Indivisible Upper Yellowstone – Weekly Journal
The Week of Saturday, May 21 through Friday, May 27, 2022 [Vol.3 No.45]
Uvalde, Texas Massacre of Children
The Week’s Most Notable
In the beginning, aside from the utter depravity and scale, the massacre of 19 children and 2 teachers kicked loose a familiar dismay – here we go again. It was the old feeling that no matter how terrible the event, despite all the handwringing, all the thoughts and prayers, nothing effective would be done to prevent the same sort of thing from happening again. After all, there was a somewhat similar massacre of 10 people in a Buffalo, New York store less than two weeks ago. Sure enough, the Republican apologists for the murderous status quo immediately pronounced their solution straight from the NRA catechism: More Guns. Let the police, the SWAT teams, the state and local officials do what they think best: create fortress schools, locked like prisons, guarded by cops and armed teachers. More Guns.
Then something happened that made Uvalde different: the official and police handling of the incident was a disaster. From the time of the first 911 call to the time when the shooter was killed, one hour and twenty-two minutes elapsed. Fifty-six of those minutes had police in the building. In fact, there were eventually nineteen law enforcement officers, including local officers (and members of the SWAT team), federal border patrol agents, and the school’s own safety officer. At the start, where local officers were involved, the shooter had more high-power weaponry (an AR-15 against handguns). It’s important to understand that because of Texas law the shooter had just turned 18 and had been able to buy two AR-15’s and 375 rounds of ammunition without qualification or restriction. (Ironically, he wasn’t old enough to legally buy a beer.)
The full story will take months if not years to piece together, but human error played a role. Uvalde had done more than its share of preparation, had its own school police, had its own access protocols. None of it kept the shooter out of the building. While the shooting was in progress, the police were paralyzed by a lack of coordination and an inability to breach barriers (a door, a key). In situations as tactically perilous and complicated as kids in an elementary school classroom and an assailant as well armed as a soldier at war, very little goes to plan. Days of prevarication and misinformation by official spokespeople didn’t help. Stranding panicky parents outside the school, and not dealing correctly with 911 calls from the kids inside didn’t help. Almost everything the Republicans are saying about how to handle school shootings didn’t work – won’t work, this incident has ruined the trust of most Americans in this approach.
What the Republicans don’t talk about is how to take assault weapons out of the situation. In this case, as in so many, the easy availability of military grade assault weapons is what turns a bad incident into a massacre. How can this happen again, and again, and again? Is it the gun manufacturers pushing these meat-grinder guns and bullets, or NRA election cash and lobbying? Is it the American gun culture? Yes, all of that, but there’s more, a focal point that may help explain how it has not been possible for the U.S. to enact any significant federal gun legislation.
Two keys: There is a rock in the shallow waters of the Senate on which gun control legislation repeatedly founders; the breaker is submerged (almost never mentioned in the media): it is a large, mostly red state constituency of very active voters who want to keep military grade assault weapons available for insurrection – for resisting or overthrowing the government. This is a very old, deeply held trope in America. It is not exclusive to the right-wing, although historically predominant among conservative voters in southern, midwest, and western states where continuous election of one or more senators guarantees Republican control of the filibuster and thus the Senate. The AR-15 has become the pivotal weapon and symbol from which this core constituency and their block of senators will not budge, compromise, or even discuss any type of gun control. Assault weapons must be available for insurrection – at all costs.
RELATED: The coming Supreme Court decision on gun control in New York State Rifle & Pistol Association v. Bruen will probably loosen restrictions, perhaps dramatically, on open-carry of guns. The laws against open-carry on the books in most states have been around for more than 100 years, but this overwhelmingly conservative court has indicated that it is seeking ways for the general citizenry to defend themselves with guns more easily in public. Opposition to this potential ruling is based on the accumulated experience – especially in crowded urban areas – that the proliferation of guns means only a proliferation of violent incidents. The expected Supreme Court ruling, coming as it will about a month after the nationally traumatic massacre of children, is guaranteed to kick another storm of protest.
Covid comeback (actually, it never went away) and now there’s monkeypox. Depending on the source, COVID-19 infections are up 35%, hospitalizations 20%, and deaths 15% across the U.S. The total number of deaths attributable to COVID are now well beyond 1 million and still reaches 1,000 a day on occasion. New variants of the virus continue to reach our shores, the latest being Omicron BA.2.12.2 – all far more infectious than the original virus, so much so that the average daily infection rate in the U.S. is more than 100,000 (actually more than 200,000 as fewer cases are tested). These kind of numbers in 2020 would’ve caused panic; today it’s not even part of most people’s awareness. Right-wing media staunchly take the position that the pandemic is over. By the way, the most catching thing about monkeypox is probably the name, but there are 20 reported cases in the U.S. Epidemiologists are far more worried about the current mini-wave of COVID-19 and what will happen in the fall and winter.
