Indivisible Upper Yellowstone – Weekly Journal
The Week of Saturday, April 16 through Friday, April 22, 2022 [Vol.3 No.40]
The Week’s Most Notable
Every week the U.S has events of the culture wars, but some weeks they seem to pile up, last week more than most. As many have noticed, for the most part the culture wars are of Republican and right-wing manufacture with an orchestrated ebb and flow of topics that guarantees something outrageous – media catching – on a regular basis. Never a dull moment. In terms of the national media, current Republican politics are very much on a par with tabloid newsprint: sex, lies, and emotional narrative. It sells. It keeps the Trump base in a permanent state of dudgeon and if possible, owns the libs (the more Dems splutter, the better). However, this formula does have a tendency to require continually escalating drama – only the loudest and most outrageous voices get attention. This encourages overreach, a point where mistakes are made in media manipulation and the messages are too extreme, or worse, ineffective. Here are some examples from the past week or two.
Before last week could anyone imagine canceling Mickey Mouse? Gov. DeSantis (R) of Florida could. Not that the gigantic Disney Corporation has always been adroit about political topics – it mostly avoids issues – but this time it got snarled in the Republican attack on LGBTQ people (“Don’t Say Gay”). After some mealy-mouth executive statements, the Disney folks realized that on a national basis their bread-and-butter is spread with a lot of diversity; they refused to endorse the Florida Republicans’ artificial war on gay and trans people. While Disney is the largest employer in the state, beloved of parents and children the world over, DeSantis and crew decided to attack Disney directly. This is not likely to be sustainable because of huge tax losses, but it sure got national media coverage, and that’s the point.
The Texas border inspection debacle: Gov. Greg Abbott (R–TX) is always on the lookout for some showstopping stunt involving the border that gets him into the national limelight. Somehow, he became convinced that he had an issue: the feds were not thoroughly inspecting commercial trucks entering Texas from Mexico and illegal aliens, or worse, were getting through. So, he ordered Texas authorities to institute a second inspection of all trucks, using state criteria. Within a couple of days, the poorly implemented inspection wound up creating an immense bottleneck with hundreds of trucks lined up – the majority carrying perishable goods like fruits and vegetables – waiting for hours to cross the border. This went on for less than a week before the outcry from shippers, truckers, retailers, Mexico, and consumers forced Abbott to abandon the project with the cost to the state going northward of $240 million.
Periodically, the right-wing gets into book banning. This time it revived racist and sexual themes to justify bans of books like a Toni Morrison’s Pulitzer winning novel, or in the case of Florida, banning dozens of math books for having some math problems involving people of color. Many of the individual bans are laughable, but the spread of censorship now covers not only schools, but libraries and public media. It’s part of the broader attack on public schools (CRT et al.). Americans, in general, don’t like censorship. Book banning is likely to be a very unpopular overreach.
As the moment of the Supreme Court dismantling Roe v. Wade approaches, Republican states are in a frenzy to outdo each other in forbidding all forms of abortion, including cases involving rape and incest, excluding only when the mother’s life is in danger. The new Republican abortion laws are so nasty, and contain so much political overreach, that it’s guaranteed to foment years of culture war between states that allow abortion and those that don’t.
Vladimir Putin has a popularity rating equivalent to Osama bin Laden. How is it that dozens of congressional Republicans and celebrities stubbornly continue to support Putin’s version of the Ukraine war, even after the atrocities began? The right-wing may be addicted to Putin’s playbook, even though the Ukraine issue divides Republicans.
Tucker Carlson and Marjorie Taylor Greene: Heroes of the culture wars. Continuing his traditionof weirdly formulated sexual innuendo against Democrats, Tucker launched his “Testicle Tanning™” campaign, and Greene spread the insinuation that Democrats were pedophiles (“groomers”). Greene was also interrogated during a trial to bar her from running for office again on the basis of her participation in the January 6 insurrection. Among other things, she testified that she had never supported violence as a response to political situations – a bald-faced lie.
