Indivisible Upper Yellowstone – Weekly Journal
The Week of Saturday, January 14 through Friday, January 20, 2023 [Vol.4 No.27]
Violence of the Week
Rule of Law
The Week’s Most Notable
Much of the news this week involves politically engaged violence. Unfortunately, most weeks will become like this. From the Ukraine war to the disgruntled Republican candidate in New Mexico who ordered his opponents’ homes riddled with bullets, political frustration is finding violence as an acceptable response. With January 6 still visible in the rear-view mirror, and the debacle of an insurrection in Brazil fresh in our minds (remember?), it’s the tip of the anti-democratic iceberg, and the most visible part of the incessant propaganda campaign – worldwide – to normalize authoritarian government.
It’s hard to believe violence and chaos are popular (and maybe they’re not) but the media dig it and some folks are willing to shell out hard earned cash to contribute to it. It’s difficult for progressives, or any people still using moral norms and evidence-based reasoning, to fully understand that millions of their fellow citizens are (1) Utterly convinced that people who don’t believe the same as they do are evilly motivated, and (2) Anything that resembles a counter-argument is false without question. “Get used to it,” is not an option. This may not be fully apt, but there’s a minister’s role in play here. Sin and evil are everywhere, and often seem to “win” – but that doesn’t mean capitulation. Patience and perseverance. . . .
Saturday, January 14
[Ukraine] Russian Missile Hits Apartment Building in Central Dnipro, Dozens Killed – The nine-story building was mostly levelled; rescue teams eventually found more than forty bodies, as the building was hit without warning on Saturday. Seventy-two apartments, home to about 1,700 people, were destroyed. It was one of the worst civilian losses of the war.
[Peru] Continued Protests Force Peruvian State of Emergency – Ever since former president Pedro Castillo was removed from office for attempting a coup, riots and protests from his supporters have disrupted traffic and commerce in cities throughout the country. Forty-nine have died. The current president, Dina Boluarte, has curtailed some civil rights and enabled the army to take effective control of the cities. This is a town-versus-countryside struggle (wealth vs. poverty) with a long history. [Update: Protesters attack capitol building in Lima.]
Sunday, January 15
[Israel] Tens of Thousands Protest Netanyahu’s Judicial Remodeling – Straight out of the right-wing/oligarch’s playbook, Netanyahu’s judicial and legislatively unstoppable overhaul will greatly weaken the Supreme Court in its ability to review and strike-down laws. The plan is to over time neuter the judiciary with respect to the governing party leadership and actions. [Update: Israeli Supreme Court ruled newly appointed interior and health minister, Aryeh Deri (head of the ultra-right-wing orthodox Shas Party), ineligible for office because of numerous felony convictions for fraud.]
[Economy] Wall Street Journal Still Predicts Recession Downturn in 2023 – Despite declines of inflation and renewed manufacturing, WSJ economists’ survey believes the Fed’s interest rate hikes will cause a recession. Two notable points: the survey didn’t quantify how much of a recession, and there was a slight drop, from 63% to 61% in the number of economists predicting recession. That is, a recession – especially a sharp one – is not a sure thing in the U.S.
[House] House GOP Requests Biden Residence Logs – This opens the House Oversight Committee investigation of the “Biden Classified Documents Scandal.” However, the Wilmington, Delaware residence doesn’t keep visitor logs, it’s not an official government building.
Monday, January 16 Martin Luther King Jr. Day
[New Mexico – Shootings] Police Arrest: Solomon Pena (R) Lost Election, Ordered Democrats’ Homes Shot-up – As a candidate for state House, he lost by 50 points, but following Trump’s playbook, he cried “rigged and stolen” and refused to concede. Allegedly, he hired four men to spray Democrats’ homes (2 councilmen, 2 legislators) with bullets. By sheer luck, no one was injured. This is an unfolding story that will persist through inevitable legal action, and stand as a prime example of the violent consequences of Trump/right-wing agitation.
[Santos Scandal] George Santos (R-NY) Linked to Russian Oligarch Money – A newish piece to the George Santos story puts him in receipt of a $5,800 campaign contribution from Andrew Intrater, the cousin of Russian oligarch Victor Vekselberg. Intrater contributed to Santos’ campaigns since 2020 and made loans of over $100,000 to a firm employing Santos. The shoes keep dropping from this fancy-footwork con-artist.
Tuesday, January 17
[China – Population] China Reports First Drop in Population Since 1960s – This is mostly handled as a footnote in the U.S. media. With some certainty, it is the most important demographic-economic news of the year. In 2022, China reported 9.6 million births and 10.4 million deaths. It acknowledged this is part of a long-term trend of a declining birthrate. Additionally, by 2035 China will have more than 400 million people over 60, a third of its population. As in many parts of the world, including the U.S., similar trends add up to very significant labor shortages. Labor shortages of this scale cause inflation, decreased production, and slowing economic development. Throw in the effects of climate change, current and potential pandemics, the breakdown of international commerce, and idiotically xenophobic economic policies, and the world economic prognosis for the next decades looks unstable, at the least.
[House] Debt-Ceiling Performances Begin – With the first days of federal government juggling the books to cover debts starting Thursday, the “dance of dares” (we dare you to default) begins in the House. It’s old rhetoric, familiar hostages, and a few more unpredictable characters, which probably doesn’t change the outcome, but it might (!).
[House] Greene, Gosar, Perry, Boebert, Santos Given House Committee Appointments – These names probably don’t need much explanation. “Joe Biden, be prepared.,” said Marjorie Taylor Greene. That goes for everybody.
