Indivisible Upper Yellowstone – Weekly Journal
The Week of Saturday, October 29 through Friday, November 4, 2022 [Vol.4 No.16]
The Election is Coming
Rule of Law
The Week’s Most Notable
The week before a national election is usually a muddle. To invoke some metaphors: The media is flooded. The streams of information are polluted by lies and the political channels are more gaslit than 19th Century London. But is this year worse than usual? Tough question. Disinformation was very bad pre-civil war, and again in the Gilded Age 1880s. It seems that a plurality of Americans has looked at what’s going on, don’t like what’s happening, and with considerable framing and shaping by right-wing propaganda, come to the conclusion that the country feels like it’s going to hell with inflation and crime. However, another plurality (yes, there’s substantial overlap in pluralities) feels that while crime and inflation are serious, this is not a nation of famine and apocalypse quite yet, but if totalitarian sentiment (e.g., only Republicans can legitimately win elections) gets the upper hand, then fear and dissolution may face the nation. This is more than the usual muddle; it’s becoming existential – lives are at stake – and the solvable problems of crime and inflation recede into the waters of hatred and distrust (darker metaphor).
A Somber Note on Man-Made-Tragedy This October: 10/2/22: Malang, East Java, Indonesia; football (soccer) stadium panic at end of game caused by police teargas, [125 dead]:, 10/29/22: Seoul, South Korea; Halloween celebration street stampede with no crowd control;, [154 dead], 10/30/22: Gujarat India; suspension foot-bridge collapse, overloaded with 400 people, [134 dead]; total as of 10/31/22 Ukraine War [est. 6,400 civilian dead] – for perspective: October, U.S. COVID-19 [7,203 deaths]: 10/1/22: Florida, U.S. Hurricane Ian over several days; [119 dead].
Saturday, October 29
[Ukraine] Russians Back Off U.N. Brokered Ukrainian Grain Shipping – Though roundly criticized by Biden and other EU leaders, manipulating the threat against safe passage of Ukrainian grain through the Black Sea allows Putin to remind the world of Russia’s importance – as he wills. As a show of force, expect this constriction to be temporary. [Update: by week’s end Russia agreed to allow shipping again.]
[Climate Change] Mississippi River Basin Drought – This drought of historic magnitude didn’t happen today; it literally took years of changing climate. The media is finally recognizing it – pictures of dry Mississippi riverbed and grounded river-boats are starting to appear. Much of the Mississippi has reached, or will soon reach, record lows. Rainfall across the plains and in much of the upper Mississippi Basin has been scarce, again near record lows. The short-term human impact will be hampered commercial transportation, especially of grains – which will affect the price of many food stocks. The widespread drought in much of the central U.S. hasn’t received nearly as much attention as the western, especially Californian drought – probably because it’s been slower coming and hasn’t been accompanied by dramatic wildfires. But the cost and impact will be at least as great, and the winter of 22-23 doesn’t look promising for relief.
Sunday, October 30
[Brazil] Lula da Silva Returns to the Brazilian Presidency, Bolsonaro Silent – It was a relatively close election: 50.9% to 49.1%, but Lula, previous president and representing left of center voters, clearly won (with a big sigh of relief from believers in democracy); but as promised, incumbent Jair Bolsonaro, the far right “Tropical Trump,” is not conceding and his followers are staging protests by blocking transportation in a number of states. Then on Tuesday Bolsonaro acquiesced to facilitating a constitutional transition of power, though still not conceding. Apparently, his political allies did very well in local elections, so much so, that they believe the winds are now in their favor for the next election. In effect, they told Bolsonaro to cool-it. It remains to be seen if his supporters leave the barricades.
[India] Gujarat Suspension Bridge Collapse Kills at Least 140 – The 19th century foot-bridge, a major area tourist attraction, had just been reopened after repairs and was flooded by 350-400 people, many of them children – way over its capacity. It was reported that people were trying to make the bridge sway when one of the main suspension cables snapped.