The great unmasking – The Pandemic is over! Thanks to propaganda and CDC bumbling, wearing masks against the deadly COVID-19 virus became a political issue. The pandemic continued, two years plus, and masks were made into a convenient symbol against public health measures. Besides, people were just bloody tired of wearing masks. So, it’s no surprise that a legally attenuated ruling by a Trump-appointed 35-year-old federal judge in Florida could strike down the mask mandate for all transportation in the U.S. Hoorah! cried many. What the hell? Cried many more. Masks were taken off in midflight. Perhaps history will mark the moment as the end of the pandemic. Perhaps not; the Omicron BA.2 variant is gaining ground, even now as summer approaches. Epidemiologists warn that next fall and winter could see a resurgence. The problem with the rejection of masking, both by the public and the judiciary, sets a very bad precedent. In short, U.S. health policy to combat epidemics is in tatters, awaiting the next lethal virus.
[Coronavirus] U.S. Coronavirus Totals: Cases: 82,315,889; Deaths: 1,015,920
[Ukraine] Mariupol: Leveled, Under Siege, Threatened with Annihilation, Still Resisting – The Russian Defense Ministry demanded capitulation by the 1,000+ civilians and soldiers dug into the massive steel plant on the outskirts of the city. Citywide, out of the population of 350,000, perhaps 100,000 remain and upwards of 20,000 have been killed. The Russians have also taken heavy losses. It’s debatable whether anyone can afford to rebuild the city after the war is over. For the Ukrainians, “Remember Mariupol” is likely to be an enduring rally cry. [Update: Midweek, Putin ordered the troops to not frontally assault the steel plant, but evacuations were still not allowed. By Friday, the Russians are back to attacking the plant.]
Sunday, April 17 Easter, Passover, Ramadan
[Ukraine] Ukraine Asks G7 to Cover $50 Billion Deficit – Wars cost a lot of money, which countries like Ukraine don’t have. In an ultimate put-your-money-where-your-mouth-is situation, it’s likely that the U.S. and Western Europe will in fact foot the bill.
[Coronavirus] Over 60? Get Your Second Booster – White House advisor Dr. Ashish Jha has officially stated that the additional booster shot for older and immunocompromised people will go a long way to preventing hospitalization, particularly with the new Omicron BA.2 virus. [Update: Best recommendation, wait for the revised and COVID-19 variant specialized booster scheduled to be available in the fall from Moderna.]
Monday, April 18
[Mask Mandate] Judge Strikes Down CDC Transportation Mask Mandate – The ruling by Judge Kathryn Kimball Mizelle was awkward: legally (56 pages of very stretched argument against the CDC being able to defend the country against health crises), by timing (CDC had already scheduled lifting the mandate May 3), politically (it created a new hero for the right-wing), and medically (the BA.2 variant is spiking in various parts of the country), and the ruling sets a horrible precedent for handling future epidemics). The response, both officially and privately, ranged from ecstatic to tepid. [Update: The U.S. government will challenge the ruling in court, but unofficially the mandate now becomes voluntary.]
[Tax Day] Tax Day Is upon U.S., 40% Have yet to File – The combination of post-pandemic calendar confusion, the delay of the tax filing deadline because of Easter, plenty of changes to the tax code and forms, and basic human procrastination looks to create a record number of late or missing filings. This won’t help the IRS, which is already under the biggest backlog in its history.
[Mass Shootings] Easter Weekend: Three Mass Shootings – So much for Easter peace. Three separate mass shootings in Pennsylvania and two in South Carolina leave two dead and more than 30 injured. This year to date: 144 mass shootings, 12,600 dead.
Tuesday, April 19
[[Ukraine] Russian Missile Attacks Signal Start of Eastern Ukraine Offensive – The missile attacks were spread around the country, but the major troop movements were in the Donbas region of Eastern Ukraine. The war in that part of the country is already eight years old, so both sides are dug in and the offensive is likely to be more one of attrition than dramatic breakthrough. The Ukrainian strategy is already apparent: Allow Russian forces to make advances into Donbas villages to the west, while Ukrainian forces spring flanking movements on the north to take out Russian supply lines. The logistics of military supplies, has already been identified in earlier battles as the biggest weakness for the Russians.
[Student Loans] Biden Administration Tinkers with Student Loan Forgiveness – Looking to expand access to a student loan forgiveness program, a hot button issue for Democrats, in lieu of a more general approach the Biden administration not only has extended the pause in loan payments until August 31 but has opened the door for millions of lower-income student-loan borrowers to get their debts forgiven.
[Coronavirus] Moderna Reports New Booster Is Effective against Coronavirus Variants – Like all vaccines, the booster does not prevent catching COVID-19, but new data shows it is effective in reducing hospitalization and death. This particular booster was designed to combat Omicron and other COVID-19 variants. It should be available in the fall.
