Indivisible Upper Yellowstone – Weekly Journal
The Week of Saturday, August 13 through Friday, August 19, 2022 [Vol.4 No.5]
In the Kingdom of Lies, the Truth is Unrecognizable
Rule of Law
The Week’s Most Notable
Rep. Liz Cheney was successfully “primaried” in Wyoming this week. Strangely, her political demise was not celebrated by her primal adversary, the Democrats. That’s because of her new heroine of democracy status; her landslide defeat was Trump’s triumph, his ticket back into the center ring. Or it would have sufficed for that, if it weren’t for the continuing bathetic saga of “Trump’s Martyrdom at Mar-a-Lago.” This was playing out almost daily, to the exclusion of many other things political in the media, including Joe Biden’s legislative successes. All pretty much according to Trump’s playbook.
Trump’s playbook is like the food on the menu at McDonald’s. You know what to expect; and its predictability is just a bit gratifying. The media is addicted to it; they devour and regurgitate every item as it appears. Here are a few examples: Denial (doesn’t exist, fake news); Might exist (maybe existed, but I didn’t know about it); Known but unimportant (I knew, but didn’t take it seriously); Deflection (somebody else did it [too], e.g., Obama); Distraction (the FBI stole my passports). The past week was like a round-robin of variably implausible excuses. Net result: information fog, confusion, contradiction, and chaos. Just what the playbook predicts.
The unfolding Mar-a-Lago saga is remindful of the Mueller Report; Mueller dumps his findings and before anybody can react, Barr steps in and deliberately misinterprets everything. “No conspiracy, no collusion.” That’s what sticks with the majority of the public. It’s called “first mover advantage.” In the Mar-a-Lago case the FBI does a search, and before anybody official can explain, or any facts are available, Trump, Fox News, and a slug of GOP-pols call it a “Gestapo-like deep state raid,” and so forth for two days. When real and true explanations arrived (over the week), 40% of the public and all of Trump’s base are convinced the problem is the FBI. (Even some of the mainstream media bought it for a while.) After that, most of those minds are inoculated against any other explanation. Thus, Big Lie 3 was born: Mar-a-Lago raid = FBI overreach.
On one hand we have the federal government doing an investigation, albeit under unusual circumstances, but almost obsessively by the book. On the other hand, we have a seething cauldron of outrage, stirred regularly by every right-wing media outlet and poohbah, and more than a random smattering of Republican politicians. For example, Sen. Hawley, “The raid by Joe Biden’s FBI on the home of a former president who is also Biden’s chief political opponent is an unprecedented assault on democratic norms and the rule of law. Biden has taken our republic into dangerous waters. At a minimum, Garland must resign or be impeached.” Take a passel of stirred-up weekend-patriots, a hot and ugly summer, plenty of lurid crime stories nationwide, and it’s easy to see how the impression of a violent, reactive America becomes easy to sell. Sell the chaos, it’s the bleeding heart of fascist fundraising – and eventually armed insurrection.
So far, the big violence hasn’t surfaced, but the right-wing propaganda machine is ratcheting-up the potential. Case in point, the coordinated GOP attack on the $80 billion IRS provision in the new Inflation Reduction Act. They have created a flurry of pure lies, emphasizing the IRS hiring “86,000 agents,” as the aged Sen. Grassley put it, “[They] Are going to have a strike force that goes in with AK-15s [sic] already loaded, all ready to shoot some small-business person in Iowa with these? Because I think they’re going after middle-class and small-business people.” The image of Biden shaping an IRS to rob little people – the exact opposite of what was said and intended (enough money to finally go after the big corporate and wealthy tax-avoiders) – was echoed all week. The attack was also representative of a new genre – the routine and systematized use of the bald-faced lie. The idea is to use a lie that almost everybody knows is a lie, but still carries an emotional impact. As in this case, most people don’t have a warm feeling about the IRS, so accusing it of coming up with hit squads to torment the middle class and small businesses might be instantly recognizable as a fiction, a bald-faced lie, but people just shrug at the exaggeration and walk away with the impression that the IRS is up something bad. The approach must be effective, as it’s being used in some form of ads, such as click-bait that indicates that some famous celebrity has died (they haven’t) but it gets people to click on the ad. Trump has been using this kind of lie for quite a while, but it’s only recently that it spread to the more prominent members of the GOP for routine use. It’s a new level of unalloyed dishonesty, even in the realm of U.S. politics.
