Indivisible Upper Yellowstone – Weekly Journal
The Week of Saturday, May 7 through Friday, May 13, 2022 [Vol.3 No.43]
The Week’s Most Notable
It was a week of ripples, not riptide, for a variety of issues. For example, abortion. The initial shock of the leaked draft Supreme Court decision is giving way to a predictable focus on mobilizing for the release of the final decision toward the end of June. The Democrats have been given two extra months to make people aware of the decision and what it means. It’s also, apparently, giving the Republicans additional time to formulate repugnant and extreme implementations of the abortion ban for example, most antiabortion states are opting for few or no exemptions, even for incest, rape, or the health of the mother. The Republicans also seem to be coalescing around the idea that if they should win control of the government (House, Senate, Presidency), they will legislate a nationwide abortion prohibition. If this trend continues, the ‘22 and ’24 elections will provide voters with crystal-clear choices.
The House Jan. 6 Investigation made a pretty big splash with finally issuing subpoenas to congressional poohbahs such as Jim Jordan, Mo Brooks, Andy Biggs, Scott Perry, and Kevin McCarthy — all of whom were deeply involved in planning and/or participating in the insurrection. It appears they will reject the subpoenas and will force the committee to take stronger action. It’s possible that issuing subpoenas is a signal that the House Committee may be aware the DOJ is preparing to deal with Contempt of Congress charges for those who defy the subpoena. (Otherwise, the subpoenas are an empty and emasculating gesture.)
From the outside world looking in, the war in Ukraine – namely in the Donbas region – looks like a slog, something of a standoff. In truth, no one under a barrage of artillery shells, at the focus of a sniper’s rifle, or in the range of missiles fails to translate slog into protracted fear. More to the point, the Ukrainians are actually making headway in their northeast offensive to liberate Ukraine’s second city, Kharkiv, and attack Russian supply lines. There is enough Ukrainian success to stimulate even more talk of what happens if Putin perceives Russia is losing the war.
Many ripples create unintended consequences, but the Russian invasion of Ukraine is intentionally shutting down agricultural ports and destroying agricultural infrastructure – the upshot is almost certain to be famine in parts of Africa and the Mideast that rely on Ukrainian grain. Voices are already being raised to force opening of ports, or shipping grain via Poland or Romania. By winter, when famine reaches crisis level and food prices soar, this issue may seem a lot more urgent.
Economists talk about inflation like it was an enigma, but Republicans poke the wounds in family budgets caused by inflation and claim it is Biden putting salt in all those wounds. For Republicans, it looks like they are wagering everything on inflation to win the midterms. Yet, unemployment is down, way down, wages are up, though so is the price of everyday living. Economists are wary of speculating about what will happen, because inflation really is enigmatic, complicated, and worldwide. Politicians are happy to make things up (lie about it) but there is reality to inflation. Come the end of October, or thereabouts, how will voters feel about the economy?
Contrary to contemporary wishful thinking, COVID-19 has not gone away. In fact, in the U.S. it’s still gaining ground, even as we go into summer. Many people are noticing that they have a lot of friends and people they know who are or have recently been sick with coronavirus. We passed the 1 million dead milestone, and we still have days in which more than a thousand Americans die. Meanwhile, vaccinations and booster shots are dropping, people are running out of the effective immunization timeline, and Republican politicians are busy selling the idea that the pandemic is over and we don’t need to spend any money or do any mitigation. Meanwhile, epidemiologists are saying that we can expect a new and possibly major wave this fall and winter; maybe as many as 100 million infections. Sometimes it’s a tsunami, sometimes a few ripples, but the coronavirus waves keep coming.
Saturday, May 7
[Coronavirus] U.S. Coronavirus Totals: Cases: 83,732,189; Deaths: 1,025,126
[Ukraine] Ukrainian School Bombed, 60 Feared Dead – The school was located in battle-scarred eastern Luhansk. Approximately ninety people were taking refuge in the school.
[Northern Ireland] Sinn Fein Wins Historic Vote – For the first time, the Northern Ireland Sinn Fein party (Nationalist) has won a plurality of seats in Northern Ireland’s legislative assembly. This does not mean that Ireland and Northern Ireland will be reunited any time soon, but it’s both a symbolic and practical step in that direction.
