000 square miles of Ukrainian territory in the Northeast, shook the Russian military, Kremlin, and Russian elites. Putin responded Wednesday with an emergency partial mobilization, which in some respects is like being partially pregnant, but in fact belies a new atmosphere in Moscow that all is not going well. Russian losses in men and matériel are staggering and have spooked important allies such as China and India. It was also a huge morale boost not only for Ukraine but the American and European allies. It’s still going to be a long tough winter, but the landscape has changed. The unpredictable is more likely.

Coincidentally, the United Nations General Assembly provided a platform for both Biden and Zelensky. On Wednesday they created a kind of tag-team of speeches attacking Russia for war crimes, “trying to erase the sovereign state from the map,” (Biden), and warning about the threats to use nuclear arms. The most interesting part might be the relative acquiescence from the majority of members in the General Assembly, although Russian foreign secretary Lavrov did walk out. There is a sense that world opinion, which does affect world trade attitudes, is turning against the Russians.

Iran does demonstrations and protests, it’s an old story. Every time it happens, the world wonders if it’s the end of the current regime, some version of the Ayatollah controlled Islamic Republic that is usually repressive and intensely disliked. These may be the largest protests since 2009, but most of the participants are young people and a few women; it doesn’t look like men, and particularly businessmen, are backing this particular round.

Inflation (a bit like COVID) is reducing, but hardly gone. In the U.S., the Federal Reserve has “got religion” and attacked the inflation problem on Wednesday with yet another 0.75-point increase in the Fed interest rate. The cost of money is going up, hopefully to discourage inflation; but as most economists know, tight money can provoke a slump in consumer demand that can translate into a recession. Democrats are hoping for only good news between now and November 8.

Saturday, September 17

[Trump Rally] Trump Holds Rally in Ohio Featuring Q-Anon – Trump rallies have had Q-Anon elements for a long time, but this was the first where an important thematic, visual, and rhetorical emphasis was Q-Anon oriented. Incidentally, the event was held to support Ohio GOP Senate candidate, J.D. Vance. The rally was marked by some of Trump’s most extreme rhetoric, reflected Q-Anon deep-state themes, accompanied by music imitating the Q-Anon anthem, and participants using the synchronized Q-Anon index finger in the air. The event illustrated Trump’s increasing integration with Q-Anon, while still retaining his own campaign identity.  

[Alaska] Typhoon Merbok Strikes Western Alaska – One of the strongest storms in decades fortunately crossed sparsely populated coastline. There have been some evacuations but no injuries or deaths.

[Japan] Super-Typhoon Nanmadol Begins Its Run Across Japan – Considered the most dangerous storm in decades, Nanmadol hit the beaches of southern Japan (Kyushu) forcing evacuations and storm warnings along the western regions. [Update: It could have been worse. So far 4 dead and 114 injured with thousands of structures damaged, but the storm missed the largest population centers, especially Tokyo, and turned into mainly a destructive rain event.]

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Indivisible Upper Yellowstone: Weekly Journal, Vol.4 No.9, Week of September 10 – 16 (The New Judiciary)

Indivisible Upper Yellowstone – Weekly Journal

The Week of Saturday, September 10 through Friday, September 16, 2022 [Vol.4 No.9]

The New Judiciary

Abortion

Climate

Gun Control

Rule of Law

Pandemic

Inflation

Ukraine

Insurrection

 

The Week’s Most Notable

The Mar-a-Lago documents case got a lot of media play this week. However, for perspective, keep in mind it is just one of five very active cases against Trump. It might not even be the case of highest legal priority (Jan. 6 sedition, for example). Still, it’s unfolding in an unusually public way, involves national security, espionage, and other dramatic elements. It also exposes the public to the “new judiciary” as it is being shaped along the lines of Poland, Hungary, and Russia. Unfortunately, at this early stage, though heavily documented, this development may still sound like a conspiracy theory – for which only further evidence and corroboration may be convincing.

As a quick reminder, here are the hallmarks of the new judiciary as practiced by Judge Cannon, Justices Thomas, Alito, Barrett, Gorsuch, and Cavanaugh – among other Federalist Society acolytes already in the federal judiciary:

  1. The end of judicial neutrality
  2. Disregard of precedent when expedient
  3. Blatant selectivity in the use of evidence
  4. Conformity of legal reasoning to achieve political or religious outcomes