Saturday, August 13
[Ukraine] Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Facility is Focus of Attacks and Concern – All week, the question of whether the largest nuclear plant in Europe would become the center of fighting – and a risk of a nuclear incident – kept diplomatic circles in the EU, UN, Russia, Ukraine, and Turkey spinning. In a way it’s a little like the situation involving Taiwan, a ready-made circumstance for threats, blackmail, dark PR, fearmongering, and empty rhetoric. Nobody wants the plant to spew radiation, but it’s in Putin’s interests (his forces hold the plant) to make everyone think he could do the unthinkable. Mostly it’s all about PR leverage, but always carrying the possibility of a “mistake.” [Update: UN calls for demilitarized zone around nuclear plant; it could happen. End of week: Putin offers to negotiate for plant inspection.]
[Ukraine] Ukrainian Forces Isolate Kherson – It may be a month or two, but it does look like the Ukrainian military will be able to retake the city of Kherson, effectively splitting the east and west of the Black Sea coast. This would disrupt Russian plans to link Crimea to Odessa. There is a general sense that the Russian offensive in the East and South is sputtering; though not played out, they’re not making progress.
Sunday, August 14
[Insurrection] FBI, DHS Issue Joint Warning About Increased Threats – Thanks to Trump and the right-wing propaganda machine, federal law enforcement people are under the gun – literally. There have already been a couple of incidents, notably the one in Ohio with the attack on the FBI office in Cincinnati. Attacks are not likely to be organized but opportunistic and somewhat random.
[Inflation] Chinese Economy Weakens, Affects U.S. Inflation – Inflation is a complicated beast, which politicians and unscrupulous media love to exploit by oversimplifying to the point of falsehood. As most people are noticing, gas prices in the U.S. are dropping substantially and are nationally below four dollars per gallon. There are many reasons for the decrease, but the most significant is that the Chinese economy has been declining and the persistent use of lockdowns for coronavirus put a severe crimp in Chinese vehicle travel. When hundreds of millions of Chinese curtail vehicle use, they use a lot less gas, which means the demand for gasoline is dropping, which means the price will also drop worldwide. It now looks like prices will continue to fall into the winter – with further political impact.
Monday, August 15
[Afghanistan] Taliban Celebrate One-Year Since Takeover – Corollary to takeover; how close is Afghanistan to a failed state? The difficulty of defining “failed state” aside, the baseline is a combination of a non-functional government, chaotic or nonexistent rule of law, an economy that cannot provide essentials for a significant proportion of the people (including mass starvation and malnutrition), rapidly spreading diseases and failed healthcare system, lack of systematic education, and a steadily deteriorating quality of life. Afghanistan fits most of these conditions, or is close to it. The coming winter could be the breaking point. The international dilemma: what is the appropriate balance between not helping a rogue regime versus allowing tens, or hundreds of thousands to die? [Update: explosion in Kabul Mosque kills 20. Perpetrators remain unnamed.]
[Climate Change] Report Projects “Extreme Heat Belt” for North-South Central U.S. – By 2053, a First Street Foundation report predicts that states from Texas and Louisiana to the Great Lakes will experience temperatures up to 125°F on an occasional basis, and that temperatures exceeding 100°F could be enduring during the summer months.
Tuesday, August 16
[Ukraine] Ukraine Continues Attacks on Crimea – Simultaneously, Ukrainian military have begun selective attacks on sites within Russian borders. This is indicative of at least a couple points: Ukraine has recently adopted a more aggressive stance, with the corollary that apparently the Russian military is not in a position for instant tit- for-tat; possibly a sign of weakness. Apparently, the Ukrainians have decided to make it difficult for the Russians to hide the fact of war with the Russian people. Explosions, deaths, and uncertainty within Russian territory are realities that spread rumors.
[Primary Elections] Wyoming: Cheney Loses – It wasn’t a surprise (66%-29%), but the rest of the country all too easily underestimates the thorough assimilation of Trump-only propaganda in red states such as Wyoming. Cheney is a conservative Republican to the core, and 93% of the time voted with Trump; didn’t matter. She opposes Trump, worse yet, serves as a figurehead of the opposition to him – apostasy is punished. [Elsewhere: Sarah Palin is still in it for the Alaska U.S. House seat, but was handily outpolled by Democratic candidate Mary Peltola. In the Senate, incumbent Lisa Murkowski narrowly survived a Trump-endorsed challenger.]
