Indivisible Upper Yellowstone: Weekly Journal, Vol.3 No.51, Week of June 2 – 8, 2022 (July 4 Parade Massacre)

Indivisible Upper Yellowstone – Weekly Journal

The Week of Saturday, July 2 through Friday, July 8, 2022 [Vol.3 No.51]

July 4 Parade Massacre

The Week’s Most Notable

Another week where guns and killing form the bookends of major stories: the Fourth of July massacre in Illinois and the assassination of former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe in Japan. For the U.S. it was the 309th gun-related mass murder of the year; for Japan it was the first gun-related fatality of 2022 – there were 10 incidents and one death in 2021. The mass murderer in Illinois could walk into any gun store and buy the equivalent of a military machine gun. In Japan the perpetrator had to build the gun from scratch. Why can’t the U.S. be like Japan?  For starters, the U.S. tradition with guns grew out of the Wild West; with Japan a kind of aversion to guns grew out of their being “Western” in origin. Two very different cultures.  In the U.S., guns have been promoted as part of our identity. Most other countries, not so much.

It’s estimated that the U.S. has 390 million guns and 330 million people, or statistically 120.5 guns per 100 people. Statistically the only comparable countries are Yemen (52.8 per 100) and Serbia (39.1 per 100). In 2020, 45,222 people in the U.S. died from gun related deaths: of those, 24,292 by suicide and 19,384 by homicide.  As to homicide, 79% of all U.S. homicides are committed with a gun; in other countries, Canada for example, the number is 37% and in the UK 4%. Bottom line: more guns, more incidents; it doesn’t take statistics to work that out.

The gap between the U.S. and almost every other country in the world in terms of “gun management for the safety and security of society,” is so great that we have to be realistic. With so many guns available, in a culture that continues to emphasize their use (with a strong preference for those that are most lethal), changing that culture would require a legal and propaganda effort far greater than the one that got us to this point. Even if we wanted to be more like the rest of the world, and at least half the country does not want to, reducing the number of guns and convincing people not to use them would be a decades-long process.

However, realism is not all that is at work here. Nor is absolutism; nobody (sane) is suggesting we get rid of all guns. Americans, speaking generally, don’t want to live in a militarized, gun-filled society. To that end it would be mostly sufficient not to have society flooded with military grade assault weapons. We had a ban on assault weapons from 1994 to 2004. It could be done again, except that roughly 30% of the voting population looks upon an assault weapon ban as if it were the end of their freedom and the end of America as we know it. That’s a fact and it will be very difficult to walk back. However, is there any other way to realistically address the mass gun shootings epidemic in the United States?

Will Trump be indicted? Remember the song and TV series, “Bad boys, bad boys, whatcha gonna do when they come for you?” A lot of speculation these past weeks about the chances of Trump being indicted. There’s the state district attorney of Fulton County Georgia, Fani Willis, who this week subpoenaed Rudy Giuliani and Sen. Lindsey Graham for grand jury testimony about vote-count influence. Meanwhile, it’s clear the January 6 House Committee is marshaling evidence of Trump’s criminal involvement, which is being passed on to the Department of Justice. Finally, New York’s AG, Letitia James, is corralling the evidence for a civil (business) case against the Trump family and organization.

The criminal cases, Georgia and DOJ, are and will always be problematic. Criminal cases must prove intent, the state of mind (mens rea). Without making a joke about it, this will be difficult to do for Trump. On top of that, there’s no getting around it – it would be the first time in history that a president of the United States would be indicted for criminal charges. Anybody who thinks this is easy is likely to have a short career in prosecution. Yet, it could happen. More probable, as in the case of Chicago mob boss Al Capone, who was convicted for tax fraud, not murder, state tax laws could be the net that brings in the Trumps. None of this is going to happen quickly; certainly not by the midterms.

 

Saturday, July 2

[Ukraine] Russia Seals Victory in Luhansk – The final capture of the city of Lysychansk gives the Russians control of the Luhansk region, roughly half of the eastern provinces of Ukraine. By all accounts fighting in this area was brutal with both sides suffering heavy casualties. For Putin, control of Eastern Ukraine will supposedly give him the upper hand in negotiations.

[U.S. Airlines] Bedlam in U.S. Air Service – Just as the holiday weekend brought out U.S. travelers at numbers exceeding those before the pandemic, airlines suffered bad weather, crew and pilot shortages because of reduced labor force and illness (COVID), shortage of planes (too many mothballed during the pandemic), and the usual holiday weekend snafu. The result was literally thousands of cancellations and delayed flights, with a few major airports descending into near chaos.

