Indivisible Upper Yellowstone – Weekly Journal
The Week of Saturday, December 10 through Friday, December 16, 2022 [Vol.4 No.22]
Rule of Law
The Week’s Most Notable
For the first time in many, many weeks, there was no major political event, emergency crisis, or natural disaster. The week featured a few days for processing and cleanup, such as a slew of subpoenas for Jan. 6 conspirators issued by the DOJ’s special counsel Jack Smith, FTX miscreant Sam Bankman-Fried was arrested in the Bahamas for fraud, and Germany vowed to tighten gun laws after an attempted coup. A major winter storm worked its way from California to the East Coast, reminding millions of winter’s reality. Ukrainians needed no reminder as winter winds mixed with shelling and drone attacks on various cities in both Ukrainian and Russian territory. COVID killed increasing hundreds a day in the U.S., while Florida governor DeSantis announced he was asking for a grand jury to investigate COVID vaccine fraud. So, yes, the week still filled its quota of hypocrisy, delusion as propaganda, and sheer behavioral ugliness (courtesy of Trump and Musk). Still, Mauna Loa stopped erupting, the Artemis space project came back to Earth successfully, and Putin skipped his usual year-end 4-hour encomium to the greatness of Mother Russia. All things to ponder, casually perhaps, but well within the all-too familiar staccato of craziness that constitutes the current version of life as-we-know-it. Mostly, big chunks of the world population prepared for the holiday season, got on with their work, and struggled for a worthwhile existence.
Next week, the House Jan. 6 Committee recommends indictments – including of Trump which, along with slugs of new evidence, promise anything but a quiet week.
Trash talk. That’s what the new era in American politics should be called – the age of trash talk. Originally, sometime in the 1990s, the sports tradition of verbally demeaning, “trashing,” opponents to distract or demoralize them became recognized as a thing, a technique, a weapon even, and part of routine athletic events. (“All he does is talk. He’s terrible, and you can print that. I was happy when he was in the game.” Bill Belichick.) Today, the American right-wing (not exclusively, of course) has damn-near perfected political trash talking aimed at “owning the libs.” Being outrageous, stupid, infuriating, despicable, and almost any inflammatory adjective imaginable is a good thing in the age of trash talk. Take Marjorie Taylor Greene (please), who just this week trashed liberal notions of the Jan. 6 insurrection by proclaiming “we would have won” –with guns, of course. A few days later, she walked it back – “just joking” – a classic trash talk response. Verbal chaos, shifting strong emotions, surprising angles of attack, and much more are the medium for modern trash talking – keep ‘em off balance is the main objective. Reasonable discussion, fact-finding, compromise – such things are not in the lexicon of inveterate trash talkers, and there seem to be more of them all the time.
Unfortunately, political trash talking often works, it’s hard to ignore and the media love the stuff. It always gets coverage. Long-term, however, trash is tiresome. Talking trash leaves a bad taste in the mouth, all around. People get used to it, tune it out, and learn to take none of it seriously (just like the people who use it). It exists for effect, from which over-use leads to diminishing results. Ultimately, the biggest trash talkers become identified by it – as trash – but it takes a while. One school of response, as different from simply ignoring it, is to selectively push the recognition of trash talkers (not in public as PR but “off court” so to speak) as empty, unreliable people – in effect gaslighting them (!)
Saturday, December 10
[Hawaii] Moana Loa Volcano Settles Down – The world’s largest volcano erupted for the first time in forty years last week, causing concerns that its lava flows might cut the Big Island’s main highway. However, there are signs it is almost done with this round of eruption – leaving the road intact.
Sunday, December 11
[Space] U.S. Artemis Mission Splashes to an End – The first of three NASA missions planned to put humans back on the moon – this one unmanned – landed successfully in the Pacific Ocean. The mission’s Orion capsule orbited 79 miles above the moon surface, recording landing sites and other information for future missions.