Saturday, May 21
[Coronavirus] U.S. Coronavirus Totals: Cases: 85,101,698; Deaths: 1,029,570
[Ukraine] Biden Signs the $40 Billion Aid Package for Ukraine – It required congressional arm-twisting, especially in the Senate where some Republicans reflexively question everything requested by the Biden administration – even where Republicans will ultimately support the bill. Nevertheless, this is a substantial aid package, mostly military but some of it earmarked for international shipment of grain from Ukraine.
[Ukraine] Zelensky Talks about Negotiated End to the War – “We want everything back. Russia does not want to give anything away. Victory will be bloody in battle. But the end will be in diplomacy.” In general political terms, Ukraine cannot bargain for the Donbas region or the Crimea; it would be far cleaner to win some of that territory back. But Zelensky knows that, unfortunately, those supporting Ukraine do not have infinite patience. Questions arise: can anybody win on the battlefield? Can one side outlast the other? The war is only three months old and yet grumblings – on both sides – are already audible.
[Australia] Australian Voters Make Labor Leader Anthony Albanese Prime Minister– After a nine-year run by the center-right Liberal Party, the key issue in the election was climate change
Sunday, May 22
[Southern Baptism] Report: Sex Abuse Allegations Mishandled – In a scandal that broke not long ago, concerning decades of sexual abuse by members of the Southern Baptist staff and clergy, the new report commissioned from a nonaffiliated third party, documented numerous allegations and the lack of response, all the way up to hostility and lying by church officials. [Update: Secret database of Southern Baptist sex-offending officials was released.]
[Taiwan] Biden Verbally Commits U.S. to Defending Taiwan – For almost 50 years the official U.S. policy has been “strategic ambiguity” about what the U.S. would do if China invaded Taiwan. Naturally, Biden’s comment created a diplomatic furor, not only in China. On the other hand, a pattern seems to be emerging where Biden appears to mistakenly utter what’s on everybody’s mind, and then the State Department calls it an “oops” and patches it up.
[Baby Formula] U.S. Military Jet Brings First Baby Formula Shipment from Europe – Apparently, this was high enough priority that baby formula to feed up to 18,000 infants was trucked from Nestlé Health Services in Switzerland to Germany and then loaded onto an U.S. Air Force C-17 cargo jet to the U.S. The baby food scandal is real enough, but manageable in the short term, and somewhat complicated in the long run. Meanwhile, Biden has been reacting quickly to the shrill outcries of the right-wing media.
Monday, May 23
[Ukraine] Zelensky Urges Leaders at Davos Conference to Step up Russian Sanctions – Perhaps as a sign of urgency or need to preserve the unanimity of support for Ukraine, Zelensky’s virtual speech emphasized collective action in reducing purchases of Russian oil and gas and increasing compliance with sanctions. Notably, he outlined the need for approximately $5 billion per month in aid, which should include money for rebuilding entire cities and industries. It was as if he foresaw an end to the war.
[Ukraine] Russian UN Diplomat Resigns in Protest of Ukraine War – In an apparently individual decision, Boris Bondarev resigned his post with a scathing letter, “Never have I been so ashamed of my country as on February 24 of this year.” Assuming his resignation was intended to have influence, it may indicate there is significant opposition to Putin’s war.
[Climate Change] Report: Climate Change and Increased Probability of India and Pakistan Heat Wave – India suffered its worst heat wave in 122 years; Pakistan its worst spring temperatures on record. The new study from the Indian Institute of technology in Bombay wrote that climate change increased the probability and magnitude of the March and April heat wave by 30 times and raise the regional temperatures by 1.8°F. The heat has been tied to 90 deaths and up to 35% reduction in crop yields.
[Climate Change] NOAA Expects Unusually Active Hurricane Season – For the seventh straight season the forecast is for well above average activity running 14 to 21 named storms with 6 to 10 reaching hurricane strength.
Tuesday, May 24
[Uvalde] Uvalde, Texas: Lone Gunman Massacres 19 School Children and Two Teachers – It was the worst school attack since Sandy Hook, 20 years ago. Its impact could be transformative. The dead were all from a fourth-grade class, 8- to 10-year-olds, in Robb Elementary School. The 18-year-old gunman, armed with an AR-15 assault rifle entered the school around 11 AM and was finally killed by Texas border patrol agents more than an hour later. The details of the event will be investigated and pieced together over the coming days, but already official misinformation has complicated the situation. The horrific event has detonated emotional and political response across the nation. President Biden immediately followed the news in an impassioned speech and a renewed call for gun reform, “Why are we willing to live with this carnage?”
[Ukraine] Biden Calls upon Indo-Pacific Leaders to Aid Ukraine – Speaking from Tokyo on his tour through Asia, Biden seemed to be pointing his remarks in the direction of India, which so far has pursued a “neutral” position on the Russian invasion of Ukraine. India is in a very complicated dynamic with China, Pakistan, the U.S., and its principal supplier of military aid – Russia. Biden’s tour is in part recognition of the changing political, economic and military relationships in Asia.