Sunday, July 3                                                                                                            

[Police Killing] Protests in Akron for Police Killing of Jayland Walker – With perplexing body cam recordings, contradictions in police testimony, and the fact that Walker was shot more than 60 times by eight officers while he was standing unarmed in an open parking lot – which started as a routine traffic stop – this incident has all the makings of another chapter in the book of law enforcement-related tragedy.

[Economy] Tesla Vehicle Sales down 18% – Indicative of many similar stories in the economy, Tesla was hit by supply chain shortages and breakdowns in manufacturing due to COVID lockdowns in China. Tesla’s major Shanghai factory had to reduce operations for several weeks due to a parts shortage. The U.S. auto industry as a whole reported a 21% drop in sales, while at the same time inflation sent vehicle prices to record highs.

[Denmark] Mass Shooting Kills Three, Wounds Four in Copenhagen Shopping Mall – Although rare in Europe, Scandinavian countries have had incidents. This case appears to be mental illness related and non-terroristic.

Monday, July 4   Independence Day

[Mass Shooting] July 4 Massacre: 7 Dead, 38 Injured – Just a midwest small-town Fourth of July parade, until another troubled 21-year-old male gets up on the roof of a two-story business building with an AR-15 type assault rifle and fires off 70 rounds in less than two minutes. The massacre in Highland Park Illinois was not the worst such event this year, but its symbolic and emotional impact should not be underestimated. Following on the heels of the Uvalde killing of 19 children and two teachers, this attack on innocent bystanders, aged 8 to 88, at a parade seemed to epitomize the emotional outrage. This shooting, more than most, has brought out the calls for banning assault rifles.

[A reminder of the usually unreported elephant in the room: Most Republicans and right-wing extremists want free access to assault rifles, no matter what, precisely because they are military-grade (designed to kill people), for use in home defense or insurrection against the government.]

[Coronavirus] Highly Contagious Omicron Sub-Variants Surge in California – The principal culprit is Omicron BA.5, pushing two thirds of the state’s counties into high transmission levels. “We are really worried,” said one LA County health official. Mitigation efforts, such as masking, remain voluntary.

Tuesday, July 5

[Trump Investigation] Georgia Grand Jury Subpoenas Graham, Giuliani – The grand jury is investigating information and evidence surrounding the Trump-led effort to interfere in the tally of presidential votes in Georgia (“I just want you to find 11,780 votes.”). Graham, Giuliani, John Eastman and a few others were heavily involved in lobbying Georgia legislators and officials, either to change the vote tally or to arrange for an alternate slate of electors. This avenue of investigation is rated high(er) in probability of eventual indictments. [Update: Graham (R, SC) vows he will challenge the grand jury subpoena; he is not likely to succeed.]

[Oil and Gas] Crude Oil Price Drops $100/Barrel – The post-pandemic surge in petroleum demand, and prices, seems to be declining in the face of recessionary pressure. Worldwide vehicle use is declining somewhat, which is already beginning to translate into slightly lower prices at the gas pump. Given that summer is usually the high point of U.S. prices, the trends look like a substantial decrease in oil and gas prices in the fall. Will this have any political outcome?  It’s too soon to tell.

Wednesday, July 6

[Economy] Fed Favors Aggressive Rate Hikes to Combat Inflation – Every time the Fed talks about rate hikes, Wall Street gets the jitters. Investors do not like higher interest rates and, as with many economists, there is always the worry about causing a recession. The newly public stance by the Fed has stoked an animated discussion about whether the economy is tipping into recession or doing “okay.” The unemployment figures, for example, are exemplary; inflation figures of course, are not.

[Famine] UN World Food Program Warns of Coming Famine – A combination of the war in Ukraine preventing its shipment of 25% of the world’s grain supply and climate crises affecting agricultural output will send various regions of the world into serious hunger crisis. The number of people classified as “acutely food insecure” has jumped in just one year from 130 million to 345 million.

Thursday, July 7                                                               

[Great Britain] Boris Johnson (Mostly) Resigns – The British Prime Minister did not apologize, did not say when or how he would leave office, except that it would be after his replacement was found, and he blamed his party, “As we have seen at Westminster the herd instinct is powerful and when the herd moves, it moves. And my friends, in politics, no one is remotely indispensable.” Actually, his going, as was his tenure, is messy or more to the point, chaotic by intent. His method was to trade in lies and phony narrative, freely and creatively, as needed. But he was not forced from office because of his lies, exactly, it was because the Conservative Party finally came to the conclusion that he was a liability. After badly losing three straight by-elections in solid conservative districts, his ability to garner votes seems to have disappeared. His epitaph might well be, “He could win but he couldn’t rule.” While the Tory party does not have any clear-cut candidates in waiting, Johnson had to go. A successor will be chosen at the party conference in October.