Wednesday, April 20
[Russian Missile] Russia Tests Sarmat ICBM – In a classic saber-rattling PR exercise, the Russians tested and gigged a relatively new intercontinental ballistic missile. A couple of points: The Russians announced this test more than a month ago and specifically notified the U.S., and the missile is nowhere near ready for deployment. The test does highlight that Russia has globe-spanning military capability, including nuclear weaponry. The question is how willing is Putin to use it?
[Coronavirus] DOJ to Appeal Mask Mandate Ruling – A CDC that can’t issue nationwide policy to protect public health would be a disaster-in-waiting. The Florida judge’s ruling was based on a peculiar reading of the law, which would restrict the CDC to a reactive “sanitation” role, and restricting its proactive and preventative capabilities.
Thursday, April 21
[Florida – Disney] Florida Law Cancels Disney, Sort of – In retribution for not supporting Florida’s “Don’t Say Gay Bill,” the state legislature ended Disney’s unique self-governing status. In short, several multimillion-dollar projects that would’ve been funded by Disney and its Reedy Creek Improvement Act, will now fall under general Florida taxpayer responsibility. Without going into details, this will be a legal and political mess for years.
[Florida – Gerrymandering] Florida Approves DeSantis Congressional Map – The new map gives Republicans advantage in roughly 20 out of the states’ 28 districts, and eliminates two districts currently represented by black Democrats. Overall, the change could mean four additional seats for Republicans. Next step: Challenges in court.
[Ukraine] Biden Announces Additional $800 Million Advanced Armament Package – While the dollar amount alone is significant, this particular package contains provisions for specialized heavy artillery, dozens of mobile howitzers, and other material to help Ukraine fight in the open terrain of the Donbas region.
Friday, April 22
[Ukraine] Arms Flow, Quietly, into Ukraine – To paraphrase “Dune,” the weapons must flow. Ever since Russia attacked, President Zelensky of Ukraine has called for – nay, beseeched – NATO and the West to quickly provide adequate arms so that his military and several million volunteers could turn back the Russians. Amazingly, it’s happening, without fanfare. The U.S. and EU, working mainly through NATO, have developed a logistics pipeline of what is likely to become legendary proportions. By the end of this week even Zelensky was praising much of the response. It’s too early to say whether several billion dollars in military aid, mostly delivered within a three-week window, will be decisive. The Russian’s second assault, mainly in eastern and southern Ukraine, is just starting; but the new hardware, some of it state-of-the-art, appears to be having an effect.
[Ukraine] Russia Claims Victory in Mariupol, Ukraine Finds Mass Graves – It’s true that Russia controls most of Mariupol, but it doesn’t control the giant steel plant where more than a thousand soldiers and citizens are still fighting. Likewise, it’s true that aerial surveillance clearly reveals at least two mass graves with several thousand bodies in each, but that’s been denied by Russia.
[Gun Control] Guns Are Leading Cause of Death for Children and Adolescents in U.S. – Overtaking car crashes, the CDC found that there were more than 4,300 firearm-related deaths among people under 19 in 2020.
[Jan. 6 Investigation] Breaking News: Critical Remarks about Trump by Kevin McCarthy Were Taped – A new book by reporters Jonathan Martin and Alexander Burns has a number of revelations about House Minority Leader McCarthy and his negative reactions to the January 6 insurrection – and they have tape. More on this next week.
[Coronavirus] U.S. Coronavirus Totals: Cases: 82,631,792; Deaths: 1,018,239
Republican, the party of weird.
According to the Washington Post, the White House is preparing for hostile investigation by the House, assuming the Republicans take over after the midterm elections.
Pinned Point: Until the filibuster rules are modified, most of the Biden agenda will not pass the Senate.
Quote of the Week
Republicans are following an old playbook, one that would have been completely familiar to, say, czarist-era instigators of pogroms. When the people are suffering, you don’t try to solve their problems; instead, you distract them by giving them someone to hate. And history tells us that this tactic often works. . . The G.O.P. as a whole has turned to hate-based politics. And if you aren’t afraid, you aren’t paying attention.
Paul Krugman, “Republicans Say, ‘Let Them Eat Hate,” The New York Times, 4/18/2022.
[The IUY Weekly Journal assumes readers are least casually familiar with names and events. For more details, check with internet search.]