[Climate Crisis] Report: Greenland Temperatures Spike, Warmest in 1,000 Years – The report in the journal Nature, based on ice-core samples, show a 2.7-degree F hike over the 20th Century, with most of it occurring in the past 20 years. Other studies predict the melting of the gigantic Greenland ice-cap within this century.
Wednesday, January 18
[Big Tech] Joining the Crowd, Microsoft to Lay Off 10,000 – This brings the total tech sector layoffs to more than 150,000. The tech companies added boatloads of employees during the pandemic to cover the sudden demand for communications and related electronics. That demand is receding; the layoffs are seen as “normal adjustment” and not representative of a wider economic downturn.
[New Zealand] Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern to Resign Feb. 7 – The youngest female to win head of government at 37, and the second to give birth while in office, unexpectedly announced her resignation. She led New Zealand for five years, through the pandemic and the Christchurch mass shooting – gaining international recognition. She didn’t cite burnout, but rather a loss of effectiveness and motivation. Exit, quickly, gracefully.
[Davos] Davos Forum Returns. Zelensky Calls Upon Attendees to Support Ukraine – “Tragedies are outpacing life. Tyranny is outpacing democracy. The time the free world uses to think, is used by the terrorist state to kill.” Outside of Zelensky’s appeal, it was back to being the plutocrats’ soirée.
Thursday, January 19
[Supreme Court] Supreme Court Fails to Find Leaker of Dobbs Decision – This guarantees conspiracy theories forever and anon. The multi-month investigation, which pointedly omitted interrogation of the justices, is said to have materially affected the interior comity of the court (a questionable assumption by itself, but the justices do seem to be much less “collegial,” as in angry at each other). [Update: The Sundance Festival premiere of the documentary, Justice, by director Doug Limon, pointing a long and well-honed finger at the sexual peccadilloes of Justice Brett Kavanaugh, will not improve the situation. The Catholic right-wing cabal of the court is proving to have colorful and significant non-judicial backstories.]
[Trump – Legal] Trump and Lawyer Fined Nearly $1 Million for Frivolous Lawsuit – As ever, Trump strewed his weird (bad-faith, nonsensical, non-legal, personalized) lawsuits around the country. Finally, U.S. District Judge of South Florida, Donald Middlebrooks said, in effect, “Enough!!” He ruled the blanket conspiracy-based lawsuit as “frivolous”, wasting the court’s time. He ordered Trump’s lawyer, Alina Habba, to pay one defendant $50,000 for legal expenses, and fined Trump and Abba $938,000. This is an ouch, even for Trump. [Update: Within 24 hours Trump withdrew another (frivolous) lawsuit, this one against New York AG Letitia James. Judge Middlebrooks also has that case.]
[Jan. 6 – Legal] Judge Throws Out Peter Navarro Bid to Dismiss Subpoena Violation – Another ruling bites the Trump folks in their bad faith. Peter Navarro, Trump’s erstwhile economic advisor and sometimes guru, sought a dismissal of his case because of executive privilege. The judge, U.S. District Court Judge Amit Mehta, ruled in effect, “nonsense,” that Navarro provided no proof of his claim, and his trial for contempt of court will proceed as scheduled for the end of January.
David Crosby [1941 – 2023] (81) American singer, songwriter, guitarist, seminal member of the Byrds and co-founder of Crosby, Stills, and Nash. Legendary folk and folk-rock artist deeply associated with the American hippie movement.
Friday, January 20
[DOJ] Battle Lines Form Between GOP House and DOJ Investigation – Jim Jordan, (R-OH) House Judiciary Committee Chairman, has already demanded the DOJ provide information on its ongoing investigations of Hunter Biden and Biden’s classified documents (among other issues). The DOJ respectfully declined, as they never report ongoing investigations. Round One: opening positions.
[Ukraine] Tanks but No Tanks – It’s easy to make light of the ongoing situation: Ukraine desperately needs effective tanks to counter the expected Russian spring offensive. The U.S. has available Abrams tanks, but their use requires training and logistics, maybe a month or two. Germany has even better tanks, the Leopard 2, but according to the Germans these require much more training and logistics, so “Nein,” no tanks. Then Poland chimes in that they have some Leopard tanks to spare. Instant brouhaha. The U.S. is now in deep negotiations, mostly with NATO – and no tanks of any kind are forthcoming. Zelensky then protested loudly in his Davos speech. Big PR mess, especially for the Germans.
[Southern Border] Illegal Border Crossings Surge – Texas Governor Abbott notwithstanding, the numbers don’t lie (much); illegal crossings from Mexico into the U.S. last December were up 40% since 2021. This prompted Biden to retain and even augment the Trump era COVID related (totally bogus rationale) restrictions. The flood of would-be immigrants is heavily Cuban and Nicaraguan. In December alone more than a quarter-million were intercepted. Even if Republicans weren’t ginning this up into a tower of trouble, Democrats – including the mayor of New York – are getting into the fray. Possibly, quite possibly, something will have to be done in 2023 – even if most Republicans don’t want an effective solution.
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
This [Supreme] court continues to be its own worst enemy, lacking in transparency and disdainful of reasonable inquiries. Thursday’s release of the report by the marshal of the court, Gail Curley, was obscure — my guess is deliberately — about whether the eight-month investigation had included interviews with the justices.
Ruth Marcus, “Was Leaking the Dobbs Opinion the Perfect Crime? It Sure Looks that Way,” The Washington Post, 1/20/2023.
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