[Primary Elections] Georgia Primary: Kemp and Raffensperger Trounce Trump Endorsed Rivals – It wasn’t just that they won but Kemp won the Republican nomination for governor by 50 points and Raffensperger was renominated for Secretary of State by 20 points. The magnitude of their wins – in the face of very strong Trump disapproval – have set many tongues to wagging about the waning of Trump influence, and perhaps a weakening of the Big Lie.
Wednesday, May 25
[Uvalde] Questions, Doubts, and Misinformation Dog Uvalde Massacre Aftermath – Now widely seen as a disastrous mismanagement of the episode by officials, successive PR sessions have revealed an ever-changing narrative of what happened before during and after the attack on the elementary school. The case of the disappearing school safety officer is an example: Initially such an officer was said to have confronted the shooter. In the next PR meeting, it was said that he had initially reported on the shooter but didn’t confront him. By the third PR meeting a police official admitted there was no such officer. Questions about the timing, inaction, mishandling of parents at the school and student 911 calls have built up to a fierce backlash against the whole notion of police protection for children at school. This is becoming part of the political issue.
[Coronavirus] New Study: Long COVID Affects about 20% of Cases, Vaccines of Limited Help – In the U.S. there have been more than 90 million cases of COVID-19; do the math – that means about 18 million cases of long COVID. Long COVID is sneaky, nasty, and difficult to treat in its many forms. This will have an impact on our health system.
[Great Britain – Partygate] The Sue Gray Report Confirms That Boris Johnson Created a Lawless Culture – The report documented numerous parties at #10 Downing Street while at the same time because of COVID-19 British citizens were forbidden by law to have meetings, group gatherings, funerals and personal events. The report cited extraordinary arrogance and disrespect for the rule of law. Under most circumstances, the Prime Minister Boris Johnson would be forced to resign, as he lied to Parliament and was himself fined for an illegal party attendance. But the conservative party cannot find a replacement who can win elections, and so Johnson continues, dragging the party and himself into disgrace.
Thursday, May 26
[Uvalde Massacre] Nationwide Uproar as Students, Parents Protest – The Uvalde massacre of 21 people and the mess created by Texas officials has spawned protests nationwide. In particular, hundreds of student walkouts from schools have gained a substantial media attention. Gun control as a political issue is once again on the front burner, and may not cool off by the time of the November midterms.
Friday, May 27
[Uvalde Massacre] NRA Convention in Houston, Republicans Double-down – Just days after the horrendous massacre in Uvalde Texas, the national NRA convention attracted statements such as “…the Biden administration is considering putting UN bureaucrats in charge of your Second Amendment rights” (Trump). Although several Republican notables backed out of the convention, Ted Cruz stood up for all of them by insisting that gun control is totally ineffective and the solution is to increase the number of police and people with guns in schools.
[Coronavirus] U.S. Coronavirus Totals: Cases: 85,711,442; Deaths: 1,031,259
Politics, Legislation, Election Notes
Democrats, count the ways issues are piling up for the midterm elections:
Gun Control – The Uvalde massacre of schoolchildren has created an intense national reaction and demand for legislative action on gun control issues. Republicans continue with the defense of the status quo and call for More Guns.
Abortion Rights – The anticipated Supreme Court ruling effectively ending Roe v. Wade has already sent thousands into the streets for protests. The Republicans own the other side of this issue.
Climate Change – The coming hurricane, flood, and fire season promises to be one of the worst on record. Republicans are still in denial.
The Big Lie – Biden did not steal the 2020 election and that truth is sinking in. As a Republican litmus test of loyalty to Trump the issue is fading, at a glacial pace, but it is happening.
Democracy and voting rights – More than 26 states now have in some way or another made it harder to vote, and the Republican Party is actively attempting to put in place election officials who will on command reverse election results.
Public Health, COVID – Although COVID-19 is still a major health issue, Republican-led denialism continues to contribute to the U.S. “worst in the world” record.
Immigration – Comprehensive immigration reform still cannot get past the Senate blockade by Republicans.
Supreme Court Packing – Republicans engineered the 6-3 conservative majority on the court, which in turn has led to a string of ultraconservative decisions suggesting that this court is intent on sending legal decisions back to the states.
Trump legal problems – Investigations, testimony, and eventually indictments are expected for Trump, family and company in both the Manhattan fraud case and in the Georgia vote tampering case.
Inflation – Beef is becoming cheaper, gas prices will go down after summer, but inflation isn’t over. Come October, will it still be the number one issue?
Pinned Point: Until the filibuster rules are modified, most of the Biden agenda will not pass the Senate.
Quote of the Week
“This only happens in this country and nowhere else, nowhere else do little kids go to school thinking that they might be shot that day. Nowhere else do parents have to talk to their kids as I have had to do about why they got locked into a bathroom and told to be quiet for five minutes just in case a bad man entered that building. Nowhere else does that happen except here in the United States of America. And it is a choice. It is our choice to let it continue.”
Sen. Chris Murphy from the floor of the Senate
[The IUY Weekly Journal assumes readers are at least casually familiar with names and events. For more details, check with internet search.]