Indivisible Upper Yellowstone – Weekly Journal
The Week of Saturday, June 4 through Friday, June 10, 2022 [Vol.3 No.47]
Jan. 6 Committee Public Hearing #1
The Week’s Most Notable
In a sense it was another week with the possibility of being historic. It featured the first prime-time public session of the House Select Committee on the January 6 Attack. There are so many ways this could have gone badly, but it didn’t. The committee seemed to have gauged this one just right; they even hired a former TV executive to oversee the production. The opening statements were concise, remindful of the historical importance, and remarkably well focused. The 20-minute composite video, most of it new, successfully reminded everybody how violent and extraordinary the event actually was.
For witness testimony, many were struck by the effectiveness of the personal account by Capitol police officer Caroline Edwards, which included the now viral segment of “slipping in blood.” Edwards suffered traumatic brain injury in the event. Before the committee, she was authentic cop and more than a touch charismatic. It’s interesting that female commentators reacted remarkably sympathetically to her, while most male commentators didn’t comment. In fact, true to right-wing smear-tactics, the Newsmax host Greg Kelly opined that Edwards was “self-aggrandizing” and “an attractive blonde.”
It’s about Trump. From the opening remarks to the concluding statement the committee made it absolutely clear that it was talking about criminal behavior, starting with Trump and extending through a long list of enablers. In fact, vice chair Liz Cheney’s 38-minute presentation was a model prosecutor’s opening for a jury. It had three effects: it provided the structure for the two-hour as well as the following weeks’ presentations; it gave the proceeding a sense of gravitas; and it publicly set a framework for legal action by the Department of Justice.
The new takeaway from this session: The event at the Capitol was not a rally gone sideways, but a calculated assault, one element of a coup. First, the Proud Boys and Oath Keepers arrived early, even while Trump was still speaking, and led the planned break-in to the Capitol building. The massive crowd spun-up and sent to the Capitol by Trump provided the bulk numbers to flood the building. The resulting chaos was meant to cover searches for congresspeople and Mike Pence. The minimum objective was to stop the certification of the election and force vote counting back to (some) states – in other words reverse the election, a coup.
Impact. Between 20 and 30 million people watched this first hearing. For some perspective, over 20 million watched the first Kavanaugh hearing, 60 to 70 million watched the Biden-Trump debates, 112 million watched the last Superbowl. Fox News covered but did not broadcast the session, and their first hour was subsumed – without commercial break – by a Tucker Carlson rant against the committee. Current surveys seem to indicate that most Republicans have no idea what the committee is doing (except it must be fake) and in fact are seldom exposed to any enduring non-partisan coverage of Trump or Republican activity. On the other hand, because the committee presentation was unusually well done, segments of it immediately went viral and provoked several days of media coverage. Keep in mind the committee sessions are a multipart media narration, sort of a true-crime series in six parts, the first of its kind for Congress. Its impact may require a change in the way such events are evaluated.
The Trump-Republican response was predictable: Absolute denial of anything presented by the committee, especially concerning the Big Lie and the Capitol event. In fact, reports are that the Republican National Committee and some big donors pumped several million into counter programming and propaganda. As expected, the focus of the attack was on the Jan. 6 committee itself, not the evidence it presented.
Fear vs. Gun Control. A recent Quinnipiac poll showed that 70% of Republicans favor protecting gun rights over public safety. In other words, occasional random sacrifice of children and others is acceptable to retain the rights to have weapons that enable armed insurrection, defense of liberty, and safety in the home. That’s why there’s no gun control compromise in Congress. It doesn’t help that the Department of Homeland Security is forecasting six months of extremism and potential violence as a result of Supreme Court decisions (mainly abortion), gun control issues, Trump indictment, Jan. 6 investigation, inflation pressures, and general political upheaval.
Saturday, June 4
[Coronavirus] U.S. Coronavirus Totals: Cases: 86,644,311; Deaths: 1,034,230
[Ukraine] Sievierodonetsk Remains Focal Point of Ukrainian Battles – In some of the bitterest – house to house – fighting of the war, Russian and Ukrainian forces traded city blocks as the massed Russian forces seem to be slowly but inexorably pushing the Ukrainian soldiers out of the city. The cost in casualties on both sides is known to be very high – perhaps as many as 300 a day. Military observers are not optimistic about Ukraine’s ability to wage this kind of war.