[Afghanistan] Taliban Orders Women to Cover Head to Toe – This is indicative of what was expected after the Taliban regained control of Afghanistan – in this case women must either wear a burqa, or a veil-headscarf combination with a long robe (an abaya). Only the eyes are permitted to be visible. Violations are levied against the female’s ubiquitous male guardian/overseer.
Sunday, May 8 Mother’s Day
[Ukraine] G7 Commits to Radically Reducing Russian Oil and Gas Imports – Recognizing that the ongoing purchase of Russian oil and gas by major countries is the primary enabler of the Ukrainian war, the G7 (U.S., Canada, Japan, France, Germany, Italy, and Britain) agreed to rapidly phase out or ban Russian petroleum. It will take many months for this to go into effect, but it will be part of the worldwide realignment of energy resources that may ultimately disrupt (at a minimum) Russia’s heavily oil-oriented economy.
[Ukraine] Mother’s Day Visit: Jill Biden Meets Olena Zelenska in Ukraine – The American and Ukrainian first ladies met in a schoolhouse in Southwest Ukraine. This symbolic but poignant gesture had an impact in Ukraine that should not be underestimated.
Monday, May 9
[Ukraine] Biden Signs “Lend-Lease” Law for Ukraine – The bipartisan legislation enables rapid approval for sending military and humanitarian aid to Ukraine. A separate $33 billion appropriation for military hardware and other aid is working its way through Congress. (Update: Final passage is being delayed by Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY).)
[Philippines] Ferdinand Marcos Jr. Wins Philippines Presidency – The son of the former dictator spent years rehabilitating the family reputation; he won by a landslide. Family name recognition, usually without historical memory, is a potent electoral factor.
[Supreme Court] Congress Approves Additional Security for SCOTUS – The pending Supreme Court decision on Roe v. Wade is expected to unleash protests that may be directed against members and families of the court. This may be one of the first adjustments to the escalating partisanship in the U.S.
[Internet] Biden Announces Deal to Expand Low-Cost Internet Access – Working with 20 top Internet providers, including AT&T, Comcast, and Verizon, the administration worked out a deal (and fulfilled a campaign promise) to provide faster and cheaper access for low-income families. About 48 million households will be eligible for the low-cost-to-free plan, which is being funded by the original trillion-dollar infrastructure bill.
Tuesday, May 10
[Twitter] Twitter Takeover Turmoil – Elon Musk kicked off the fireworks by announcing his plan to open the way for Trump to return to Twitter. This was followed by an announcement that he was putting the purchase of Twitter on hold, putatively because he just discovered there were bots and other irregularities in the service, but actually because the value of the company dropped $13.9 billion. Financing difficulties for the $44 billion purchasing price were predicted. Musk issued another announcement that he was still very much in the process of takeover.
[Economy] U.S. Gas Prices Hit All-Time High – Reaching $4.37 a gallon, on average, marked a new high. Meanwhile, in the asynchronous world of international energy prices, oil prices were down by 10% to 20%. Slowing global economic activity is predicted to decrease demand for petroleum products and thereby lower the price, which may show up at the pump by this fall (after the traditional summer increase).
[Primaries] Following Trump Endorsed Candidates Becomes a Thing – Watching Republican primaries has become like reading tea leaves for the future of the party. Trump-endorsed candidates, by definition sworn to the Big Lie, are frequently among the most radical and erratic. It’s conventional electoral wisdom that they may win primaries but can’t win in the general election, and poll watchers are trying to analyze the results of the primaries to prove or disprove that wisdom. In this day’s primaries, Trump took one in Pennsylvania and lost one in Nebraska. One pattern seems to be emerging: Republican candidates need to be Trumpist in approach, but not necessarily tied to Trump.
[Ultra-MAGA] Biden Elevates “Ultra-MAGA” and Inflation as Top Election Targets – Biden linked the targets because as he put it, “ultra-MAGA Republicans are exploiting frustration over inflation to push their extreme agenda.” Republicans are hoping to ride the inflation issue to get around the ending of abortion.
Wednesday, May 11
[Abortion] Women’s Health Protection Act Dies in the Senate – Quickly formulated to counter the coming end of Roe v. Wade, the Senate bill sought to guarantee women’s right to access abortion services. It required 60 votes to pass, but all 50 Republicans and Joe Manchin voted against it. Schumer’s gambit was to put their names on record.