[Social Media] Musk Tweets Right-Wing Disinformation – Settling right in as the new owner, Elon Musk has gone about adapting Twitter to traffic in conspiracy. He retweeted a website promoting the attack on Pelosi’s home and husband as a LGBTQ issue. The tweet was later deleted. Musk will dismantle content mediation, declare freedom, and then vacillate with weak disinformation policies. If Trump gets back on Twitter, count that as a definitive sign of Musk’s intent.
[Iran Protest] Iranian Students Continue Mass Protests – This revolt, still largely powered by women and the young, refuses to go away. Current government policy is violent harassment while avoiding most blood-baths.
Monday, October 31
[Ukraine] New Russian Strategy: Form Defensive Lines and Destroy Infrastructure – Passive aggressive for winter might be descriptive. The approach is to cause as much misery as possible by destroying energy, water, and food supplies plus sowing war weariness among Ukraine’s allies. It’s actually a very old Russian strategy, going back to the Napoleon and German invasions. Problem is, those wars were mostly fought in Ukraine; Ukrainians know this kind of war and the hard winters. Both armies will still be standing when March arrives – then we’ll see who is still ready to fight.
[Supreme Court] SCOTUS Conservatives Appear Ready to Scuttle Affirmative Action – It won’t actually happen until May or June, but revealed preferences during oral arguments in the fall tend to turn into rulings with this court. Affirmative action as it applies to college admissions appears to be on the hit list.
[Antisemitism] Anti-Jewish Sentiment Becomes Common GOP Rhetoric – From fascist flamethrower Greene to used-to-be-popular athlete Kyrie Irving, Jews and Jewish references are populating right-wing rants. There is a pattern here: whatever the right-wing GOP focus time and money on becomes a perpetual hot-button to be pressed whenever useful. Antisemitism – blaming Jews for any evil – is one of the oldest such buttons. “Pelosi” is a newer button, but similar in function. Israeli and Jewish leaders have begun to notice and complain, although the new Israeli right-wing government remains silent.
Tuesday, November 1
[Pelosi] Alleged Pelosi Attacker Pleads Not Guilty – With evidence accumulating, including recording of the house break-in, some distinguishing facts surfaced about the attacker: David DePape, 42, is an illegal alien – a Canadian. (This will confound knee-jerk right-wing allegations; except they’ll leave out the Canadian part.) His online presence is heavy on MAGA and QAnon material. He may plead mental health issues. A large chunk of the Republican Party, like a piece of Antarctic ice sheet breaking off due to global warming, has floated evidence free with their own Pelosi versions. [Update: Paul Pelosi went home from the hospital on Friday. He faces months of recovery and rehabilitation.]
[Supreme Court] SCOTUS: Lindsey Graham Must Testify in Georgia Enquiry – The Supremes noted his “I was on congressional business” appeal has already limited questioning in that area; other testimony is fair game.
Wednesday, November 2
[Israel] Elections: Very Close but Netanyahu Will Again Be Prime Minister – It seems that in some societies, being under indictment for corruption provides a rationale for (re)election. Benjamin Netanyahu appears set to take the leadership of Israel for the third time. As before, he will need to form a coalition government containing some tiny but extreme far-right parties. This may become the most ultra-right government in Israel’s history.
[Inflation] Fed Fights Inflation with Another 0.75% Rate Hike – In a playbook with essentially only one play – rate hike – this is like flooding the zone and tossing a pass to anyone who’s open. (Apologies to non-football folks.) Point is, a general rate increase, especially one this big isn’t targeted – it’s hit or miss. Many economists feel it affects financial inflation most – for example, by depressing the mortgage market and real-estate developer investment. It does have psychological impact – somebody is trying to do something – but really the effects are long term and won’t affect kitchen table inflation (food). The potential downside is kicking the economy in the direction of recession. The Fed knows this, and is always trying to balance risks. Inflation is a NOW issue for most people; unfortunately, inflation is the most inscrutable and difficult to remedy – especially in the short term. Inflation ALWAYS bites the current administration.
[2022 Elections] Biden Addresses the Nation: Democracy Is at Risk – Biden covered many issues, including crime and inflation, but the core remains – electing Republicans, especially the election deniers (the Big Lie) take us down the road to a one-party state and authoritarianism. Voters either believe that is the paramount issue, or crime and inflation are more real and pressing. That dichotomy has to be understood; Biden had to make the case, even if reality is more complicated and so are voters’ perceptions.