[Mass Shooting] Melee in Philadelphia Kills Three, Injures Dozens – “Hundreds of individuals just enjoying South Street, as they do every single weekend, when the shooting broke out.” Recreational shooting on a Saturday night? Only in America? [Update: There were mass shootings in Chattanooga, South Carolina, Saginaw, and Mesa with a total of 12 dead, 38 wounded.]
[Baby Formula] Baby Formula Back into Production at Michigan Plant – The formulas shortage in the U.S. continues to worsen, but Abbott Nutrition announced that it was going back into production at the plant where a fatal contamination occurred in February.
Sunday, June 5
[Gun Control] Senate Approaching Limited Gun Control Agreement? – The word is a bipartisan agreement to strengthen federal gun laws is within reach of the Senate working group. If and when they come up with an agreement, it will still require 10 Republicans to cross party lines to overcome the filibuster. [Update: During the week other optimistic statements were uttered, but by the end of the week an agreement did not seem so likely, even with further dilution of the legislation.]
[Kazakhstan] Voters in Kazakhstan Approve Constitutional Amendments to Weaken Presidential Powers – It’s good to be reminded that the U.S. isn’t the only country struggling to contain potential authoritarian leaders. Ruled for 30 years by quasi-dictator Nursultan Nazarbayev, voters decided to amend the Constitution so that powers he wielded could not be used again; for example, relatives of the president can no longer hold government positions.
Monday, June 6
[Great Britain] Weakened PM Johnson Survives Vote of No-Confidence – The total of 148 no-confidence votes signaled that Johnson’s support within his own party is slipping. In fact, it’s widely understood that if the Conservatives had a viable alternative, Johnson would be gone already. There are potential candidates who could run the government, but who are judged incapable of winning a national election. There are important by-elections later this month; if Conservatives lose those as badly as predicted, it will be difficult to retain Johnson.
[Jan. 6] Five Proud Boys Members Charged with Seditious Conspiracy – It should be emphasized that seditious conspiracy is a rarely used and difficult charge to prosecute, which probably means that the DOJ thinks it has an open-and-shut case. A similar charge was used against 11 members of the Oath Keepers.
Tuesday, June 7
[Inflation] Gasoline Prices Jump $0.30 Nationwide – High gasoline prices might be Putin’s fault, but the person staring at the price on the pump, which in the U.S. is now approaching $5 per gallon, only cares that their car gets them to work, and work only makes so much money, and as gas gets ever more expensive – something’s going to give. What usually gives is votes for the party in power.
[Mid Term Primaries] Seven States Hold Primaries, Key Results in LA and San Francisco – The trend, at least in California, seems to favor candidates who are tough on crime. In Los Angeles former Republican and billionaire Rick Caruso forced a run-off with Rep. Karen Bass for mayor. In San Francisco, a progressive District Attorney was recalled from office on the basis of not doing enough to keep San Francisco safe. On the other hand, Republican House candidates in California who voted for Trump’s impeachment retained their seats.
[Inflation] Yellen Says Inflation Levels “Unacceptable” – Secretary of the Treasury Yellen may be in the position where Biden is of a mind to shoot the messenger. Inflation is always difficult to deal with, and this time “external circumstances” such as Putin’s war (oil and gas, food prices) and lingering pandemic supply-chain problems (everything else) might have the lion’s share of cause, but that never registers very strongly with the American public and their tattered wallets.
[Gun Control] Actor Matthew McConaughey Makes Great Speech on Gun Control – Republicans accuse him of being another celebrity sticking his nose in where it doesn’t belong. McConaughey was born in Uvalde, Texas.
Wednesday, June 8
[Supreme Court] Armed Man Makes Threats against Justice Kavanaugh – Arrested after showing up outside Justice Kavanaugh’s home and making threats, he was charged with attempted murder. Fox News has chosen to make a major issue of the incident.
[Gun Control] House Hearing on Gun Control Features 11-year-old Uvalde Survivor – The House Oversight Committee hearing on gun violence focused on the two most recent and horrendous mass shootings in Uvalde, Texas and Buffalo, New York. In a prerecorded video, Miah Cerrillo, who survived the classroom shooting in Uvalde, testified that she smeared blood from her friend on herself so that she would appear dead to the shooter. Republicans complained her testimony is child exploitation.