This may seem like an outrageous list, but unfortunately it increasingly fits the facts (e.g., Dobbs). Consider the Mar-a-Lago case and Judge Cannon. A Federalist Society member and Leonard Leo (Federalist Society guru) approved; she was appointed to the federal bench by Trump. She opened the proceedings allowing Trump lawyers’ request for a special master, which should not have been in her court (venue shopping, another story), by declaring “As a function of the plaintiff’s former position as president of the United States, the stigma associated with the subject seizure is in a league of its own. . . .” That is, the president is unique and should receive special consideration (unlike every other citizen). Judge Cannon then inserted herself into the ongoing DOJ/FBI investigation by enjoining (halting) it until a special master has ruled. This broke a couple of centuries of various precedents. It also ignored that most of the documents, especially classified ones, are evidence that does not belong to Trump. In fact, in a later ruling she questioned the legitimacy of the documents as classified, implying potential fraud on the part of the DOJ/FBI – a statement Trump’s lawyers might as well have provided.

Without re-tracing every egregiously bad legal rationale, so far, a special master, the impeccable Judge Raymond Dearie, has been appointed and goes into action next Tuesday. Meanwhile, the DOJ filed a bluntly worded emergency appeal to the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals, asking that 103 selected classified documents be exempted from Cannon’s orders on national security grounds to enable immediate resumption of its investigation, without being seen by the special master. A reply to that appeal by a three-judge panel should come soon, like next week. Legal observers are quick to observe that the Eleventh Circuit has 6 of 11 judges appointed by Trump, and a conservative reputation – but “old-school” conservative.

Ukraine changes the script, again. It took several days for the world to accept and comprehend that, yet again, Ukraine had won a major battle against the Russians. In a remarkably surprise counteroffensive, the Ukrainians had managed to win back the entire province of Kharkiv, capturing an enormous amount of Russian materiel, and routing Russian soldiers to a degree not believed possible. This week, the pace of battle diminished. Ukrainians needed to consolidate what they accomplished. The victory does not signal the end of the war, but the timing was superb. Around the world, especially in Europe, leaders were looking at the coming winter and wondering if Ukraine had the economic and military stamina for a war of attrition. At least on the military side, that question is gone. In fact, NATO ally countries promised greater resolve – and resources. The U.S. has taken on responsibility for the military side and, less officially, Germany will lead the economic side. Germany has quietly underwritten the Ukraine economy for some time.

Meanwhile in Russia news of the Ukrainian counteroffensive has more than is usual leaked to the public. Some political rumblings are heard, though these are generally of the “Putin permitted” variety. The military, trying to keep a low profile, is busy just digging in, especially in South Ukraine. What really counts in Russia can be summarized in one word: shortages. Military manpower, spare parts, and ammunition, are among many things stretched thin. The Russians did not have a fallback line in Kharkiv, because those troops had been sent to Kherson in the South. Russians do not have enough flight-ready military planes to cover its vast territory and dodge antiaircraft missiles in Ukraine. Debatably, this shortage problem could be fixed by declaring an official war and putting the country on a war footing; but there are two big problems. One: a real military draft will be intensely unpopular, as well as tacitly admitting that all the bragging about the short Ukraine war was a lie. Two: some of the Russian shortage problems are so endemic that even a war footing might not cover the problem. Between sanctions, the war, and doubts about the military situation – Russia’s economic condition, while not as dire as Ukraine’s, continues to deteriorate.

China and India go wobbly on Putin. During the week, both China and India indicated they were not overconfident about Russia’s chances in Ukraine. In a meeting with China’s Xi Jinping, Putin was assured that the Chinese were fully behind Russia – just that they would not be providing any military hardware for the Ukraine war. Then India’s, Modi told Putin it wasn’t a good time for a war. China and India are currently the two largest customers for Russian gas and oil. Diplomatically, this was an oh-no moment – largely created by the Ukrainian victory. Short-term, it will be difficult to see any change in Russian policy; long-term, next year may be a different story.

Saturday, September 10

[Ukraine] Russia Officially Withdraws from the Kharkiv Region – This confirmed the scope of the Ukrainian attack and another stunning victory, which will affect Russia and beyond. Strategically, it means that Ukraine will be able to consolidate its control of Izyum, the key depot and transportation center for Russian efforts in the Donbas.          

[Ukraine] Last Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Unit Shut Down – Normally, the six units of Europe’s largest nuclear facility provide about 20% of Ukraine’s electricity. As of this weekend, out of concern for safety while the area is under repeated shelling, it produces 0%. It was also down to one backup generator. Given that the Russians are now targeting civilian infrastructure in reprisal for losses in Kharkiv province, it seems doubtful the facility will be back online for winter.

[Climate Change] Fire and Flood in Southern California – Tropical Storm Kay streaked across Southern California, dumping huge amounts of rain on dry and fire ridden areas, while taking out power lines and causing local flooding.

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