Indivisible Upper Yellowstone – Weekly Journal
The Week of Saturday, May 14 through Friday, May 20, 2022 [Vol.3 No.44]
Buffalo Racist Massacre
The Week’s Most Notable
Would it not be the best thing to say about a tragedy is that it became a turning point? This week one person stepped into a grocery store in Buffalo, New York carrying an AR-15 automatic rifle and gunned down 13 people, killing 10 of them. In this case it was not difficult to determine motivation: racial hatred. The gunman left a long trail of Internet history, including a manifesto, and connections to other similar-minded individuals. The trail had a dominant thread, “replacement theory,” the belief that the sole purpose of immigration is to replace “true Americans” with pliant foreign voters. The commonly discussed remedy online: killing foreigners, which meant anybody of a skin color different than white, in this case black. The replacement theory thread was quickly traced to right-wing media, including Fox News pundits Tucker Carlson and Laura Ingraham, inviting increasing public inspection of right-wing propaganda and its impact. In an appalling way it makes this event stand out.
Will the Buffalo massacre be a turning point? Unfortunately, an argument can be made that Americans accept some types of mass death more than any other contemporary culture. Cases in point: No other country kills so many people every year by gunfire, not even countries at war. Also, we seem to have accepted more than one million deaths due to a virus; more dead by COVID-19 than any other country in the world. Acceptance in these cases means a kind of complacency, we don’t do what is necessary to reduce the deaths. The key seems to be not in the numbers of dead, or the suffering of people affected by the deaths, but by the intensity and density of excuses – the rationales – by which it becomes impossible to do anything about the fatalities. For example, we are at legislative loggerheads over the availability of military-grade weapons. For decades, the issue has been mired in expensive lobbying campaigns and increasingly all-or-nothing partisanship. The result: we do not reach compromises; we don’t take steps to make the situation better; we do nothing.
Saturday, May 14
[Coronavirus] U.S. Coronavirus Totals: Cases: 84,413,559; Deaths: 1,027,159
[Mass Shooting] Gunman Kills 10 in Buffalo Supermarket – As described in his 180-page online manifesto, the specific location in Buffalo was targeted because of its largely black population. Self-described as a white nationalist, the shooter proclaimed his belief in the “replacement theory” that immigrants were being brought into the U.S. to deliberately give Democrats an advantage in elections. The blatant racism quickly established this as one of the more symbolic and motivational events, with its impact going deep into gun control and racial violence issues – and correspondingly into defensive maneuvers by right-wing media. Since the shooter was taken alive, there will be a lengthy trial and this event is likely to stay media-active throughout the summer. It may provide a sorrowful memory for the people of Buffalo, a rallying point for some voters, and little or no legislative action.
[Abortion] “Summer of Rage” Abortion Rights Protests Begin Nationwide – More than 300 marches marked the day as the first of the mass demonstrations against the pending (and eventually actual) Supreme Court ruling that dismembers Roe v. Wade. This is not an issue that will fade, as every relevant thing that happens between now and the midterm elections will kick off further demonstrations.
[Ukraine] Ukraine Wins the Battle of Kharkiv – Such “wins” will rarely be official on the part of both sides, but in this case it’s clear the Russian high command has ordered troops out of the Kharkiv region and the Ukrainian forces have regained control of their second largest city, and from there eastward to the Russian border.
[Supreme Court] Justice Thomas Complains of Shattered Trust in the Supreme Court – Two notable points: Thomas is noted as the silent man of the court but recently he’s taken on the mantle of court defender, just when the court is ramping up to make a number of unpleasant and illiberal decisions; and, secondly, the enormous irony of his complaint about the leak of the abortion draft decision while his wife is openly engaged in lobbying about issues before the Supreme Court and Justice Thomas refuses to recuse himself. The blatant hypocrisy at such a high level is stunning.
Sunday, May 15
[NATO] Swedish and Finnish Ruling Parties Approve Joining NATO – After decades of neutrality and the political inclination to not get involved in European military matters, the leading parties in both Finland and Sweden – and their governments – are prepared to join NATO. Of course, Putin’s Ukraine war is an obvious motivation; but the change in attitude is epic for these countries and it indicates that looking beyond Putin, they do not see Russia becoming less of a threat. They also see the rest of Europe, especially Germany, rearming and moving toward some kind of consolidated European military. In some fashion, NATO will be the core of that, and apparently Finland and Sweden would prefer to be on the inside as things develop. [Update: Finland and Sweden formally applied to join NATO. Resistance by Turkey because of Swedish support for the Kurds is likely to eventually be “handled.” Biden hosted a “NATO welcome party” for the Swedish and Finnish ambassadors in the U.S.]