[Gun Control] House Passes Gun Control Package, DOA in Senate – The bill features raising the age limit for purchasing an assault rifle to 21 and bans the sale of magazines with more than 15 rounds. Small beer, but the Senate won’t even drink to that. It looks increasingly likely that no significant gun control legislation will pass this session.
Thursday, June 9
[Jan. 6 Investigation] House Select Committee’s First Public Session on January 6 Investigation – The two-hour prime time presentation exceeded most expectations. The segments were concise and well-paced: opening remarks by Chairman Thompson and the case against Trump by Vice Chair Cheney, a 35-minute video graphically showing the mob violence and participation of right-wing groups such as Proud Boys, testimony by the video presentation creator, and testimony about the event from policewoman Caroline Edwards. The committee obviously does have a plethora of evidence for the narrative and demonstrated that it knows how to present it effectively. The first session framed the story of what happened before, during, and after the January 6 attempted coup of the presidential election. For the most part it seems to be outlining a criminal case against former President Trump and his enablers. For example, it addressed Trump’s Big Lie fraud by showing clips from AG William Barr and Trump’s daughter Ivanka testifying that they repeatedly told Trump there was no significant fraud in the 2020 election. There will be at least five more televised sessions detailing the Big Lie development [Monday, June 13], Trump corruption of DOJ [Wednesday, June 15], attempt to pressure VP Mike Pence, and Trump’s (in)actions during the attack. There may also be a final session in September.
[Coronavirus] White House Reveals Vaccination Plan for Kids under Five – Since COVID-19 hasn’t actually gone away, the pending expected FDA approval of vaccines by Moderna and Pfizer for children under five has led the administration to prepare a plan for emergency vaccinations to begin as early as June 20.
Friday, June 10
[Inflation] Inflation Persistent: May Hits New Highs – The big three were all up (gas, food, shelter) for a collective rise in the cost of living by 8.6% from a year ago and, overall, the highest level in 40 years. It was also announced that the U.S. average gas prices are now at $5 a gallon. Although economically the inflation is roughly balanced by an extremely healthy employment situation, this is not the public’s perception The combination of highly visible out-of-pocket money, crisis emphasis by right-wing media, the general political and economic instability not only in the U.S. but the world generally, and the fact that because of international influences no government can do much about the immediate inflation problem – inflation has moved to the top of most people’s worry list.
[Coronavirus] CDC Ends COVID Test Requirements for International Travel – To the relief of the airline industry, the tourist industry, many travelers, and even a few Democrats, removing this travel requirement and substantial PITA is warranted. After all, the pandemic is over, right? Not actually over, but mitigation and testing are now up to the individual.
[Coronavirus] U.S. Coronavirus Totals: Cases: 87,265,676; Deaths: 1,035,754
Politics, Legislation, Election Notes
The vultures begin circling: When the vultures are circling somebody it doesn’t mean they’re dead, yet. But the presence of vultures is usually taken as a sign. So it is in this political analogy, when major media outlets simultaneously run stories about replacing key figures – Trump, Biden, Boris Johnson – that the vultures, such as Florida’s Ron DeSantis, are out for more than an idle gyr in the wind. Trump is taking serious hits in the Jan. 6 hearings. Johnson is already called the walking dead. Biden is undeniably aging and will be 82 if he runs again. (And what about Putin’s mystery illness?) Nobody wishing to retain their credibility would predict an imminent political demise, but keep an eye on the vultures.
Pinned Point: Until the filibuster rules are modified, most of the Biden agenda will not pass the Senate.
Quote of the Week
[South Dakota is] a deeply Republican state; former president Donald Trump won it by overwhelming margins twice. But by a resounding 2-to1 margin, voters there just rejected an initiative put on the ballot by Republicans meant to ensure that poor people in South Dakota will remain without health coverage no matter what citizens of the state want.
Paul Waldman, “In South Dakota, the GOP War on Democracy Hits a Wall,” The Washington Post, 6/8/2022.
[The IUY Weekly Journal assumes readers are at least casually familiar with names and events. For more details, check with internet search.]