[Mar a Lago] Trump White House Lawyers Cipollone and Philbin Testify to DOJ on Documents – The interviews with top lawyers confirm the DOJ stance that they are taking the Mar a Lago case very seriously, but at the same time are just getting started. Expect investigation and litigation to continue into next year. [Update: FBI returns one active, two outdated Trump passports. The passport “theft” was last week’s Trump gambit.]
[Coronavirus] First Lady Tests Positive for COVID – Jill Biden already had been double vaccinated, double boosted, and is taking the antiviral Paxlovid. A quick recovery is likely. There is still confusion in the U.S. – for individuals, vaccinations have little to do with preventing infection, they are for limiting the severity after infection.
[Climate Change] Colorado River Emergency Water Allocation Cuts – Beginning in January, the states of Arizona (21%), Nevada (8%), and Mexico (7%) will have the severest cuts on record (Tier 2); up to 20 million people will be affected. Notice that California’s cut is 0%. The cuts are actually a BFD that will be vastly underreported until the emergency takes hold next year.
Wednesday, August 17
[Georgia – Election Fraud] Giuliani Testifies for Fulton County Grand Jury – Dragged in kicking and screaming by court order, and already designated as a target of the investigation, Giuliani testified for six hours, which probably indicates he didn’t use the Fifth Amendment on everything.
[CDC] Major Reorganization of CDC Responding to COVID-Era Criticism – Dr. Rochelle Walensky, director of the CDC, announced a leadership “reset” designed to make it more flexible – read, take some of the politics out of the science of the place – a deep problem during the Trump administration. In short, Walensky would like to restore the luster of the CDC internationally; she’s going to need the Democrats in charge for more than one term.
Thursday, August 18
[New York – Trump Corp.] Trump Corp. CFO Weisselberg Takes a Plea – The plea includes guilty on 15 felonies, mostly concerned with fraud, with a drastically reduced sentence for cooperation. What that cooperation is, at this point, remains unknown – except that Weisselberg has stated many times he will not testify against Trump. This avenue to Trump’s crimes, a civil suit aimed at taking down his family’s corporation, is considered one of the most likely to be realized.
[Mar-a-Lago] Judge Orders DOJ Redaction of Search Affidavit Prior to Likely Release – Conventional legal wisdom said the judge wouldn’t release any of the affidavit, which is generally lengthy, complicated, and provides the entire rationale for issuing a search warrant. The DOJ had previously objected to its unsealing but acquiesced to providing the redacted version in a week. What could it reveal? Nothing, if the DOJ decides to play hardball with redaction, which will kick the whole thing into lengthy court procedures. More likely, while containing very little detail, it could contain interesting topics being investigated, for example, a current area of hot rumor is that some of the documents have found their way into Russian hands. (True, but see how rumors spread.)
Friday, August 19
[Florida] Federal Judge Blocks ‘Stop WOKE Act’ – Gov. DeSantis’s favorite legislation, which forces restrictions on how companies and schools can discuss race and other topics is little-known or understood by most, including Floridians, much less across the nation. According to DeSantis, the legislation was “necessary to prevent the far-left woke agenda from taking over Florida schools and workplaces,” which translated means discussion of LGBTQ issues, race issues, and religious boundaries are VERBOTEN. The judge noted this turns the First Amendment “upside down” – where normally the First Amendment prohibits the state from restricting speech, while individuals have largely free speech; the Florida law apparently prohibits individuals from speaking freely, while the state may say what it wants. In short, this is one of the cornerstones of authoritarianism. As one headline put it, “Florida, the state where free speech goes to die.” Expect a lengthy journey for this decision on its way up to the Supreme Court.
Politics, Legislation, Election Notes
In politics: Men bloviate, women organize: Put another way, men like to hear themselves talk. Women are more inclined to talk to other women. Which of these two approaches is likely to be more politically successful? (Especially when it comes to issues involving women’s right to control their own body.)
Pinned Point: Until the filibuster rules are modified, most of the Biden agenda will not pass the Senate.
Quote of the Week
An increasing number of conservatives seemed to believe that small government, gun and property rights, and conservative cultural totems like homophobia and fetal rights were handed down by the Founders with the explicit blessing of Jesus Christ. In this scheme, democracy is a strictly circumscribed means for choosing stewards of these inflexible traditions, never to be traduced without dire consequences for the republic.
Ed Kilgore, New York Intelligencer, 8/19/22
[The IUY Weekly Journal assumes readers are at least casually familiar with names and events. For more details, check with internet search.]