[Economy] Inflation Down a Skosh – The drop in inflation from 8.5% to 8.3% is hardly worth a hurrah, it might not even be a turning of the corner. However, some elements of the economy – particularly cars and appliances – are now flirting with recession-like conditions, which could mean a more permanent downturn in inflationary pressures. Nevertheless, uncertain and worldwide factors: the Ukraine war, food shortages, petroleum prices, rising interest rates, COVID-19 affecting Chinese manufacturing, and the ongoing realignment of the world’s economies due to the pandemic and supply-chain problems make predicting, much less doing something about inflation, very difficult. It’s easier just to blame the current head of government and be done with it.
[Opioids] Drug Overdose Deaths Hit Another Annual Record – In 2021 nearly 108,000 people died, up 15% from 2020, which had already seen a 30% increase. Death by drug overdose has long exceeded deaths from AIDS, car crashes, or gun violence. Apparently, Americans prefer to take deaths personally and not as a society – witness the passive response to world-record COVID-19 and opioid deaths.
[Document Retention] Judge Lifts Trump Document Contempt Finding – Remember the Trump documents subpoenaed by New York State AG Letitia James? The NY judge slapped a $10,000 a day fine on Trump until he produced the documents. Trump folks then said they didn’t have the documents. The judge now agrees that might be so; he has ordered Trump to pay $110,000 in accumulated fines and provide sworn statements about document retention and destruction policies. In short, unless somebody can prove they deliberately lost documents, the $110,000 fine will be the end of it.
Thursday, May 12
[Jan. 6 Investigation] Subpoenas Finally Doled out to McCarthy, Jordan, Brooks, Biggs, and Perry – The House the Jan. 6 Committee investigating the insurrection has finally called out with subpoenas some of the upper echelon of those members of Congress involved in the event. Now, the question becomes whether any of them will honor the subpoenas. If they don’t, which seems likely, the matter will be passed to the DOJ. Suspicion is that issuing the subpoenas indicates that the Committee has some confidence that the DOJ will take action.
[Federal Reserve] Despite Rumbling, Senate Confirms Jerome Powell to Fed Chair Again – This was expected as Powell has done a commendable job, and the senators scored points by criticism of, but not actual changes to, policy.
[Trump Documents] Grand Jury Convened to Investigate Mar-a-Lago Documents – Another documents issue: remember the 15 boxes sent to Mar-a-Lago? The grand jury is supposed to find out if any laws were broken. Probable finding: low-level Trump employees might’ve mishandled the documents, but Trump will not be touched.
Friday, May 13
[Ukraine] Ukrainian Northeast Offensive Pushes Russians Out of Kharkiv – It’s too early for conclusive assessment, but it appears the city of Kharkiv – victimized by two months of Russian bombardment – may be liberated. Russian losses in the northeast regions appear to have been heavy. Ukrainian forces also seem to have been at least partially successful in cutting supply lines from Russia into the Donbas region. Among non-Russian military analysts, the consensus is the Ukrainians have been able to carry out a fairly aggressive and complicated offensive, while the Russians are mired in incremental advances in Donbas.
[Coronavirus] Biden Warns COVID-19 Conference – “This pandemic is not over.” He marked the day as having reached the 1 million deaths mark in the U.S., “One million empty chairs around the family dinner table.” Biden called upon the countries to act aggressively against the pandemic, and at the same time called upon the U.S. Congress to approve $22.5 billion for testing, vaccines, and treatments in the coming fall and winter. Republicans are apparently going to make this money an issue for the midterms. Epidemiologists uniformly say that a significant new wave of COVID-19 infections is likely this winter.
[Coronavirus] U.S. Coronavirus Totals: Cases: 84,182,733; Deaths: 1,026,591
Pinned Point: Until the filibuster rules are modified, most of the Biden agenda will not pass the Senate.
Quote of the Week
There have to be voters out there who aren’t all that geared up about going to the polls but who might be moved if they got to hear the speech by Republican [Senator] Steve Daines of Montana that praised anti-abortion laws as being similar to ones ‘that protect the eggs of a sea turtle or the eggs of eagles.’
Gail Collins, “Women and Sex,” The New York Times, 5/11/2022.
[The IUY Weekly Journal assumes readers are at least casually familiar with names and events. For more details, check with internet search.]