[Mass Shooting] Gunman Attacks Taiwanese Church in California, One Dead, Five Wounded – One day after the shooting in Buffalo, this time the motivation seems to have been political. The shooter, born in Taiwan, was publicly affiliated with pro-communist Chinese and vehemently opposed to the Taiwanese separatist movement associated with this particular church.
Monday, May 16
[Ukraine] Ukrainian Soldiers Leave Mariupol Steel Plant – The city of Mariupol, what’s left of it, has been in Russian hands for many days, but technically the battle wasn’t over until fighting stopped at the Azovstal iron and steel works. Removing about a thousand soldiers should end the standoff, although there are signs of continued resistance.
[Coronavirus] CDC Officially Recognizes 1 Million Dead from COVID – At the same time, the CDC warned that a new wave of infections is in progress, “cases are spreading at an alarming rate across the United States, particularly in the Northeast and the Midwest.” In fact, the U.S. is now averaging more than 100,000 cases per day, officially, while the actual number is probably double that. Some days more than a thousand people are dying. It’s an awkward situation for the CDC and in fact for medically aware people; even the U.S. government is loath to make noises much less take action, and Republicans are in 100% denial of anything that has to do with COVID. Not a good situation, even now, and worse if new variants are taking hold.
[Somalia] Biden Sends U.S. Troops Back into Somalia – Reversing the Trump order to remove U.S. troops, Biden has recommitted Special Operations forces to beef up the assault on Al Shabab, a particularly virulent group affiliated with Al Qaeda.
Tuesday, May 17
[Coronavirus] North Korean COVID-19 Outbreak Intensifies – Official numbers are unreliable, but all indications are that one or more variant of the Omicron virus has become rampant in North Korea. The country has very limited testing and vaccination resources and has long been considered extremely vulnerable. North Korean estimates are that 1.48 million people have become ill since April and that 56 have died.
[Jan.6 Investigation] DOJ Requests Jan. 6 Committee Transcripts – The request is taken as a sign that the DOJ is ramping up its investigation of criminal charges relative to the January 6 insurrection. Complaints about the inactivity of the DOJ have decreased in recent days.
[Primary Elections] Cawthorn Defeated in South Carolina, Fetterman Wins in Pennsylvania – While efforts by the Republican national party to get rid of seriously aberrant Madison Cawthorn from his House seat succeeded, Pennsylvania also saw primary success by Doug Mastriano, who is running for governor as one of the most extreme far-right candidates ever seen for that position. Meanwhile, Pennsylvania Democrats nominated Lt. Gov. John Fetterman for the Senate. Fetterman, who suffered a mild stroke last week, is considered a strong blue-collar candidate.
Wednesday, May 18
[Ukraine] U.S. Officially Reopens Kyiv Embassy, Confirms Ambassador –The new U.S. ambassador, Bridget Brink, was confirmed by the Senate, and the Stars & Stripes now fly over the embassy in Kyiv. Somewhat strange this normalization, like the constant traffic of U.S. official visitors; it’s hard to believe there is a bitter, brutal conflict still raging in Eastern Ukraine.
[Labor] Equal Pay for U.S. Men’s and Women’s Soccer – The collective bargaining has been long and difficult, but the U.S. women’s players – who have long earned more money for U.S. soccer than have the men – approved a new contract in a 50-50 sharing of World Cup earnings, endorsement money, and other revenue.
[Stock Market] Wall Street Suffers Worst Day since 2020 – Perhaps seeing the economy teetering on the edge of recession with inflation still ongoing was enough to drop the Dow Jones average by 3.6%, the worst fall since June 2020.
Thursday, May 19
[Ukraine] Senate Approves $40 Billion Ukraine Support Package – The Senate vote was 86 – 11, indicating bipartisan support although Republicans did their share of kvetching about the cost. All-in-all, the U.S. is doing something unusual, putting its money where its mouth is. Most of the money is for Ukrainian military uses, but $5 billion has been reserved for countries hurt by disrupted Ukrainian wheat exports. [Update: G7 nations pledge $20 billion for Ukraine aid.]