[Diplomacy] WNBA Star Pleads Guilty to Russian Drug Charges – What is slowly becoming an overblown diplomatic brouhaha, the headlines are misleading. Brittney Griner did plead guilty but that was a prerequisite for opening negotiations with Americans working for her release. She could face up to 10 years for “drug trafficking” but that is both legally and diplomatically preposterous. Unfortunately, as a relatively famous person she is caught in the tit-for-tat game of I’ll trade you my spy for your star.

Friday, July 8                                                                                                        

[Japan] Shinzo Abe Assassinated – The former prime minister served for more than 10 years, the longest in Japanese history, and was campaigning at the time he was gunned down. The scion of a key political family, and one of the most influential politicians of his era, Abe was responsible for major changes in Japanese foreign policy and economic institutions (Abenomics). His assassination appears to have been more for his associations than his personal activity. Killing by gun is very rare in Japan just 10 incidents and one death last year.

{Jan. 6 Investigation} White House Counsel Cipollone Testifies to House Jan. 6 Committee – For much of the final days of the Trump administration, including the attempted coup at the Capitol, Pat Cipollone was the more or less sane voice of legal restraint. He was also present for most of the crucial meetings within the White House. His testimony, which may be limited (and heavily negotiated) by his claims of client privilege could be vital as corroboration for previous testimony, particularly Cassidy Hutchinson’s. Cipollone will not appear live before the committee, but his testimony might be shown by recording.

[Twitter] Musk Twitter Deal Looks like It’s Collapsing – It was in danger right from the get-go, mainly because Musk agreed to a stock price that was patently too high, and has gone nowhere but worse since then. By charging that Twitter misled him about the number of bots and other improprieties in the Twitter system, he is now trying to get out of the deal. It will not be easy, or more precisely it will be expensive. It does look like Trump will not get his old platform back.

[Abortion] Biden Signs Executive Order to Shore up Abortion Rights – Insofar as abortion remains anywhere within federal activity, Biden’s new EO helps clarify access and security protection. Unfortunately, the Supreme Court ruling shifts everything to the states, where this order does not reach.

[Economy] U.S. June Economy Adds 372,000 Jobs, Better Than Expected – While not dispersing fears of inflation, the unemployment figures point to a very solid economy – not one looking like it’s heading into recession.

Pandemic Notes

It’s Baaack. No. It never went away. Politicians and the public alike prefer to remain indifferent, pretending that the current coronavirus statistics in the United States – 200,000+ new cases, 36,000 hospitalizations, and between 300 and 400 dead per day – are not worth the bother. If these same numbers had occurred in summer of 2020, there would’ve been widespread panic; back then there was no vaccine. Today however, there are several vaccines; yet a large chunk of the U.S. population will not get vaccinated or do basic mitigation, while the surging virus – Omicron variant BA.5 – is orders of magnitude more infectious than the original virus though fortunately not as pathogenic, but quite skilled at evading both man-made and natural immunization. That means people can get it again, and again. This increases the risk for Long COVID. People who study such things (the real experts) are warning that the next wave of the pandemic may be among the worst, if only because so many people will be infected. And when will this wave arrive? It’s already started, and the peak is expected by fall.

 

Then there is monkeypox. About 600 cases have been registered in the U.S. It causes several days of flu-like illness and lymph node swelling, followed by a period of blister or pimple-like rash, which is very painful and can leave scars. However, monkeypox is rarely fatal. It is commonly spread by human physical contact, especially sexual activity.

 

Politics, Legislation, Election Notes

Trump might announce his 2024 candidacy this month – more likely, however, this fits with a spate of gaslighting comments Trump has made recently. If he declared candidacy then his donors could only give the maximum $2,900; undeclared, there’s no limit to what they can donate to his campaign. Do the Trumpian math.

 

 

Pinned Point: Until the filibuster rules are modified, most of the Biden agenda will not pass the Senate.

Quote of the Week

Included in the [teacher] training is the statement that it is a ‘misconception’ that ‘the Founders desired strict separation of church and state.’

Lori Rosza, “In Trainings, Florida Tells Teachers Religion Belongs in Public Life,” The Washington Post, 7/2/2022.

 

 

[The IUY Weekly Journal assumes readers are at least casually familiar with names and events. For more details, check with internet search.]

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