[Kosovo] Ethnic Tensions Erupt at Serbian – Kosovo Border – This has simmered for many years as Serbia has long considered northern Kosovo part of Serbia. It is also prone to being a proxy struggle between the EU (Kosovo) and Serbia (Russia). It represents an important headache for the EU (and U.S.) that have a stake in Kosovo independence.
Monday, December 12
[FTX] Bankman-Fried Arrested in Bahamas – The vacationing thief of billions (alleged) was arrested under U.S. extradition agreement and charged with wire fraud, securities fraud, fraud conspiracy, and money laundering.
[Ukraine] Russia Continues to Pound Infrastructure, EU Makes $2.4 Billion Fund for Military Support – Targeting utility facilities around Ukraine, Russia continued its campaign to destroy infrastructure. Meanwhile Ukraine’s appeal for more advanced military hardware, especially air defense, from the EU is finding support.
[Mar-a-Lago] “Lack of Jurisdiction” Ends Judge Cannon’s Misbegotten Foray into Pro-Trump Rulings – Having been severely admonished by the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals, Judge Eileen Cannon issued a one-page dismissal of her judicial orders in the Mar-a-Lago documents case. It ends the special master (Judge Dearie) and any further delay of processing the thousands of documents (some classified) and artifacts recovered from Trump properties, notably Mar-a-Lago. Trump failed to appeal the latest Court of Appeals ruling, probably signaling his lawyers’ advice that this foot-dragging approach is over, at least in this case.
[Twitter] Elon Musk Disbands Twitter Trust and Safety Council – As three council members who quit last week said, “…the safety and well-being of Twitter users is on the decline.” Yes, it is, as Musk takes Twitter further into the domain of right-wing disinformation.
Tuesday, December 13
[Fusion Energy] Scientists Announce Fusion Breakthrough – It’s no longer “in theory,” nuclear fusion energy can produce more energy than it takes to get it started. The experiment at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in California accomplished that major breakthrough. It took decades and a lot of money, but the stakes – almost unlimited relatively clean energy – are very high. Reality is, however, that this breakthrough is, at best, halfway to the dream of ubiquitous cheap energy. Like most technology, proof of principal on a very small scale is one thing; being able to do it profitably in very large numbers (“at scale”) is another. Fusion energy is just that type of technology; we are years, if not decades away from commercialization.
[Economy] Inflation is Retreating, Fitfully – The herd-pressure of opportunism to continue raising prices still exists, but the latest figures from the Department of Labor – the inflation rate dropping from 9.1% in August (the highest in four decades) to 7.1% today – show that the inflation bubble is deflating. Led by a dramatic drop in gasoline prices, some areas are now under $3.00/gallon, have taken the edge off public fears – and deprived Republicans of just about their only attack-wedge against Joe Biden and the Democrats. On the other hand, as economists are all too fond of saying, the higher interest rate pressure exerted by the Fed and potentially declining consumer sales, puts the economy in range of recession. Much of Europe is already there, but the U.S. with its domestic buffer against oil/gas inflation might ride out recession better than most expect. [Update: The Fed raised its rate 0.5% (down from 0.75%) signaling more confidence in controlling inflation – though clearly thinking it’s not over.]
[Marriage] Biden Signs Landmark Bipartisan Respect for Marriage Act – It required at least 150 years and a serious threat from the Supreme Court that already had struck down a woman’s right to control her own body (Dobbs decision) for Congress to hammer out a codification of rights, especially for gay and mixed-race marriage. As a compromise effort, it contains boilerplate language about the sanctity of marriage, etc. that enabled some GOP support. Still, it is a signal achievement that will at least provide a legal roadblock for right-wing efforts to undo marriage rights.
Wednesday, December 14
[Coronavirus] China’s COVID Social Test – The zero-COVID policy has been altered: lockdowns are curtailed, the economy wins – as it has almost everywhere in the world. The WHO reported that the new coronavirus surge in China actually began before the change in policy – a head start. The omicron variants continue to proliferate, as they are elsewhere. China provides a test case, a stark before and after, with strong mitigation and a corresponding attitude and replacing it with mixed mitigation (masks and distancing, for example) and an attitude somewhat like most of the West (what pandemic?). We’ll see how their infection numbers change…and if they stay manageable.