[Abortion] Oklahoma Ups the Ante: No Abortions after Fertilization – Follow-up legislation makes Oklahoma’s antiabortion bill the most restrictive in the nation. It goes into effect after the Supreme Court rules against Roe v. Wade, and will present many true legal headaches. For example, although it leaves room for abortions based on rape, incest, and the health of the mother, it will be difficult to apply since in most cases the moment of conception will be unknown.
Friday, May 20
[Coronavirus] CDC Approves Pfizer Booster for Children Aged 5 to 11 – Just as the country is seeing a rise in cases caused by Omicron sub- variants BA.2 and BA.2.12.1, the need for boosters at all age levels is increasing.
[U.S. –Asia] Biden Starts Asian Tour in South Korea – After fussing with Europe and the war in Ukraine, the Biden administration felt that it’s overdue in visiting Asian allies. Not many months ago the U.S. declared that Asia was to be the focus of its foreign affairs, especially the relationship to China. For its part, China has been noticeably quiet about the Ukraine war and obviously somewhat preoccupied with outbreaks of the Omicron variant. Commercial relations with the United States are on the mend, meaning that supply chains are being reinstalled, but, as ever, such relationships are complex.
[Coronavirus] U.S. Coronavirus Totals: Cases: 84,944,227; Deaths: 1,028,830
Politics, Legislation, Election Notes
A note on elections and a new world order. During most elections, even national elections, most Americans don’t give half a damn about foreign issues, except if we’re in a war somewhere, and maybe not even then. Yes, we’re involved in the Russian invasion of Ukraine and all but the most resiliently Putin influenced/financed Republicans are sympathetic toward the Ukrainians. Nevertheless, it’s completely American to not be very well informed, much less personally involved with what’s going on “over there.” That’s true even though about half our economy is dependent on foreign commerce; we are, despite the pandemic disruption, in an economically interdependent world. Our standard of living has been increasingly built on things we can acquire from anywhere. Consequently, it’s worth knowing that the war in Ukraine is causing a massive shift in world economic and political alignment unlike anything we’ve seen since at least the end of the Soviet Union, and arguably since the end of the Second World War.
For starters, Putin’s war is consolidating the creation of the European Union. Not only are Finland and Sweden about to join NATO, but the planned rearmament of Germany is causing the rest of Europe to seriously consider a European military. It may take some time, but the Europeans now know, thanks to Putin, they need their own Armed Forces. That also means they’re going to need a European foreign policy. To get that, and a myriad of other things that make a collection of 27 countries into some kind of viable political entity, is going to require realignment of politics and commerce on a vast scale.
While Europe goes through this transformation, the rest of the world is also realigning. In the East, China, India, Japan, Pakistan, and Indonesia are scrambling to figure out the new arrangement of power and commerce relative to Russia, the EU, and the U.S. In the middle of this realignment, in effect a new world order, is the transformation of energy resources. Petroleum is still prime; to see how the world works, follow the petroleum (money); but oil and gas are only part of the picture now, and a declining one at that. Agriculture and manufacturing are increasingly international. Especially for agriculture, global climate change will guarantee continual economic realignment.
Into this increasingly complicated world environment, threads the U.S. economy, still the largest in the world. Our leaders, and by that is meant both political and corporate, have no choice about participation; in fact, most of them would prefer to be in charge somehow. When we vote, this year and in 2024, we’re not only electing local, regional, and national representatives; we’re also electing our representatives in the new world order. The link between the American voter and anything resembling control of global trends seems vanishingly small, but it’s not nothing. The U.S. still sets standards, has influence (weight) to throw around, and benefits – or losses – from what happens elsewhere. Whose side are we on? The question is whether American voters will accept some level of involvement, some degree of responsibility. And here we are, in 2022 wondering if we can even maintain our democracy.
Elon Musk: Declares Democrats “Have become the party of division and hate, so I can no longer support them and will vote Republican.” (Apparently the comedic side of the man.)
Pinned Point: Until the filibuster rules are modified, most of the Biden agenda will not pass the Senate.
Quote of the Week
[T]hursday, the Jan. 6 committee dropped an intriguing piece of evidence . . . saying it wants to talk to Rep. Barry Loudermilk (R-GA), because ‘the Select Committee has discovered evidence that Rep. Loudermilk may have information regarding a tour through parts of the U.S. Capitol complex on January 5, 2021.’
Amber Phillips, “The 5-Minute Fix,” The Washington Post, 5/21/2022.
[The IUY Weekly Journal assumes readers are at least casually familiar with names and events. For more details, check with internet search.]