Thursday, November 3
[Trump Legal] Court Orders Monitor for Trump Business – Trump floated ideas and did some groundwork to set up shop in another state (where his finances are not under investigation). Red flags flew for New York AG Letitia James and she asked state judge Arthur Engoron to not allow Trump to transfer funds and to appoint a monitor to prevent Trump from trying to hide corporate assets (in lieu of losing his case and the liability for at least $250 million). The judge agreed. Coincidentally, Trump filed another personal-political screed (“I’m the victim.”) formatted as a lawsuit 41 pages long against the New York AG – apparently his lawyers warned it could be ruled “frivolous” (not a legal case at all), tossed out, and put the lawyers involved under suspicion of malpractice. If this suit isn’t legal smokescreen, Trump’s in fraught psychological territory.
Friday, November 4
[Economy] U.S. Economy Remains Strong – That’s what the data says: 261,000 new jobs (above estimate), earnings up 4.7%, inflation holding at 8.2% – but don’t tell that to the right-wing propaganda machine or the voter in the grocery store.
[Twitter] Twitter Sacks Half Its Workforce – “Revenues are down,” said Elon Musk; yes, and many major advertisers have suspended Twitter ads. They want to see if the blowback from employee cuts, the tough economy, and Musk’s unpredictability might imperil the perennially unprofitable company even in the near future (six months or so).
Politics, Legislation, Election Notes
The Pelosi attack: Republicans, right-wingers, and Musk chose their own narrative: Starting with skepticism born from decades of demonizing Nancy Pelosi ($250 million spent dissing her) – no story about her is what it seems; so why not make up your own? (Homosexual conspiracies are a favorite.) That’s what many Trump-Republicans did, though not all, from the day of the event and days later they are still pushing or defending the fictional narrative. Two days after the attack, the actual police/FBI story appeared: The Pelosi family home was invaded by a QAnon guy (by definition delusional), who assaulted an 82-year-old man, cracking his skull with a hammer, and who planned on capturing and interrogating House Speaker Pelosi. BTW, he’s Canadian, in the U.S. illegally. Unbelievable, but only figuratively – the evidence is plentiful and definitive. The truth was and is out there, but that’s irrelevant to Republicans’ new chapter in their playbook: make a thought-weapon of alternative reality. What counts is media coverage, liberals’ outrage, and the sense that the truth is what you make it. For progressives this is the brave new world we’re being encouraged to find acceptable. Is that working? [Note: After sitting on its presses for a couple of days The New York Times had on 11/5/22 an excellent in-depth front-page article on how Republicans propagandized the Pelosi story.]
About that GOP threat to Social Security and Medicare: They don’t have plans to do away with them, merely cut (starting age 70) and eventually privatization (mutual funds own them). Second, Biden will veto any such legislation. The GOP noises show intent, nothing new; wait for 2025 under a Republican president.
Gloomy truths department: For any important story (event, scandal, opinion, etc.), 30% of the public never hear about it, 25% heard about it but didn’t understand or remember it, another 25% interpreted it oppositely (Fox News folks vs mainstream media), and maybe 20% heard it, understood it, remembered it, and interpreted it accurately. On this basis our political decisions are founded.
Pinned Point (new): Until we seriously confront – and deal with – the media conundrum created by disinformation and the First Amendment (here’s looking at Fox News, Twitter et al), the information chaos will get worse. Before long Americans may come to believe there is only nihilism and/or totalitarianism.
Quote of the Week
It’s not Democrats who left the voting public with only one choice if they want to protect democracy as they know it. The reason the stakes are so high is that the Republican Party has made them this high.
Jamelle Boule, “This Is What Happens When Republicans Tear Off Their Masks,” The New York Times, 11/04/2022.
The ideal subject of totalitarian rule is not the convinced Nazi or the convinced Communist, but people for whom the distinction between fact and fiction (i.e., the reality of experience) and the distinction between true and false (i.e., the standards of thought) no longer exist.
Hannah Arendt, The Origins of Totalitarianism
[The IUY Weekly Journal assumes readers are at least casually familiar with names and events. For more details, check with internet search.]