Thursday, December 15
[Twitter] Elon Musk has Twitter Suspend Journalists He Doesn’t Like – The move is said to be typical Musk, and it became “news” when it raised a furor among journalism and media rights organizations. Even his own Twitter user base indicated in a follow-up survey that suspending journalists was a bad idea and those who were affected should be reinstated. He reinstated two of them – classic Musk mixed signals.
[Coronavirus] Biden Restarts COVID Free Testing Program – The post-holiday COVID season is almost upon us. Since congressional Republicans will not acknowledge that COVID never went away and refuse to fund new programs, Biden is digging around old COVID-related actions that still have some money to cobble together the new program. On request at covidtests.org, a single household can receive up to four free COVID testing kits, delivered by mail.
[Puerto Rico] House Passes Bill Seeking Puerto Rico Independence Referendum – This is dead in the water since Senate Republicans will not vote for it this year, and next year’s Republican controlled House would not touch it with a 30-foot ceiba (kapok) branch.
Friday, December 16
[Meadows Messages] Mark Meadows and GOP Jan. 6 Messages Surface – At least thirty-four Republican members of Congress texted, emailed, and phoned Trump’s Chief of Staff, Mark Meadows, about the actions surrounding January 6. Literally thousands of items of correspondence, mainly texting, fell into the hands of both government and media. They paint a picture not only of an anti-Biden, anti-Democrats effort but actual conspiracy against the U.S. government, including a wholesale disregard for the principles of democracy and the tenets of the U.S. Constitution. Since early revelations in the week, to ever more detailed information and analysis by the end of the week, this story has grown in importance while still being fragmented – dribbled is the word – to the public. The correspondence, and its interpretation is now in the hands of the Jan. 6 Committee and are likely to be topics of the scheduled Monday (Dec. 19) televised hearing and the final report due Wednesday. Unfortunately, what is already in hand is tip-of-the-iceberg stuff, much more exists but the committee ends its efforts December 31, and Republicans in the House will disband and repudiate any remaining vestiges of investigation. The new fully Democrat controlled Senate and the media may pick up the investigation, and so might the DOJ – following its own research and recommendations for indictments by the Jan. 6 Committee. We’ll see how widely this story develops and is distributed in the coming months.
Politics, Legislation, Election Notes
How to react to Elon? Super-troll, right-wing agitator, chaos monger, opportunist, sociopath, narcissist – take your pick (all or any). Canny entrepreneur? Probably diminishing. Tesla is having (more serious) problems and Twitter remains a financial hemorrhage. Meanwhile Musk is collecting enemies left and right (figuratively and politically). His furiously personalized twists and turns are catnip for the media and people do follow what happens to Twitter even though in the big-picture its stature is rapidly pigmytizing. Musk is transforming from a self-indulgent enigma to a self-indulgent, impulsive right-wing icon – joining Trump, Marjorie Taylor-Greene and a few others in the loser’s circle of highly visible political trash talkers. It’s tempting to pay him no mind, but he does have a lot of money with which he buys influence, and attracts attention. Fortunately, his efforts are scattershot, usually poorly conceived and even more poorly executed. In short, his life and activity seem like a train wreck in progress, and it’s undeniably interesting to watch how it may turn out. At the personal level, that’s understandable and mostly harmless, but the media obsession is not harmless. Point being: Don’t ignore Musk; there are things to learn. Don’t promote, elevate, or dignify Musk; the quicker he passes into obscurity, the better.
Pinned Point: 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.
Quote of the Week
[S]ome of the hard-right lawmakers with whom [Kevin McCarthy] is attempting to bargain do not appear to have a price, and most care less about legislating than shrinking the federal government — or upending it completely.
- Edmundson et al., “Despite Trump’s Lobbying, McCarthy’s Speaker Bid Remains Imperiled on the Right,” The New York Times, 12/13/2022.
[The IUY Weekly Journal assumes readers are at least casually familiar with names and events. For more details, check with internet search.]